Thursday, February 26, 2009
Hokies' résumé gets stronger
Seth Greenberg doesn't plan on repeating the emotional outburst, about Virginia Tech's NCAA candidacy, he made following a buzzer-beating loss to North Carolina in the ACC tournament this past season.
That team didn't come close to having the same credentials as this season's squad.
The reaction would be quite different if a snub occurred again. You're not going to hear any kind of plea for the Hokies to get into the field. Greenberg said Virginia Tech deserves a bid, assuming it isn't below .500 in the conference. There is now an expectation the Hokies will be invited. A year ago, it was a shocker when they weren't after the ACC tourney loss.
Winning at Clemson on Wednesday night gave Greenberg another reason to tout the Hokies. Virginia Tech has road wins at Wake Forest, Miami and now Clemson, which would bode well for convincing the committee. Still, it is 17-10 overall and 7-6 in the ACC with three daunting games remaining: against Duke on Saturday, North Carolina next Wednesday and at Florida State on March 8.
"Without a doubt, this team has more quality wins and more top 50 wins than that team [from last season]," Greenberg said. "But we can't get in at 7-9, I don't think."
Greenberg said he didn't publicly push for the Hokies to get into the field prior to the ACC tournament in 2008. Virginia Tech was 18-12 overall and 9-7 in the ACC going into the tournament.
It had a decent schedule but didn't beat a single ACC NCAA team during the regular season. The first win against a tourney team came against Miami in the ACC tournament. They then lost to North Carolina on Tyler Hansbrough's game-winning shot.
"I didn't lobby prior to my outburst," said Greenberg, who essentially said anyone who had watched Virginia Tech nearly beat UNC that day and didn't think the Hokies were an NCAA team was insane. "I just wanted to let my kids know from the heart what I felt. It wasn't rehearsed.
"We were a really good team last year but because Tyler Hansbrough makes that shot, that shouldn't mean that we're not deserving [of a bid]."
Greenberg is looking at playing Duke and Carolina back-to-back at home just like Maryland did (the Terps split the two games) -- as an opportunity, and not as some sort of sentencing.
Beating Clemson stopped the negative vibe, which came from losing consecutive games against Virginia (without forward Jeff Allen who was suspended for flipping off Maryland fans) and Florida State at home.
"It's just one game, but this league is exhausting, both emotionally and mentally," Greenberg said. "There is so much pressure to make the tournament."
Virginia Tech has had its share of close calls. It lost to Xavier on a half-court buzzer-beater in Puerto Rico in November; fell to Wisconsin at home and Georgia on the road on last-possession situations in December; and on a tip-in at Boston College on Jan. 31.
"This team could have folded after that Virginia game, but we didn't," Greenberg said. "We've got three killer games left, and we've got to find a way to win. We have to bottle our consistency from [Wednesday night] and get us to win another game."
• South Carolina is in position to win the SEC East after its rout of Kentucky on Wednesday night. The Gamecocks are guaranteed a winning record in the SEC for the first time since 1998, and they swept Kentucky for the first time since the 1997 season -- only the second time ever. LSU's Trent Johnson took over a team that had the most experience, but Darrin Horn took a team that had plenty of questions to the top of the SEC East. He's likely the leader for SEC Coach of the Year.
• DePaul almost got Villanova on Wednesday night, losing to the Wildcats 74-72. DePaul is three losses away from losing all 18 games in the Big East, a season after Oregon State did the same thing in the Pac-10. The Blue Demons have essentially one more shot to avoid having the worst season since the Big East expanded to 16 teams four years ago: Saturday against St. John's. DePaul likely isn't winning either of its final two games -- at West Virginia and at Georgetown.
• Any Big East coach who wants to go back to 16 league games should take this into consideration: Playing the two more games to reach 18 helps more teams get into the field. Let's just take Notre Dame for example. The Irish are 7-8 in the Big East, with the possibility of 7-9 if they lose at Connecticut on Saturday. If there were only 16 league games, then the Irish would have a tougher time getting an NCAA bid. But Notre Dame has two more chances to get wins. Obviously, the Irish wouldn't have two more home games since they would have already played eight home games in a scenario with 16 league games. Still, the two games remaining with Villanova and St. John's give the Irish a chance to get a bid. Also, look at Providence and its remaining games. PC is 17-11 overall and 9-7 in the Big East after the win over Pitt. Claiming one more road win, even at Rutgers, to reach 10 conference wins would carry more weight than 9-7. So, even if the Friars split the two remaining road games with Rutgers and Villanova, a 10-8 Big East record would help them get a bid. The Big East has to get all its teams on nationally, as well, multiple times. In a 16-game schedule, that becomes tougher. Don't expect the 18-game schedule to shrink to 16 anytime soon.
• The NCAA tournament selection committee may have needed some clarity with the Mountain West. Utah provided it with a 10-point win over UNLV on Wednesday. Utah improved to 11-2 in the MWC, 20-7 overall and a likely lock. UNLV, meanwhile, (20-8, 8-6) moves down a peg. At this point, it's hard to see the Runnin' Rebels getting a bid with six MWC losses. BYU (21-6, 9-4) needs to stay in second place and has a shot to take down rival Utah this Saturday. New Mexico (9-4, 18-10) doesn't have the same profile and would likely need to win the league.
• What to do with Dayton? The Flyers have a high RPI of 33, but the numbers don't tell the whole story. Dayton lost at the buzzer to Rhode Island on a reverse layup in overtime by Marquis Jones. Dayton did beat Xavier but at 9-4 is now in fourth place in the A-10 (23-5 overall). The NCAA can leapfrog a team, so that's not a problem. But that usually happens in one of the big six conferences, not the A-10. Dayton finishes with two of three at home against Temple (second place at 9-3), at first-place Xavier (10-3) and against fifth-place Duquesne (8-5). Meanwhile, Rhode Island has quietly put together a solid résumé for postseason consideration (21-8, 10-4).
• Davidson desperately needs to get the No. 1 seed to ensure it is in the best possible situation for the Southern Conference tournament, a tourney the Wildcats probably have to win to reach the Big Dance. Davidson took the first step by pounding UNC-Greensboro 70-49 as Stephen Curry scored 20 points. The Wildcats now have a two-game lead on second-place Citadel with two to play.
• Just think if Northwestern had closed out Illinois and Purdue at home instead of blowing those leads and losing. If the Wildcats had won those games, they would likely be on the bubble with hopes of getting a bid for the first time in the program's history. Northwestern would be 8-7 in the Big Ten (instead of 6-9) and 17-9 overall (instead of 15-11). It has a road win at Michigan State, a home win over Ohio State and a nonconference win over Florida State. Northwestern won at Assembly Hall in Indiana for the first time Wednesday night.
• Northeastern guard Baptiste Bataille's shot with 1.3 seconds left gave Northeastern a 47-46 win at Drexel on Wednesday. The Huskies are trying to win their first CAA title, but at 12-5 are still one game behind VCU (13-4) and tied with George Mason (12-5). Northeastern holds the tiebreaker with a win over VCU and a split with Mason. It ends the season hosting Old Dominion; VCU hosts Georgia State and Mason hosts Towson.
• Dartmouth, a perennial doormat in the Ivy, is 6-4 after a rare weekend sweep of Penn and Princeton. The Big Green hadn't swept that trip since 1958-59. Dartmouth swept Penn in its two games for the first time since that same season. It is honoring the 1959 team at Saturday's home game against Columbia. Dartmouth lost in double overtime at Cornell on Feb. 14. Had that not occurred, the Big Green would be playing for first place this weekend, instead of being in a logjam with Columbia, Yale and Princeton with four losses, two behind Cornell.