On paper, it looked like a win for Virginia Tech. Apparently the Hokies felt the same way.
Boston College entered Saturday’s ACC tilt with the Hokies with a 4-11 record, while still looking for their first ‘true’ road win of the season. The Eagles were 1-8 over their last nine games, and that one win came by 17 points against Division II Philadelphia University, the same team that lost by 33 on Saturday to something called Holy Family.
Still, hidden in that mark was a difficult non-league slate that has been ranked by ESPN as the fourth toughest in the nation. Those 11 losses have come to teams with a combined record of 122-41 (.748), including Massachusetts, Virginia Commonwealth, Connecticut, Maryland and Harvard. Their best win came against Washington.
Apparently these Eagles — who were ranked last in the ACC in eight different statistical team categories — were battle-tested and not as bad as the Hokies thought.
“We have just really got to come out and play with effort,” Virginia Tech freshman guard Devin Wilson said. “I think we came out pretty lax and kind of not thinking about it because their (non-conference) record wasn’t the greatest.
“I think we came out and didn’t really give them their credit and they made us pay for it.”
Big time. Virginia Tech dropped to 8-7 and 1-2 in the ACC with a 62-59 loss to Boston College, and the schedule doesn’t get any easier.
It rarely does in the ACC.
Records can be deceiving. Boston College is now 5-11 with a brutal schedule, while the Hokies are now 8-7, but have just two wins against ‘power’ conference teams, West Virginia and Miami.
Remember how much trouble Seth Greenberg had trying to get into the NCAA Tournament because of a poor non-conference schedule? Those 20 wins would always land the Hokies in the NIT.
Yes, the Hokies have played Michigan State, VCU and ACC foe Syracuse this year, but they also have ‘bad’ losses, all at home, to Boston College, USC-Upstate and North Carolina-Greensboro.
In fact, the winning percentage of Virginia Tech’s eight victims is just ,516 (63-59), with six of those wins coming against foes from the Big South, Southern and the MEAC.
Yuck. That kind of competition provides opportunities for wins, but also means the Hokies haven’t been challenged when the ACC schedule arrives.
“We have got to find a way, we have got to grow up...,” Johnson said. “We have just got to win, we have got to learn how to win.”
Up next is Clemson in what is Virginia Tech’s third straight conference home game, and the first two ended in defeat. That will be followed by 14 more ACC games, and eight of those will be on the road. Ouch.
“It is very big. We have to come back against Clemson and bounce back, losing this game at home is tough because winning games away in the ACC is going to be a hard thing to do,” Wilson said. “When you lose the ones at home it really hurts your record for sure.”
While the Hokies struggled to make shots on Saturday, missing numerous layups, dunks and nine free throws, Virginia Tech needs to get a hot hand from leading scorer Jarell Eddie, who had 10 points on 3 of 14 shooting against the Eagles.
“I am shooting the ball with confidence, but the ball will just not go down,” Eddie said. “I just have to keep shooting, just keep shooting with confidence, just keep coming in and working every day knowing that it is going to go in. You have just got to keep playing.”
James Johnson, Virginia Tech’s second year head coach, said his team simply must learn how to win games, and that begins against Clemson, and those Tigers are coming off a shocking upset of Duke.
“We want to win, we have got to win, our backs are against the walls and (Boston College’s) back was against the wall coming in here,” Johnson said. “It was two hungry teams looking for a win and they found a way to pull it out.
“We have got to find a way to pull it out. I don’t know if it is a must win, but we have got to find a way to win.”
Virginia Tech and Boston College are both 1-2 three games into the ACC. They are two games behind the first place trio of Syracuse, Pittsburgh and Virginia, all of whom are 3-0. At least the Hokies aren’t sitting where North Carolina is. The Tar Heels are surprisingly sitting at 0-3, all by themselves in 15th or last place in the ACC standings.
Still, it’s too early to panic, as Boston College fourth-year head coach Steve Donahue has learned from his tenure in the ACC. He had previously been at Cornell, having led the Big Red to three straight Ivy League titles and a Sweet 16 berth in 2010.
“I think the biggest adjustment for me at this level is realizing that nobody is going 18-0,” Donahue said. “Great teams go 10-8, 9-9, national championship teams go 9-9 in the (ACC) at this level.”
While Boston College faces No. 2 Syracuse next — the same club that beat the Hokies by 20 earlier this week — the Hokies must continue on with five of its next eight games on the road.
“The ACC is like a whole other season,” Virginia Tech junior C.J. Barksdale said. “We have got a lot more games to play and we just need to move on as much as we can and not focus on these last two losses.
“We have got to keep getting better, keep working hard and get ready for the next game and come out and get a win.”
It may have been because it was two struggling teams looking to establish an identity and trying to get any kind of win in a tough league, but Saturday’s win for Boston College over Virginia Tech was a fun game to watch.
And not just for sports reporters and the few fans who were there.
How about 15 lead changes, 11 ties, no lead bigger than 5?
“I thought this is a great game,” Donahue said. “This is what ACC basketball is about.”
Contact Brian Woodson at firstname.lastname@example.org.