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Posted at 10:06 AM ET, 03/ 2/2011

Inconsistent fan support adds to Virginia Tech's senior night disappointment

By Mark Giannotto

Replicating the atmosphere of Saturday's upset of then-No. 1 Duke was going to be a near-impossible task no matter what opponent Virginia Tech faced Tuesday. Fans crammed Cassell Coliseum to the rafters to watch the Hokies beat the Blue Devils, and were on their feet making noise from the moment the ball went in the air for the opening tip.

But after such a resounding victory -- one in which thousands of Virginia Tech fans rushed the court in celebration -- Coach Seth Greenberg hoped the Hokies would come close to re-creating such excitement when their three seniors played the final home game of the season Tuesday night.

Instead, Greenberg was greeted by an arena that was only about 80 percent full, with an energy level nowhere near what it was three days earlier. Not surprisingly, the Hokies who took the court weren't the same either, getting throttled by Boston College, 76-61.

"There was just no energy in the building, quite honestly," Greenberg said. "But we shouldn’t need that."

Greenberg emphasized that blaming Tuesday's setback on any lack of energy or a hangover from the Duke win was "a coward's excuse." But he couldn't hide his disappointment that the Hokies drew an announced crowd of 9,684 fans, about 150 short of a sellout. And judging by the empty seats, that figure represents the number of tickets sold Tuesday night, not the actual amount of people who showed up.

It's even more of a shame considering Greenberg spent much of his day hawking free tickets on campus. During his weekly lunchtime "Chalk Talk" on campus, Greenberg announced there were still 400 free student tickets remaining. At around 5 p.m., he tweeted that about 200 of those free tickets still remained.

In terms of paid attendance, Virginia Tech is actually doing quite well this year when compared with many of its ACC brethren. The Hokies have sold out all but four of their 14 home games this season.

But as Tom Gabbard, Virginia Tech's associate athletic director for internal affairs, told me last week, "We've sold all the tickets, but we can't force people to show up in their seats." By this reporter's count, the only game this year where every seat looked to have a customer in it was the Duke game.

"I appreciate the people that are here," Greenberg said, choosing his words carefully during his postgame news conference Tuesday. "The people that are here are the people that are our fans and I appreciate the people that are here. I can’t worry about the people that aren’t here.”

It's important to note that schools like Georgia Tech, Wake Forest, North Carolina State and Miami haven't had a sellout yet this season, and have also seen large swaths of empty seats at many games. But considering all four of those teams are near the bottom of the ACC standings, it makes more sense.

Teams like Virginia, Boston College and Florida State, meanwhile, have also struggled to draw large crowds at times. Even Maryland saw its student section noticeably empty for a home game against Florida State last week.

Part of the problem Tuesday was the 9 p.m. weekday tip-off for television purposes, but it was clear after how excitable the crowd was just three days earlier, Greenberg and company were expecting more, especially with Malcolm Delaney, Jeff Allen and Terrell Bell playing their final game in Blacksburg

But perhaps the most disheartening part of the evening was what took place on the court. The Hokies showed little resolve and did not resemble a team coming off one of the biggest upsets in program history. Now Virginia Tech finds itself back on the bubble, with a tough road game against Clemson to close out the regular season.

"It was senior night; we wanted go out with a bang for these guys," sophomore Erick Green said. "I thought we were gonna come out way better than we did. Unfortunately it didn’t turn out that way.”

By Mark Giannotto  | March 2, 2011; 10:06 AM ET
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Next: Virginia Tech gets chance to overcome its demons vs. Clemson


This is not a fair post or fair comments from Greenberg. I was at the game last night and stayed until the end as did most of the fans in attendance. Obviously the environment was not going to be the same as it was for the Duke game and no one should have expected it to be. The students showed up. We made noise. Empty seats in the arena were due to alumni season ticket holders who couldn't make it down to Blacksburg for a 9 o'clock weeknight game and you can't blame them for that. The crowd started out loud and the team came out flat. Every time Tech made a basket after they got down big, the crowd came to life and tried to will the team back into the game. The team just showed no heart. It is hard to make a lot of noise when your team is down 20 points and looks disinterested on the court. Can't blame the fans, the team has to take accountability for such an embarrassing performance

Posted by: skinscapshokiefan | March 2, 2011 11:52 AM | Report abuse

Frankly, I think Greenberg expected this.

The biggest challenge after a win like Duke is to not let it go to your head. They should have anticipated a real match against a very tough Boston College team.

This one's on Greenberg, not the fans.

Posted by: postfan1 | March 2, 2011 2:23 PM | Report abuse

I understand what Greenberg is trying to say with his comments. He is still building VT into a basketball school and wants the fans to buy into it. He wants fans to not just come out for the big games and support the team the same way we do with the football team. I also understand home court advantage, but if you need fans to win games then they might not be ready for the tournament (if they even get in). I can see if he is disappointed in not enough people coming out to say goodbye to this senior class. They do deserve a lot of respect for taking VT bball to the next level. In my years at Tech the bball team was never even considered a bubble team.

Now at the same time I watched the game on tv and the stands did not appear empty. It's rare that you will fill the top four corners of Cassell on any night. The crowd was loud and really into it in the beginning. It's hard to cheer when the team is getting kicked around like that. The crowd got loud again on big plays and when VT went on a few runs. They tried getting the players back into it. The team just had a hangover from the previous game. Time to move on and start planning for Clemson.

Posted by: HokiesCapsSkins | March 2, 2011 2:52 PM | Report abuse

Got to hand it to you Giannotto, you seem to manage to deflect a bad loss on anything BUT the lousy performance of the team, especially by its seniors and its coaching. You blame instead the lack of a large crowd, the game's start time and/or a lack of energy. Last week you even stated that the team's declining chances of making the NCAA tourney might be due to a poorer national ranking of the other AAC teams this year.

Did you even see the game? I saw a team that started out strong then simply lost its composure, as pointed out by the TV crew, as the game wore on. You could see the frustration build, then the finger pointing, the yelling at each other and then the temper tantrums and 2 TFs. You can bet the NCAA selection committee members are watching all the games that are showcasing the bubble teams, VT being one. Clemson will probably be ready to fight it out. Will VT ??

Meanwhile, why don't you report about what happens on the court instead of looking around for an excuse?

Posted by: JEGman | March 2, 2011 3:42 PM | Report abuse

Anyone make a quick check of the B'burg Police Blotter during game hours?

Probably several football players out wreaking havoc on the community and fans too afraid to attend late hour game.

Posted by: MerlinTerps | March 2, 2011 4:46 PM | Report abuse

VaTech fans are fair-weather for every sport other than Football. Straight up.

Posted by: sknyluv | March 2, 2011 8:21 PM | Report abuse

Can you blame the fans; inconsistent play leads to inconsistent support.

Does it really matter if they make the tournament. They'll most likely be one-and-done if they get in.

Posted by: Iceman_63 | March 2, 2011 8:56 PM | Report abuse

sure, blame the fans. not the fact that seth greenberg has year after year constantly choked away any opportunity to actually get over the hump of being anything more than a bubble team.

energy in an arena begins with the play on the floor.

maybe you should have digger phelps coach all your games since you're not capable.

Posted by: rev_ollie | March 2, 2011 9:49 PM | Report abuse

My son is a student at VT and I hope he was not there. It is a big test week and the game is at 9pm. Maybe everyone should stop making it seem as if college athletics are bigger than the education that is costing more and more all the time. 80% capacity is not bad and because the Saturday game was ESPN Gameday, it took more than the average study time out of the weekend. Greenberg should be embarrassed. Football game are also just once a week and half of them are not even at home.

Posted by: Richmondcapsfan | March 2, 2011 10:12 PM | Report abuse

Like clockwork, the MerlinTerps and JEGman heads pop out of their rabbit hole whenever VT loses.

For people who don't like VT coverage, they sure do like to read and comment on it.

We didn't hear a peep out of them the day after VT beat Duke.

I'm just sayin'.

Posted by: Benson | March 2, 2011 11:15 PM | Report abuse

...and for the record, I think Va Tech has some more wins in them this season.

After the big Duke victory, it's almost not surprising that they dropped their guard for Boston College.

Now they've added pressure for the Clemson game and the ACC tournament, but they should be up for those anyway.

Go Hokies!

Posted by: Benson | March 2, 2011 11:19 PM | Report abuse

Well said Benson.

Greenberg is a passionate coach who isn't afraid to show his emotions. This was one comment and he was frustrated. He cares a lot and that's not a bad thing.

Posted by: HokiesCapsSkins | March 3, 2011 10:06 AM | Report abuse

Nah, Malcolm Delaney, Jeff Allen and Terrell Bell will get to play one more game in Blacksburg when VT hosts a first round NIT game...

Posted by: CapsNut | March 3, 2011 4:24 PM | Report abuse

Attention Washington Post Sports reporters and Virginia Thug fans:

Run, don't walk, to buy a copy of this week's SI.

Posted by: MerlinTerps | March 3, 2011 7:27 PM | Report abuse

Greenberg, ever the whiner when his ineptly coached team underperforms and loses, is just practicing his excuse-making routine for a likely loss to Clemson and an early exit from the ACC tournament. He had the second-best recruitment class in the ACC four years ago. Look where they have ended up -- three straight NIT appearances and, now, a fourth very likely. Sad. Very sad.

Posted by: hammor | March 4, 2011 8:21 AM | Report abuse

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