In just its third season in the ACC, Virginia Tech is in position to claim the regular-season conference title. The 21st-ranked Hokies can move a step closer Thursday with a road win over league co-leader Virginia.
With two games remaining, Virginia Tech (20-8, 10-4) is tied atop the conference standings with Virginia (19-8, 10-4) and No. 8 North Carolina.
A victory Thursday, and over Clemson on Sunday, would give the Hokies the No. 1 seed in next week’s ACC tournament because they swept the season series with the Tar Heels. Virginia Tech can do no worse than share the regular-season title by winning its next two games, but will be the outright champion if that happens while North Carolina loses one of its final two contests.
The Hokies tied for fourth in the ACC in 2004-05, their first season in the league, and tied for 10th last season.
Virginia Tech should be in for a challenge, though, on Thursday in Charlottesville. The Cavaliers are 7-0 in home league games, highlighted by a 68-61 overtime win over then-No. 8 Duke on Feb. 1.
The Hokies have not won in seven games at Charlottesville since 1968, but are 4-3 on the road in the ACC this season with wins at Duke and North Carolina. They snapped a four-game losing streak to the Cavaliers with an 84-57 home win on Feb. 10.
Virginia could claim the ACC title outright by winning its remaining two games combined with a North Carolina loss. The Cavaliers close the regular season at Wake Forest on Saturday.
While Virginia is seeking its first 20-win season since 2000-01, Virginia Tech notched its first in 11 years with a 73-57 victory over Miami on Saturday. The Hokies went 23-6 in 1995-96.
“It was always something we wanted to accomplish,” guard Zabian Dowdell told the school’s official Web site. “At the same time, we have two games left and we really want to focus on that. To win 20 games and 10 in the league, that’s great. But we want to win 22 games.”
Dowdell, who averages a team-high 18.1 points, had 20 points and eight rebounds against Miami as Virginia Tech won its second straight since losing 81-56 at North Carolina State on Feb. 18. The Hokies have shot 52.7 percent from the field over the last two games while committing only 16 turnovers.
“Everyone is doing a good job, looking for each other, finding the open spots in the defense,” said Dowdell, averaging 21.5 points and 8.0 rebounds in the last two games.
Dowdell wasn’t much of a factor in the first meeting with the Cavaliers, scoring a season-low five points, but forwards Deron Washington and A.D. Vassallo each scored 22 as the Hokies won easily. They led 38-22 at halftime and shot 57.7 percent from the field while holding Virginia to 32.8 percent.
The Cavaliers slipped out of the Top 25 this week due to their 68-60 loss to lowly Miami last Wednesday, but they bounced back to beat Georgia Tech 75-69 on Saturday.
J.R. Reynolds scored 25 points and Sean Singletary had 24 as Virginia scored the final 13 points of the game to win for the third time in four games since losing to Virginia Tech.
Singletary averages 18.6 points, Reynolds adds 18.5 per game and both rank in the top five in scoring in the ACC.
“We have two very, very special players who at any point in time can make plays,” Virginia coach Dave Leitao said. “If you surround them with a team that plays defense, and plays tough and rebounds, you have a chance to win each and every night.”