Latest win shows Virginia Tech what could have been
When the buzzer sounded Sunday night and Virginia Tech had emerged with a crucial 72-68 victory over Miami, Coach Seth Greenberg pulled aside his Hurricanes counterpart, Frank Haith, to provide some encouragement. He told him, ‘Look, you probably don’t want to hear it, but your team is really good.'
It was little consolation for Haith, who transformed into a philosopher as he tried to digest the fact that Miami's NCAA tournament chances are all but shot after four straight losses by a combined 11 points.
"I told the team that in life, things happen for a reason," Haith said after the loss. "We don't understand it right now, but if we continue to play as hard as we're playing, good things will happen to this ball club. It's all I can tell them, because I think we are playing well. We go down to the wire against good teams: North Carolina, Virginia Tech, Florida State are all really good basketball teams."
If the Hokies take anything away from their latest win, though, it should be just how close they are to being in the exact same position as the Hurricanes. The difference between good and mediocre in the ACC this season is so slim, especially when it involves a team making due with just eight scholarship players.
But unlike last Tuesday's loss to Georgia Tech, the Hokies came through when it mattered most Sunday. Though Miami's Adrian Thomas had two wide open looks to take the lead late, ultimately this game will be remembered for the measure of redemption senior Malcolm Delaney and sophomore Erick Green got from it.
After both struggled against the Yellow Jackets, each knocked down clutch shots in the waning moments to help the Hokies maintain their lead. Senior Jeff Allen, meanwhile, controlled play in the post, scoring 18 points and grabbing 11 rebounds.
Virginia Tech was threatened, though. After Miami's Garrius Adams hit three late three-pointers, teammate Adrian Thomas bricked two wide open looks from long distance that would have given the Hurricanes a lead. Then Adams missed a three-pointer with three seconds remaining that would have tied the game. Not to mention, the Hokies struggled all night containing point guard Durand Scott (21 points, five assists).
That Virginia Tech emerged despite all that is a credit to how this team reacted to such a disappointing finish last Tuesday. Allen said the big motivation was to get Greenberg "off our back," after he forced the team to watch the final six minutes of that Georgia Tech loss in its entirety.
"We knew we was gonna have to come out and play hard," Allen said. "We can’t have no hangover games, and this was a good example. We lost at Georgia Tech and we came home and we had to forget about the Georgia Tech game and move onto the next game and that’s what we did.”
The victory pushed Virginia Tech back up to 68th in the latest RPI rankings, but it's the RPI that underscores just how small the Hokies margin of error is right now. ACC foes Clemson (69), Maryland (70) and even Miami (71) sit directly behind Virginia Tech.
The Hokies' overall NCAA tournament profile actually took a hit this weekend. Oklahoma State (57) and Florida State (51) both suffered losses to move out of the RPI top 50, downgrading Virginia Tech's record against top 50 foes to 1-4 this season.
But after three years on the bubble, it seems these Hokies are operating with some newfound confidence given what they've accomplished so far with limited resources. As Greenberg put it during his postgame comments, Virginia Tech's depleted lineup may not have proved anything of substance yet, but "we're a little better than people thought."
"You’re not gonna have any revelations this time of year," Greenberg said. "What you’re trying to do is keep your team on an even keel, keep them rested. Maybe tweak something here or there to steal a basket or two. But we’ve got a chance to win five games in the first half of the ACC. I don’t know what’s gonna happen at NC State, but to have a chance to do that, I’ll take that. I’m proud of these guys.”
| January 31, 2011; 9:48 AM ET
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