Humbling the Hoos

Attention to detail and an increased aggressiveness helped Virginia Tech upend No. 6 Virginia, showing once again why the Hokies are a team better than their record suggests.

[Virginia Tech Athletics]

I believe in intangibles.

The baseball statistician Bill James once quipped that the reason some traits are called "intangibles" is because they don't exist. In the statistics world, there is a schism between what we statheads see on paper — the objective results — versus what the average fan can deduce with their eyes. Are you, in the words of Bill Parcells, just what your record says you are? Or something more?

The record shows that Virginia Tech is a 4-8 ACC basketball team. But as my friend Brian Marcolini wrote on Thursday, we know this isn't really a 4-8 team. After all, it takes a good team to beat Duke and North Carolina. It takes a tough team to beat Oklahoma State on a neutral court. And it takes a well-coached team to beat the sixth-ranked Virginia Cavaliers, which is precisely what the Hokies did on Saturday afternoon in Cassell.

Virginia Tech's 74-68 victory over UVA was a season-saver. Sean Pedulla had a bounceback performance after a dismal outing in Charlottesville the last time around, scoring 22 points on 6-of-13 shooting. Grant Basile stretched out the Cavaliers defense, scoring 14 points and hitting a crucial three down the stretch. In a typical "Muttsian" performance, swiss army knife Justyn Mutts delivered 17 points and eight assists, taking the Cavaliers' forwards to work off the dribble and making them pay for double teams.

Mike Young doesn't like comparing this year's team to last year's, but the similarities are uncanny. Both teams had high expectations that were quickly dashed due to an atrocious start to conference play. Both struggled to defend. Both were victims of brutal close-game luck.

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