It has been a turbulent college basketball season: a revolving door in the top five, no team lasting more than six weeks without a loss to the start the campaign.
But through it all, Virginia was seen as the safe team, the consistent team. The Cavaliers weren't even in the preseason Top 25 but suffered only one loss in their first 24 games. Because of their historically good defense, having a letdown game didn't appear all that likely. Only six of their first 24 games were decided by single digits.
Then Saturday happened.
Virginia Tech went into Charlottesville, where Virginia hasn't lost in nearly a year, and knocked off the Cavaliers in overtime 61-60.
From the Virginia Tech perspective, it's a massive victory for the Hokies' profile. They have now won five of their past six games, including victories over North Carolina, along with this triumph at Virginia. The Hokies were squarely on the bubble heading into Saturday, but this win should ease the pressure a little bit moving forward.
Buzz Williams' Virginia Tech team has plenty of opportunities to lock up a bid in the coming weeks, though. It still has road games at Duke and Miami, as well as home games against Clemson, Louisville and Duke. Beating Virginia on Saturday doesn't secure a spot on Selection Sunday, but it gives the Hokies some leeway down the stretch. They now have four Quadrant 1 wins and are 8-6 against Quadrants 1 and 2.
Beating Virginia at home is surprising in itself, but Virginia was very un-Virginia-like in the final few minutes after forcing overtime. The Cavaliers ranked in the top 25 nationally in free throw percentage. Devon Hall was the fourth-best free throw shooter in the country, having missed only four free throws all season, yet he missed two free throws in the final 30 seconds.
Virginia is a solid defensive-rebounding team, while Virginia Tech is one of the worst offensive-rebounding teams in the country. Yet it was an offensive rebound and layup by Virginia Tech's Kerry Blackshear Jr. with eight seconds left in OT that gave the Hokies the go-ahead points.
A Virginia loss was bound to happen, just given the state of college basketball right now, but it was still surprising to see it happen in this manner.
But it's a good reminder: Even Virginia has flaws. Even the most consistent team in the country, with the best defense in nearly 20 years, can be exploited.
It's just not expected to be due to missed free throws and failed boxouts. It's Virginia's tempo that allows lesser teams to stay in games. It is its lack of off-the-dribble creators who can make plays for themselves and others. It is its lack of a go-to inside scorer.
This season, though, everyone has flaws.
Villanova, the most successful program over the past five seasons, has really struggled to defend in the past month, and it has mounting injury issues. Purdue built up plenty of momentum with 19 straight wins, but the Boilermakers stumbled this week in losing to Ohio State and Michigan State -- their toughest competition since November. Duke has perhaps the most talent in the country, but the Blue Devils have been a disaster defensively and are struggling to get consistent leadership. Michigan State is starting to really come together, but it also has had multiple double-digit losses this season.
Nobody is perfect this season, and that's OK.
It's going to make for a wild NCAA tournament, with no clear favorite. Throw in the fact that the general public never seems to trust Villanova and Virginia -- the most consistent teams in the country this season -- on the big stage and it adds to the wide-open feel of the field. That said, there's still a month remaining until Selection Sunday, meaning a team such as Michigan State could continue rolling and stake its claim as the clear-cut national championship favorite.
Or Virginia could bounce back, close the season with five straight wins, win an ACC tournament title and be the overall No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament.
Saturday's result doesn't prevent that at all. It just brings the Cavaliers back down to earth a bit, back to the rest of the teams in college basketball this season.