Saint Louis stole a bid by winning the Atlantic 10 Tournament while Virginia Tech enters the field as an at-large team. The Hokies have already knocked off Duke this season, proving they have the talent to make a serious run in the dance, but the Billikens are on a hot streak right now, winning six of their last seven contests.
Date/Time: Friday, March 22, 9:57 PM ET
kenpom.com projections: Virginia Tech def. Saint Louis 69-58
Betting Line: Virginia Tech -10.5 (Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook)
No. 4 seed Virginia Tech
Coach: Buzz Williams
Record: 24-8 (12-6)
Conference tournament finish: Lost in quarterfinals
Player to Watch: Justin Robinson
The Hokies come in winning six of their last nine contests, including a victory over the top-seeded Duke Blue Devils. Virginia Tech was without Robinson for its last 12 contests, but the school announced that he is ready for the dance.
Robinson is a 41.1 percent 3-point shooter and averaged 5.2 assists per game, helping the Hokies achieve the 11th best offensive efficiency and eighth best 3-point percentage in the country, according to kenpom.com.
His health will be key for Virginia Tech’s chances in the tournament. Nickeil Alexander-Walker and Kerry Blackshear will be ready to shoulder most of the offensive load, but Robinson makes Virginia Tech far more dangerous.
The Hokies have wins over tournament-bound Purdue and Washington in their non-conference slate, but didn’t rack up many quality victories in ACC play. They have talent across the board, but it might not stack up against some of the better teams in the field.
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No. 13 seed Saint Louis
Coach: Travis Ford
Record: 23-12 (10-8)
Conference tournament finish: Won Atlantic 10
Player to Watch: Javon Bess
Ford is back in the NCAA Tournament after a long absence dating back to his time at Oklahoma State. He was let go after failing to make a fourth-straight NCAA tourney in Stillwater and immediately landed the Saint Louis job. In Year 3, he’s got the Billikens back in the dance with a conference tournament victory.
Bess is the team’s leading scorer with 15.3 points per game, but Saint Louis has a balanced offense. Tramaine Isabell and Jordan Goodwin are the team’s primary creators and both average double figures.
Saint Louis’ real strength is on the boards. The Billikens rank 16th in rebounds per game and fifth in offensive rebounds. They create second-chance opportunities and secure defensive possessions. If Virginia Tech can’t keep Saint Louis in check off the glass, it could be a long day for the Hokies.