No. 4 Virginia not only avoided another home loss to rival Virginia Tech but also blew out the No. 9 team in the country with an 81-59 home win Tuesday.
The Hokies won at John Paul Jones Arena last year and have wins over the Cavaliers in each of the last three years, but they couldn't keep up this time despite 19 points from Nickeil Alexander-Walker. Virginia Tech fell to 14-2 after snapping a nine-game winning streak.
De'Andre Hunter led the way for Virginia (16-0) with 21 points, while Ty Jerome finished with 14 points and 12 assists in the win. The Cavaliers are now the only remaining undefeated team in conference play after a 4-0 start to the ACC season.
Improved Offense Should Lead to More Postseason Success for Virginia
Every college basketball fan knows what Virginia can do on defense, but its impressive offensive ability was on display Tuesday night.
The team lit it up from three-point range in the first half, making nine of its first 11 attempts from beyond the arc, finishing 10-of-14 from long range before the break. The squad wound up going 13-of-24 from deep in the game.
Virginia has good depth but three legitimate threats who can score consistently from all three levels in Kyle Guy, Hunter and Jerome. The trio performed well in this one, combining for 50 points on 18-of-31 shooting (58 percent).
This helped lead to a historic performance for this program:
Seth Davis of CBS Sports had high praise for the effort on that end of the court:
Even with a slow pace, the team scored 81 points on 58.5 percent from the field against a quality Virginia Tech defense and entered the game averaging 73.8 points per game on the season. While this isn't high compared to conference rivals like North Carolina or Duke, it's a major change from what we have previously seen from this group.
Only once in the Tony Bennett era has Virginia averaged more than 70 points per game—2015-16 when the team averaged 71 per game. Unsurprisingly, this was the team's deepest run in March when Malcolm Brogdon and Co. went to the Elite Eight before a shocking loss to Syracuse.
Otherwise, the offense has trailed behind the defense and not just by total points.
The Cavaliers were the No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA tournament last year but were only 30th in offensive efficiency, per KenPom.com.
This season has been different, as the team entered Tuesday ranked sixth in offensive efficiency to pair with the second-ranked defense, per KenPom.
After years of disappointment in the NCAA tournament, this offensive ability could make a significant difference in March. The three-point shooting is good enough to beat teams on its own, while Guy and Hunter can get tough baskets in big moments when needed.
These players weren't assertive enough to make the difference last year, but this time will be different if they can continue to play at a high level.
Virginia Tech Can't Yet Be Taken Seriously as a Contender
As the No. 9 team in the latest rankings, Virginia Tech has quietly moved into the discussion as one of the best teams in the country. With just one loss coming on the road in November, there was plenty of reason to believe this squad could hang with the big boys.
Unfortunately, the disappointing showing against Virginia showed why this group isn't quite there yet.
The offense struggled outside of Alexander-Walker and Ahmed Hill, with second-leading scorer Kerry Blackshear Jr. almost completely shut down with just six points and one rebound.
On defense, Virginia got virtually anything it wanted on the floor to earn an easy win.
Meanwhile, the rest of the season hasn't been as impressive as the numbers tend to indicate. There are good neutral-court wins over Purdue and Washington, but these are far from elite opponents, while the rest of the schedule leaves a lot to be desired.
The loss to Penn State—even if it was by just one point on the road—also doesn't look too good considering the Nittany Lions are now just 7-10 on the year and 3-8 since the upset.
According to BPI, the Hokies rank just 163rd in strength of schedule, which is the worst of any of the Top 20 teams.
There is clearly talent on the roster that can match up with the best in the country, but this is a program that hasn't made it out of the round of 64 since 2007. We are yet to see anything that indicates this is even a Sweet 16 team, let alone a title contender.
Though a strong ACC schedule gives the Hokies plenty of chances to change the narrative, this is still a second-tier team in the conference until it proves otherwise.
A tough stretch continues for Virginia, which will go on the road to face No. 1 Duke on Saturday after the Blue Devils' first conference loss of the year on Monday. Virginia Tech will try to avoid a letdown in a home game against Wake Forest, also on Saturday.