With an eleven-game winning streak at its back and a freshly minted #4 ranking in its pocket, the Virginia men's basketball team heads to Cassell Coliseum for an ACC matchup with in-state rival Virginia Tech. But despite that momentum and one of the nation's best offenses, do the Hoos have cause for concern?
There are certainly plenty of folks saying they should.
The Cavaliers at Virginia Tech the past two seasons have shot 34.7% in a 50-47 win last season and 39.2% in a 57-53 win in 2014.
— The Sabre (@thesabre) January 4, 2016
And over at University Ball:
It hasn't come easy for us in Blacksburg during the Bennett era. Despite winning five of six games in Cassell under CTB (oddly a better record vs VT than our 4-2 mark at home), we've won by double digits just once (74-58 in 2013) and have an average margin of just +3.7 since he took over despite having won 43 more games (148 to 105) over these six plus seasons and owning a more comfortable +8.3 margin at home.
With those concerns looming, we wondered: Are they justified? Matt Trogdon and Brian Haluska share their differing takes.
I find the gnashing of teeth about Virginia's game against the Hokies to be pretty interesting. It's certainly a case of emotion winning out over calculation. Because the numbers suggest there's a good chance Virginia could win this one by double digits. According to the Sagarin predictor, Virginia (91.15) is over 14-points better than Virginia Tech (76.88). If we add in the home-court advantage Sagarin gives (3.40), Virginia is still close to 11 points better. If we were to double the Sagarin home-court advantage to account for Cassell being a traditionally tough place for UVA to play, Virginia still comes out almost 7.5-points ahead.
Anything can happen, certainly. And the emotional argument is a powerful one when it comes to rivalry games in college sports. But Virginia fans should take comfort in the fact that the overwhelmingly better team tonight will be dressed in orange and blue.
As tempting as it to pencil in a W prior to tonight’s game at Virginia Tech, let’s recognize that we’ve seen this movie before. A highly rated Virginia team that is starting to look like a juggernaut heads into a rivalry game against a downtrodden Hokie team that might be held together by little more than duct tape and positive thinking. The Cavaliers then proceed to struggle all game before finally getting the car in gear and off the tracks just before the upset train comes roaring through the crossing.
As tempting as it would be to believe that Tony Bennett’s squad is playing Lucy to Buzz Williams’ Charlie Brown, the pattern has been firmly established – Virginia is vulnerable in games played in Cassell Coliseum. The combination of a short turnaround from Saturday's game against Notre Dame, coupled with the hyped up crowd that turns out for the Hokies when the Hoos come to town should be enough to give even the most confident Virginia fan pause.
If superstition is not persuading you, then consider this – the Hoos are playing their third true road game of the year. The first was Virginia’s lone loss at George Washington, and the second was a slugfest against Ohio State. Virginia’s largest lead on the road this year? 9. That's not comfortable.
This is Blacksburg, gentlemen, the gods will not save you.