You could see it the moment he took his jacket off in the first half.
Blood oozed around the left shoulder of Virginia Tech men's basketball coach Buzz Williams. As the stain seeped through his dress shirt, no one could look away. ESPN's Sean McDonough and Doris Burke kept talking about it, and even the trainers had to take a look. Much like his team's first 20 minutes, it was inexplicable, weird, and generally unpleasant to look at.
But unlike the wound, Tech rallied. The Hokies beat Wake Forest 99-90 in the second round of the ACC Tournament, an impressive performance against a squad that beat them in Blacksburg just four days prior.
On Saturday, the Demon Deacons took what they wanted on both ends. After a hot start, Tech couldn't score, couldn't get a stop, and couldn't do much of anything else.
The beginning of the game in the Barclay's Center looked to be more of the same. All-conference big man John Collins controlled the paint, and the Wake shooters bombed from deep.
But there was one Hokie who did not seem impressed by the future first round pick.
Zach LeDay had his senior day ruined by the Deacs. He lost on his home floor for just the second time this season, and had an impressive double-double (24 points, 10 boards) wiped away in defeat.
This time around? The senior was not to be denied.
Is Collins bigger than him? Yes. Is Collins a better pro prospect than him? Yes. Is Collins the only all-ACC player of the two? Yep.
Did it matter? Absolutely. Not.
It wasn't pretty, but LeDay's game never is. He scrapped, clawed, pivoted, rebounded, and scowled his way to dominate his opponent. The senior finished with a career high 31 points,15 rebounds, and got to the free throw line a game-best 18 times.
Most importantly, he never backed down. Even when Collins plowed him over on a fast break, pushed him over in the post, or got a hand on one of his shots. Through sheer determination, LeDay kept the Hokies close.
Early on, he drained a three to cut the Wake lead to one. Later, he grabbed key offensive boards when things were tied. When Tech needed someone to bail them out of a few bad possessions, LeDay was their man.
"I just didn't want to go home," he said. "It was just looking bad. We weren't playing as hard as we needed to, so I wanted to try to get my team some energy and some fight, and that ended up helping our whole team and getting us all the way right to play together and play as hard as we needed to win in the second half."
"He's like the engine to the team," said fellow senior Seth Allen. "I think that, when he's rebounding like he did today, it takes pressure off the guards because he's down there 6'5", 6'6" rebounding with one of the best bigs in the league."
(Did I just add that quote because Seth accidentally outed Zach's real height? Yes, yes I did.)
Allen unleashed his full bag of lefty tricks to score 18. Ty Outlaw shook off a slow start to hit four triples post-intermission. Point guard Justin Robinson rolled his ankle (a development to watch), but still dished seven assists and pulled the offensive strings.
Tech scored 62 points in the final 20 minutes, and now sprints forward to a quarterfinal matchup against second seeded Florida State.
As for the blood on Buzz's shirt? Well, just let him tell you:
Q. You were bleeding through your shirt. What is that?
COACH WILLIAMS: Yeah, it's the dumbest thing ever. I went to Nordstrom yesterday and was looking for a maroon tie, and they sold a white shirt that had maroon on it, and I was like, we got to get that.
Q. What's the bleeding from?
COACH WILLIAMS: It was maroon.
Q. It's maroon?
COACH WILLIAMS: The shirt.
Q. Bleeding through, showing through --
COACH WILLIAMS: No, maroon, as in the color of the shirt.
Q. I get the color.
COACH WILLIAMS: Maroon.
What a weird guy.
A look towards Florida State:
The Seminoles will be a tough test. They blasted the Hokies 93-78 in Tallahassee early in January, but that was before Tech's offensive renaissance.
So what has to happen for the Hokies to win? A few things:
1. FSU isn't a great shooting team. And if Tech can put pressure on Dwayne Bacon and Xavier Rathan-Mayes (aka not give up the number of open looks they normally do), the Noles may struggle to score. And if there's one thing Buzz's bunch can do, it's put points on the board.
2. LeDay needs to play out of his mind again. Last month, Notre Dame beat FSU in South Bend without hitting an impressive number of threes (7-22, 32%). How'd they do it? Bonzie Colson played out of his mind. The similarly stout Colson had 33 points, and his success forced the Noles to play small. Size is the biggest advantage FSU has over Tech, so LeDay's success means limiting that.
3. During their last meeting, the Hokies went 4-15 from three. That can't happen. Tech needs to stretch the floor as much as they can to make up for their lack of height.
If all of those things happen, it should be a close game down the stretch. And if it's tight late, anything can happen.