Tigers need to make a big run in ACC tourney to reach NCAAs

Virginia Tech coach Seth Greenberg won’t be sweating out another Selection Sunday, something that has become a March rite of passage in recent seasons.

Instead, the 10th-seeded Hokies will have to win four games in four days in the ACC tournament in order to reach the NCAA tournament, beginning with a first-round matchup against seventh-seeded Clemson at 7 p.m. Thursday.

The Tigers (16-14 overall, 8-8 ACC) also have to win out to reach the NCAA tournament for a school-record fifth straight season.

The teams split two meetings this season, with each winning on its home court by two points. Tanner Smith scored 14 points, including the go-ahead free throws in the Tigers’ 58-56 victory last Thursday.

Close games are nothing new in this series. Since Virginia Tech moved to the ACC in 2004, 10 of the 12 meetings have been decided by five points or less.

The Hokies (15-16, 4-12) shot only 36.7 percent in a 70-58 loss to North Carolina State on Sunday – their fourth straight defeat.  It was the first non-competitive loss in that span, however.

Virginia Tech’s previous three losses were by an average of three points. Leading scorer Erick Green (15.3 points) was benched against the Wolfpack for nearly seven minutes in what was a “coach’s decision.”

Green finished the regular season as the eighth-best scorer in the ACC, but the junior struggled in two meetings with Clemson this season, averaging nine points on 27 percent shooting (6 of 22).

Clemson won five of its last seven regular-season games and its only losses in that stretch were to No. 4 North Carolina and No. 17 Florida State, the latter of which came Sunday.

The Tigers, who boast the second-best defense in the ACC (60.4 points), will be eager to make up for a lackluster effort in the 80-72 loss to the Seminoles. Florida State shot 64 percent in the first half.

Clemson has two of the best defenders in the conference as Smith and leading scorer Andre Young are tied for first in the ACC in steals (1.7). Young averaged 12 points in two games versus Virginia Tech this season.

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