NEW YORK — Coaches usually know before their players.
And both of these coaches knew early on the importance of what they have in two specific players on each of their rosters.
Virginia Tech’s Buzz Williams knows senior transfers Seth Allen and Zach LeDay are irreplaceable.
Virginia’s Tony Bennett saw the potential in — and finally is reaping the benefits of — freshmen guards Kyle Guy and Ty Jerome.
Both tandems play key roles for their teams. And the continued success of both are going to be critical to each team’s postseasons.
The Hokies wouldn’t be where they are — on the cusp of their first NCAA tournament bid since 2007 — if it weren’t for Allen and LeDay.
Not even close.
“We’re not in the position we’re in, we’re not playing on March the 9th if it wasn’t for these two guys,” Williams said of his two seniors after Tech’s second-round ACC tournament win over Wake Forest on Wednesday night.
The Hokies also wouldn’t have given second-seeded Florida State a run Thursday before losing 74-68 if it weren’t for those two seniors.
Before LeDay had to sit midway through the second half with four fouls, he had 17 points and seven rebounds. He finished with 22 points and nine rebounds. Allen added 17 points.
And it’s not just their stats, it’s their confidence, their swagger, their leadership and their selflessness.
Oh, and their talent.
Allen transferred from Maryland and had to sit out the 2015 season, as did LeDay, a transfer from South Florida.
Now, Allen is the ACC’s sixth man of the year, averaging 13.3 points, including being the Hokies’ go-to player when the game’s on the line. LeDay leads Tech in scoring with 16.1 points per game. He’s also the team’s emotional leader.
Both have taken Virginia Tech from the basement of the ACC to one of its hottest, most improved teams in their short time in Blacksburg.
Oh, and both come off the bench, having started only five games apiece this season.
“When Zach came, when we sat out, we worked hard every single day,” said Allen. “When we were the last-place team four years in a row, and we just kept digging, and we just put ourselves in the hole from the jump, and we just kept digging and digging and trying to work every day. It’s eventually paying off. Now that it’s paying off, everybody’s asking, did we think about it? Just from Day 1, we just tried to work. That’s really what (Williams) taught me and Zach, was how to work.”
And it’s working.
Virginia also wouldn’t be where it is if it weren’t for a key duo. Guy and Jerome have stepped up their games down the stretch, giving the Cavs a huge boost heading into the conference tournament and their quarterfinal game against No. 3 Notre Dame on Thursday.
U.Va., however, hit a wall against the Irish, unable to find consistent offense and looking discombobulated in a 71-58 loss. Guy didn't score a point Thursday, missing on all eight shots. Jerome scored 10, as the Cavaliers were bounced from the conference tournament earlier than they'd hoped.
Jerome made his mark in U.Va.’s near-win over then-top-ranked Villanova. Guy has consistently gained more confidence and playing time, scoring a career-high 20 points in Wednesday night’s second-round win over Pittsburgh.
And now, at the most important point of the season, they’re where Bennett knew — and expected — they would be.
“It’s playing the game and just — they don’t — they’re not afraid of the moment,” said Bennett. “But they have an unselfishness about them that makes a difference.”
They’ve learned that from senior point guard London Perrantes, who is the unquestioned leader and glue that holds together U.Va..
But it’s nice for Perrantes to have some help, where he doesn’t have to carry the Cavs night in and night out. And if/when U.Va. needs them, those young guys aren’t scared to step up and in.
“Like Coach said, I’m not really afraid of the moment,” Guy said. “But whatever the team needs from me, I’m willing to do.”
And in March, for Tech and U.Va., what both teams need is everything those duos can give them.