Who needs a win more: Virginia Tech or Miami?
On Sunday evening, when Miami visits Blacksburg to play Virginia Tech, two college basketball teams coming off demoralizing losses will take the floor. The Hokies, as you're probably well aware, suffered a disappointing 72-57 setback at Georgia Tech, ending a stretch of nine wins in their previous 10 games.
Miami, though, appears to be in more dire straits. The Hurricanes' 74-71 loss at home to North Carolina on Wednesday dropped them to 1-5 in the ACC. They've now lost three consecutive games by three points or less, a series of events that prompted North Carolina Coach Roy Williams to show some empathy after Wednesday's game when he said, "I feel for [Coach] Frank [Haith] ... I told him one of these days it’s going to turn around for him."
In that game, Miami grabbed a double-digit first-half lead thanks to a barrage of early three-pointers, only to watch the Tar Heels gradually chip away at the deficit. By the middle of the second half it was a back-and-forth affair, and freshman Harrison Barnes sealed a victory with a late three-pointer.
Sounds awfully similar to the Hokies' close loss to North Carolina a couple weeks ago, doesn't it?
"Twenty-five years I’ve never been in a stretch where three straight games it comes down to the last possession and it didn’t go our way," Haith said. "It's tough. It's tough."
Despite the Hurricanes' lackluster start to conference play, they actually remain ahead of Virginia Tech in the RPI. As of Friday, Miami was ranked No. 59, while the Hokies have slid to No. 74. That's due in large part to the Hurricanes' early wins over West Virginia (No. 20) and Boston College (No. 29).
Virginia Tech's best win is its triumph over Florida State at home, but the Hokies' record against RPI top 50 teams dropped to 2-4 recently after Penn State slid to No. 55 in the RPI this week. Virginia Tech's only other top 50 win came at the 76 Classic against No. 48 Oklahoma State. What should worry Hokies fans, though, is that after starting the year 15-2, the Cowboys have lost four of their past five and could be in danger of falling out of the top 50 soon.
All of this underscores just how important Sunday has become, especially since it's the only time these two teams will meet. Even though Miami has struggled in conference play, the Hurricanes will likely be one of several teams the Hokies will be competing with for one of the ACC's final NCAA tournament berths. Just take a look at their current resumes for proof.
Miami (RPI No. 59)
Record: 12-8 overall, 1-5 ACC
Best wins: vs. West Virginia (20); vs. Boston College (29)
Worst losses: at Rutgers (100); at NC State (98)
vs. RPI top 50: 2-4
vs. RPI top 100: 3-8
Remaining games vs. RPI top 100: at Virginia Tech (74); vs. Duke (9); vs. Clemson (81); at Boston College (29); at Florida State (47); vs. Maryland (75)
Virginia Tech (RPI No. 74)
Record: 13-6, 3-3
Best wins: vs. Florida State (47); vs. Oklahoma State (48)
Worst losses: vs. Virginia (137); at Georgia Tech (141)
vs. RPI top 50: 2-4
vs. RPI top 100: 4-4
Remaining games vs. RPI top 100: vs. Miami (59); at NC State (98); at Boston College (29); vs. Boston College (29); vs. Maryland (75); vs. Duke (9); at Clemson (81)
Miami's best victories are more impressive and the Hurricanes have yet to lose to a team outside the RPI top 100, but Virginia Tech's win percentage against the RPI top 100 is far superior at this point and the Hokies have an additional opportunity to claim a quality win down the stretch.
So who exactly is more desperate for a win Sunday? I'd say in the short term, it's Miami, simply because another defeat would mean a four-game losing streak and that might be something the Hurricanes can't recover from.
But in the long term, the Hokies want this home victory, especially since the last thing the Hokies need next week is a losing streak of their own with two tough road games against top 100 foes (NC State next Wednesday and Boston College next Saturday) on the horizon.
Either way, it's pretty obvious how pivotal Sunday night has become as both teams scavenge for more quality wins this last month or so of the season. I'll have more on the matchup later this afternoon when we get to speak with Coach Seth Greenberg and a couple Hokies players.
| January 28, 2011; 10:32 AM ET
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