Virginia Tech makes NCAA tournament case 111 days before Selection Sunday

Hokies catch Spartans' defense sleeping with Nolley 3-pointer (0:28)

Landers Nolley II sneaks out and buries a 3-pointer after the Spartans' defense draws in on Wabissa Bede. (0:28)

The most significant result of the no-longer-young college basketball season occurred Monday, nearly 5,000 miles from where the NCAA Selection Committee will complete its work in March.

It was not the biggest upset, mind you, as that remains Evansville's early November shocker at Rupp Arena. But the most impactful win to date is clearly Virginia Tech's 71-66 opening-round victory over preseason No. 1 Michigan State at the Maui Jim Maui Invitational.

The reasoning is pretty straightforward. Freshman Landers Nolley did more than hit the biggest shot of his life to close out the Spartans in the final minute. He changed the narrative of Virginia Tech's season.

Suddenly the Hokies are no longer a nice rebuilding story under first-year coach Mike Young. The Hokies, picked at or near the bottom of the ACC, have a legitimate path to the NCAA tournament.

The difference isn't that beating Michigan State is harder than what Evansville did to Kentucky. The difference is that Virginia Tech has the opportunity to remain at its lofty new altitude. Throw in a 1-0 start to the conference season, courtesy of a surprising opening night win at Clemson, and the Hokies could not have asked for a better start to their post-Buzz Williams life.

Entering the week, we had the Hokies a dozen spots away from the NCAA tournament cut line. Today, they are at worst a solid bubble team (call it the Seth Greenberg slot ...), with a chance for so much more.

By the time the calendar flips to 2020, the Hokies will have played eight less-than-helpful guarantee games. Normally that would be too many for a bubble team to overcome. But most bubble teams don't beat the preseason No. 1 on a neutral floor, and most couldn't manage a winning record in this year's ACC.

But the Hokies are now in that range, according to ESPN's BPI, and their position could improve even more before they return to the mainland. Dayton awaits in the Maui semifinal, followed by Kansas, UCLA or BYU in round three.

If the Hokies can get another win or two in Lahaina, Maui might not be the only paradise they visit this season.