The first week of March is not the time to be breaking out of a slump, but that's essentially the situation faced by Virginia Tech.
After starting 21-4 and coming off a five-game ACC winning streak, the Hokies have dropped three straight, including their first loss at home this season, and find themselves perched atop the ever-worrisome NCAA "bubble".
Two of those losses came against top 25 opponents Duke and newly ranked Maryland in an electrifying 104-100 double-overtime loss. That’s why I hesitate to call this current three-game slide a true slump.
Regardless, it sets up one of the most important games against N.C. State in Hokie history Wednesday in Blacksburg.
Tech’s 72-52 victory in the first meeting with State was its first in Raleigh since 1917.
The Hokies will need a similar effort to beat the Wolfpack again.
Despite being tied for last place in the ACC with a 4-10 conference record, State has several impressive wins this season over Duke, Marquette and Florida State as well as a number of close losses to postseason-bound teams.
The Wolfpack rely on their talented frontcourt of forwards Tracy Smith and Dennis Horner.
Smith leads the team in scoring and rebounding (17.1 PPG, 7.9 RPG) and Horner is second in both categories (11.8 PPG, 4.8 RPG).
The Hokies did an excellent job of limiting the production of both players throughout the first matchup, and Tech will have to do the same again.
Junior point guard Javier Gonzalez turns the ball over far too often for the Wolfpack. In recent wins over Wake Forest and Miami, Gonzalez turned the ball over just three times combined.
When he keeps things under control he can be a threat, but the Hokies allowed him just two points in their last meeting despite just two turnovers.
While fans are worried about Tech’s NCAA tournament prospects, the Hokies are more concerned with their standing heading into the ACC Tournament in Greensboro, NC.
Tech is currently locked in a tie for third place in the ACC standings with Wake Forest and Florida State. The top four teams in the conference secure a first round bye in the ACC Tournament and Tech wants to once again be in that group.
On the injury front, the Hokies are starting to get pretty beat up.
The ACC’s leading scorer Malcolm Delaney has already been playing on two bad ankles, now you can add a thigh bruise to the list of ailments.
Tech’s second leading scorer Dorenzo Hudson now has a foot injury, and third leading scorer, and leading rebounder, Jeff Allen is dealing with back trouble.
Key reserve forward Cadarian Raines is battling a shoulder injury that kept him out of the Maryland game.
The Hokies take on N.C. State Wednesday at 7 PM in Cassell Coliseum. Tech finishes up its regular season schedule Saturday in Atlanta against Georgia Tech.