Posted: 4:02 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 21, 2013
For a fun primer for Friday night's matchup against #1 Michigan State at Barclay's Center in Brooklyn (tip-off scheduled for 9:30, TruTV), simply read below.
Eight pages of notes later, and here we are. Today we focus on the Hokies Men's Basketball team's history vs #1 teams. Though the total sample of games numbers only 11, the Hokies have a rich tapestry of history woven around the stories of these games.The internet era (1995 to present) has been able to provide us with detailed info on seven of the 11 games, but there were four early games that required a bit more digging, circumventing pay walls, and blinding myself by combing through pages of numbers and statistics to find even the smallest amount of info for you. I found this project to be time-consuming but ultimately rewarding. I hope you enjoy it. Now let's roll our sleeves up and get dirty with the data.
The Hokies have a 4-7 record overall in games vs. the top-ranked team going into tomorrow night's match-up vs the #1 Michigan State Spartans, who assumed the mantle just days ago; following last week's win against the previously #1 ranked Kentucky Wildcats in the State Farm Champion's Classic in Chicago, IL. The Spartans triumphed 78-74 and looked every bit the challenger for the national title this spring. But, what the Spartans don't know is that the Hokies have a little history kryptonite hidden up their sleeve. Two of the Hokies four wins against top-ranked teams have come the very week the #1 team was newly-anointed. The wins against the Memphis State Tigers (1983) and the Wake Forest Demon Deacons (2009) occurred the very day the new polls came out. Sayonara suckers!
By comparison, Michigan State will have been wearing the crown for four days when they face the Hokies. Hopefully, that won't be too long to have grown into it, and hopefully, we make them regret feeling too comfortable if they have. Of the four wins, the Hokies have won three of the games at home, and one on the road. They have never won at a neutral site, playing two of these matches in the ACC Tournament and one in the 1979 NCAA Tournament in Lawrence, Kansas. Of the remaining eight, it's an even four-four split between home and away. Tonight's game marks the first time the Hokies have played a #1 non-conference foe since the 1979 game.
I feel the best way to navigate this extensive history is to proceed chronologically from VT's first battle with a #1 team in 1968, to our latest in 2011. And we begin:
Saturday, March 2, 1968 @ Houston Cougars, Delmar Fieldhouse, Houston, TX
Simply unfair. The Hokies first three games vs #1 teams all featured an NBA #1 overall draft pick, and though Elvin Hayes didn't achieve quite the same level of pro success Larry Bird enjoyed, he definitely had the best game of any of them vs Virginia Tech. 1968 was supposed to be Houston's year. They had ended UCLA's 47-game win streak in a game at the Astrodome dubbed "The Game of the Century" in January before 52,000+ people in a game that spawned the age of college basketball as we know it. In fact, the following year was the first year that the National Championship game would be televised. The rights were purchased by NBC, on the strength of the UCLA/Houston match ups in 1968. Though the Cougars had knocked off the UCLA machine, the victory was dubious as Lew Alcindor (now Kareem Abdul Jabbar) had scratched his cornea just eight days prior in a game vs Cal. The Cougars narrowly eked out a 71-69 win in holding the depth perception challenged Alcindor to his first career game below 50% shooting. The Cougars then ran their record to 27-0 before the Hokies came to town. Though the Hokies only finished 14-11 and out of the postseason in 1968, they were still backstopped by several players that had fallen just short of the Final Four in 1967, having lost to Dayton in OT of the regional finals. They were led by by Captain and center Ted Ware, who was the team's leading-rebounder (9.2 rpg), and led in scoring by guard Glenn Combs (20.9 ppg).
I spent a good deal of time trying to find details of the game, but due to the lack of interest in the sport in those days, the newspapers didn't feel it merited more than just a blurb. And with very good cause, those blurbs focused on "The Big E". Hayes scored the most ever points on a Hokie squad, with 51 points on 23-of-41 shooting. The blurbs also mentioned that Elvin had 21 rebounds in the first half, though he didn't set that opponent record, which fell to some obscure gentleman on WVU who grabbed 31 once. So he let up in the 2nd half it appears. There was nary a mention of any Hokie players, just that our one bright spot had been jumping out to a 7-0 lead. Hayes finished that year averaging 36.8 ppg, and 18.9 rpg, and was subsequently drafted #1 overall in the NBA Draft by the San Diego (now Houston) Rockets. Hokie Head Coach Howie Shannon was quoted as saying, "He's the best I've ever seen." Ultimately the year was a disappointment for Hayes and the Cougars as they lost for the 2nd straight year in the National Semifinals to UCLA, as the Bruins exacted revenge 101-69. It was the second of four Final Four failures for the historically underrated coach of the Cougars, Guy Lewis. However, on a personal level, I can't say I feel sorry for him: They obviously ran up the score. Why did Hayes need to shoot 41 times?
Saturday, December 20, 1975 @Indiana Hoosies, Assembly Hall, Bloomington, IN
This game was part of something called The Indiana Tournament, and true to its name, the Hoosiers dominated. The Hokies that season were led by Russell Davis (18.8 ppg), and Kyle McKee (8.5 rpg), and were coached by Don Devoe to an eventual 16-10 mark. They were respectable, but they were no match for Scott May, the National Player of the Year, who finished with 27 points. He would eventually lead the U.S. team to the 1976 Gold Medal in the Montreal Olympics, and become father to Sean May, a future ACC foil for Roy Williams at North Carolina. The Hoosiers would finish 32-0 and National Champions that year, and remain the last team to go undefeated for a full season. Led by the reprehensible Bobby Knight, they had three first round choices on that team, with May going second in 1976, and Quinn Buckner at #7. The team also featured center Kent Benson, who the Milwaukee Bucks chose with the #1 overall pick they obtained in sending Kareem Abdul Jabbar to the LA Lakers. I think we all know how that turned out. As it was quite frequently with Indiana's players, none of the three amounted to much as a pro.
Sunday, March 11, 1979 vs Indiana State Sycamores, Allen Field House, Lawrence, Kansas
Indiana State Sycamores 86, Virginia Tech Hokies 69
All I can do is mimic the TBS announcer who was in New Orleans for a March 12, 1985 neutral site game between the Boston Celtics and Atlanta Hawks when he crowed, "What else can I say, but Larry Bird, Larry Bird, Larry Birrrrdddd!!!!!!!!" That Sunday afternoon in 1985 was roughly six years to the day (I'm off by one day), after his appointment with the Virginia Tech Hokies in the Round of 32 of the 1979 NCAA tournament. That afternoon, my ten year old eyes witnessed Larry Legend drop 60 points on the Dominique Wilkins-led Atlanta Hawks to set the Boston Celtics single-game scoring mark; eclipsing teammate Kevin McHale who had just re-set the mark the prior weekend with 59. Larry at one point in his scoring binge, hit a 3 falling out of bounds into the scorer's table. When the camera panned the Hawks bench, they were cheering for Basketball Jesus themselves, falling down, making worship motions with their arms. There were few players in the history of the game who could invoke such genuflection from an opponent.
It is with this in mind that I envision the Hokies standing and watching Bird operate at will in 1979. The wispy mustached, blond afro'd blonde put on a clinic with 22 points, 13 rebounds and 7 assists in dispatching the Hokies back to Blacksburg. The Hokies had eliminated Jacksonville in the play-in game on Friday that weekend. The tournament back then featured 40 teams, with 24 receiving a bye. The Hokies were led that season by Dale Solomon, who finished that game with 15 points, slightly below his average, and Les Henson who finished with a team high 18. The Sycamores jumped out to a 40-26 halftime lead, and coasted the rest of the way, with Carl Nicks contributing 22 of his own points for the ISU squad. Had the Hokies won, they would have advanced to the Sweet 16, and somewhat diluted what become perhaps the premier individual basketball rivalry of all-time. Certainly if not for Russell-Chamberlain, Bird and Magic would be the clear frontrunner in that regard. Bird and the Sycamores went on to lose in the final that year to Magic Johnson's Michigan State Spartans, 75-64. Those Hokies finished 22-9 that season, and will always have the memory of being on the floor with one of the top-10 players of all-time. That game marked the only time the Hokies have ever played a #1 team in the NCAA Tournament.
Monday, January 10, 1983 vs Memphis State Tigers, Cassell Coliseum, Blacksburg, VA
Virginia Tech Hokies 69, Memphis State Tigers 56
Our first win vs a #1 in our first home game vs a #1. 8,000 fans lining the sidewalk on Washington Street to get a ticket. Memphis State, led by Coach Dana Kirk, was embarking on a stretch of prosperity that was later marred by allegations of player payoffs and drug abuse. The were led by senior pivot Keith Lee, a consensus All-American, who reminded me a great deal of Bruce LeRoy in the cult classic Black Fu movie "The Last Dragon". A wild afro that made him appear much taller than his 6'9, he came in highly-touted, mean mugging, and perhaps a little too contented with having been anointed the #1 team earlier in the day by the AP. He was summarily shut down by Keith Colbert and the young Hokie starting five. Frustrating him with a collapsing zone, he was held to 6 points and 7 rebounds on just 2-of-13 shooting, before eventually fouling out. Due to his absence the Hokies out-rebounded the typically stronger Tigers 39-31. The Hokies also forced 22 turnovers to offset their own poor shooting, as they were just 38% from the floor.
The Hokies featured a starting five that included three Freshmen (Dell Curry, Bobby Beecher, and Keith Colbert) and two Sophomores (Perry and Al Young). While Dell chimed in with his usual effort, scoring 16 points, the high scorer was a senior named Reggie Steppe who "stepped up" with 21 points on an unusual scoring line that included 15-of-17 from the FT line. Four Hokies finished in double figures that night, as the game was never close. With this win, the Hokies moved to 13-1 on the season, but were unable to build momentum off of it, splitting their last 20 games to go 23-11 on the season and advancing to the NIT. Memphis State rebounded, and made it to the Sweet 16, with Lee handling Georgetown's Patrick Ewing in the Round of 32, before falling to Houston's Akeem Olajuwon in the Sweet 16. Houston made it all the way to the final before losing to N.C. State, the luckiest squad in NCAA history. Lee was a first round draft pick of the Cleveland Cavaliers, and never amounted to much, as his afro never actually translated to real size, and he was dubbed too slender a tweener to play PF in the NBA. Memphis State enjoyed a couple more years of success, going head to head with Louisville in the highly-underrated Metro Conference, and making it to a Final Four in 1985, before being upset by the 8th-seeded Villanova Wildcats. Villanova moved on to play the powerful Hoyas that year, shocking the world 66-64. Memphis State was never the same, until their brief affair with John Calipari, which in itself was extremely short-lived.
Saturday, February 17, 1996 vs Massachusetts Minutemen, Cassell Coliseum, Blacksburg, VA
Massachusetts Minutemen 74, Virginia Tech Hokies 58
I first saw Marcus Camby as a senior in High School in 1993 at the Capital Classic game at Cole Field House in College Park, Maryland. He played for the National Team and went head to head with Joe Smith of Maury (Norfolk). They had an epic battle, and though i can't recall the details, Camby won MVP. Many of you may not know this because Marcus has made an almost 20-year career out of being a defensive presence in the NBA, but the man used to put the ball in the goal quite easily. Camby was the leader of the visiting Minutemen, and for the first time in VT's history of playing #1 teams, they were ranked as well. The Hokies came into the game at #10, having won the NIT Championship the prior year. They returned all 5 starters and their 6th man. Led by Bill Foster, these Hokies were a joy to watch. They shared the ball, made open shots, and played much larger than their size. They had started the season ranked, a rarity in itself, and climbed from #22 to #8, having lost only once to Georgia. A hiccup in Washington D.C. against Mike Jarvis's excellent club that was led by 7-footer Alexander Koul and diminutive 5'4 Shawnta Rogers, briefly dropped the Hokies down to #13.
I was a student during this period, and that winter saw the football Hokies stamp their imprint on the national scene with a resounding 28-10 win over the Texas Longhorns in the Sugar Bowl on New Year's Eve. Upon returning to Blacksburg, the entire East Coast was caught in a Nor'Easter, and buried under two feet of snow. While the students who remained on campus during that period huddled around 20 inch TVs and drinking copious amounts of light beer and wearing out decks of cards, the roof of Cassell Coliseum slowly caved in. The veteran laden team that featured four seniors and two juniors in their top six was barely ruffled, making the most of their makeshift homes in Radford and Roanoke, biding time until their home floor was ready. It appeared nothing could distract them from their goal of winning the Atlantic 10 crown. With the matchup with John Calipari led UMass to be the highlight of the home slate, the fans camped out on the sidewalk in front of the Cassell in a pounding, freezing rain. The moniker "Bleaksburg" did not do the conditions justice, it was miserable to take your four-hour shift in the tent. Imagine, no iPads! No Candy Crush! Egads!
Finally the day arrived, with a call for more snow in the ceaseless Winter of 1996. The Hokies took the floor sleepily that afternoon, as it was an early start and it was tough to shake the cold from your bones. We had exacted our revenge on GW in Roanoke a couple weeks prior, and felt that UMass was maybe a bit better, but maybe untested and not quite worthy of their #1 perch. Especially considering Kentucky was shredding the world, and had six future first round NBA picks. There was also hope for the Hokies as UMass had been pushed in many of their games, having to charge back from 10-point deficits three times, and having won 9 of their 10 games by less than 10 points. Additionally, it was thought Marcus Camby wasn't his best as he had collapsed on the floor earlier in the year due to dehydration, and was still feeling his way back.
It appears we were misled. Though the Hokies kept it close in the first half, only trailing 33-28 at the break, Camby was getting what he wanted; and more importantly making sure we weren't getting what we wanted. His stat line eventually read 31 pts, 10 rebounds, 5 blocks, but the blocks total could have been more. Most of them came early, as our undersized front line shot a miserable 8-for-30 in altering their own shots to avoid Camby. On offense he tortured Ace Custis and Shawn Smith, by getting to his spot and shooting softly over them, or jumping over them to put back a couple of ferocious, spirit-crushing dunks. Led by Damon Watlington (team high 17 points) and Troy Manns, the Hokies clawed back to within 8 with five minutes remaining. But then the FT parade began, and the Hokies submitted.
The game took a bit of wind out of the Hokie's sails, as the team struggled though their final five games, and took an uncharacteristically bad loss in the first round of the A-10 Tournament to Rhode Island, finishing 22nd in the polls. By my math, a #22 ranking means you should get a 6-seed or better in the NCAA tournament. But in setting the tone for future screw-jobs, the committee seeded us 8th, and not only that but it was the worst 8-seed, because we were to be paired with #1 overall seed Kentucky if we advanced to the 2nd Round. The Hokies won a first round matchup with Wisconsin-Green Bay, and were then dismissed without prejudice by Kentucky in a game that defined the word blow-out. That team deserved better, and I like to think that had the UMass game gone a little bit better, the committee's estimation of us might have been higher. UMass went on to lose to Kentucky in the Final Four, and Camby was a #2 pick in the draft. This might be the year he officially retires, quite remarkable for such a "frail" guy.
Sunday, December 4, 2005 @ Duke Blue Devils, Cameron Indoor Stadium, Durham, NC
Duke Blue Devils 77, Virginia Tech Hokies 75
Still reeling from the prior evening's nightmare in Jacksonville, Florida that saw the Florida State Seminoles knock the Hokies out of a BCS Bowl with a 27-22 victory that wasn't as close as the final score, I sat in my office girding myself for a beat-down at the hands of hated Duke and the despicable Coach K. It was a game the Hokies never quite get a hold of, until they had it, and in the blink of an eye it was gone. After trailing by 11 with four and a half minutes to play, the Hokies took the lead with under a minute to play; on a Coleman Collins putback that capped a 12-0 run. What happened next was typical of a late-game Seth Greenberg timeout, somehow the inbounds passer Josh McRoberts got a clear look at a pass to a wide open Sean Dockery who even had time to take a dribble before he launched a 40-foot buzzer beater. VT had once again snatched defeat from the jaws of victory. A friend of mine who had previously called me during Notre Dame's loss to USC that season in football, jumping the gun, ostensibly to celebrate the Irish knocking USC out of our path to the BCS championship (we'd lose to Miami anyway) was once again on the phone with me prematurely celebrating the victory over Duke. I've never accepted a phone call during a game from him again to this day.
This was the beginning of the end for the Hokies that season, as they finished 14-16, failing to build on the maiden voyage through the ACC the prior year, which saw the Hokies finish 8-8 in league play. In what was perhaps Coleman Collins finest game in a Hokie uniform, he scored 25 points and had 8 rebounds while battling future #5 overall pick Shelden Williams to a draw. Collins received news shortly thereafter that his father was in ailing health and took a leave of absence to deal with family issues. The season then grew even more grim as multiple players had issues at home that revolved around serious illness or even death. I dubbed it "The Season of Sorrow," and felt bad the players had to even take the court some nights.
"I feel very badly for Virginia Tech." Coach K said. "They gave a winning effort. They never quit and they were certainly deserving to win. I'm not sure we were." When Coach K apologizes for winning you know you've lost in horrific fashion. Duke would finish the season on "Quit Blubbering Night" that saw both Adam Morrison and J.J. Redick in tears after their respective Sweet 16 losses. It was embarrassing for everyone involved. I never could understand why Michael Jordan of all people would draft a kid who cried so hard on National TV. Seems to me he'd take the opportunity to call him names and challenge his manhood instead.
Saturday, January 13, 2007 vs North Carolina Tar Heels, Cassell Coliseum, Blacksburg, VA
Virginia Tech Hokies 94, North Carolina Tar Heels 88
As the lead shrank from 22 points to 3 as time wound down, I chewed my nails to the quick. This is why Roy Williams never calls a timeout, I thought. Just for the express purpose of humiliating Greenberg. And he was, once again chewing Seth up and spitting him out. He had called all six of his timeouts after made baskets and got a stop and a bucket each time. It was if we had never even amassed this tremendous lead. Zabian Dowdell had led the charge with 23, Jamon Gordon and A.D. Vassallo had 17 each. Nigel Munson had come off the bench to wage a personal war with DC Metro rival Ty Lawson and added 10. Everything had gone right, until it wasn't. Luckily the clock won it for us, and we sank our FT's and escaped the gym with a well-deserved win. Everyone except for Seth that is, as was the case in so many victories the team won in spite of their underachieving overlord.
The Hokies were fresh off a win at #5 Duke the week before and riding high. Deron Washington had "Teaaaa-Bagged Pooooowlus" and we had pulled out our first road win at Duke 69-67. The team would be ranked #23 after the UNC win, and ride that all the way up to #16 before losing three of their final five games, including the annual rite of passage, a season-ending loss to Clemson, something we endured not one, not two, not three, but six times under Seth's watch. We finished the season a respectable #21 with this senior-led group, beating #4 UNC once again in Chapel Hill later in the year. Considering the body of work that included three wins over top-5 teams, we entered the NCAA tournament as a 5-seed due to trending poorly towards the end of the year, and having lost to a poor N.C. State team in the ACC semis. The reward for this? Two tough games against teams from Illinois. We barely escaped the first round match only to be strangled by the disciplined Salukis of Southern Illinois in the second round. In what amounted to the second NCAA seeding screw job (not quite the rival of 1996), the committee uncharacteristically granted us an unwelcome rematch vs. a Southern Illinois team that had embarrassed Tech at the Old Spice Classic In Orlando over Thanksgiving. It wasn't an attractive game, and it was a bitter way to go out. This was the first inkling I had that Seth was more salesman than coach, as he always espoused being better in the spring than the fall. Well, here we were against the same opponent, and the result was worse. Make of that what you will. The less we talk about Greenberg, the better. Unfortunately, the remainder of these games involve him.
Saturday, March 15, 2008 vs North Carolina Tar Heels, Charlotte Coliseum, Charlotte, NC
North Carolina Tar Heels 68, Virginia Tech Hokies 66
It had all the trappings of an upset. Hold the Tar Heels to below 70 and you were achieving what you set out to do. Only one other team had held the Tar Heels to such a low point total all year. They hadn't won either, but still it was step one of the plan. This day marked the beginning of my absolute disgust with all things Tyler Hansbrough. Killer T never had and still has no discernible basketball skills, yet he came away with the win in the first of two highly controversial victories against the Hokies in consecutive years in the ACC Tournament. In this game he shoved a guy (can't remember for sure who), grabbed an offensive rebound in his flailing fashion, and made an ugly "jumper" with 0.8 seconds left to steal the win. And then he ran down the floor screaming and pumping his fists and getting all red in the face like he's been known to do. "I kind of overdid it" , he was quoted as saying. In a backhanded compliment, his teammate Marcus Ginyard ruminated, "He definitely finds the ball, no doubt about it." The only solace I can take is that his teammates probably hated him more than I did, having to practice with that personal injury menace waiting to happen at any moment. He finished the game with 26 points and 9 rebounds and made Jeff Allen fear for his safety, for if the lummox spazzed out too much, he could take out your eye or potentially paralyze you. Tyler Hansbrough should be locked in a cage.
Once again, Greenberg had a chance to get a good look out of the timeout, but bowed to Roy as the play Seth called wound up resulting in a deflection and no look at all. Malcolm Delaney led the Hokies as usual with 15 poits, and the team had three in double figures. We played them as well as anybody had all year. The loss dropped us onto the bubble, which would remain our home for the rest of Greenberg's tenure. And it's not as if the year didn't provide us opportunities, we were simply 1-5 vs top-5 teams. It was in the aftermath of this game that Greenberg made perhaps the most critical error of his career with the following quote: "Anyone who watched that game that knows anything about basketball, if you don't think this team is one of the top 65 teams in the country, you're certifiably insane. Because I don't know who else could come into this environment, basically play a road game, and play those guys the way we just played them. The only thing we didn't do was win the game." At the time, there was a groundswell of kudos for his taking a stand. But in hindsight, he was drawing a line the selection committee was only too willing to cross. His manipulation of the media didn't have the power he thought he did, and I think it hampered the team until the day he was fired. It also helped that Seth all too frequently was the victim of the fact that "all he didn't do was win the games". A slick sales job never will take the place of solid, tangible product.
All the Hansbrough rhetoric aside, the UNC team that year was fierce, having owned the top spot in the polls for all but four weeks, ceding only to Memphis during that time. They eventually fell to Kansas in the Final Four, denying the public a Finals matchup between the only two teams who had held the top spot that season.
Wednesday, January 21, 2009 @ Wake Forest Demon Deacons, Lawrence Joel Veterans Memorial Coliseum, Winston-Salem, NC
Virginia Tech Hokies 78, Wake Forest Demon Deacons 71
Wake Forest, like Memphis State 26 years before, was the brand spanking new #1 team in the country for the first time since Chris Paul had played there in 2004. VT was coming into the game 13-5, fueled by the prior season's NCAA snub, and led by Malcolm Delaney, who was the best player on either team. VT led almost the entire game in what was to be their first and only road win over a #1 team. The Deacs were led by Jeff Teague, James Johnson, and Al-Farouq Aminu, all of whom were first round selections in the NBA Draft. They were 16-0 on the strength of a weak schedule, but had won some tough games in the ACC to earn the top spot. VT built a 16-point lead behind hot shooting. Delaney had 21, and A.D. Vassallo and Jeff Allen chipped in 16 apiece.
In typical Tech fashion though, they allowed Wake to trim the lead down to 2 with under two minutes left. Luckily the Deacons couldn't hit and the Hokles made the most of their FT's. This game was deeply satisfying for everyone in that we handled the #1 team from beginning to end, and it heightened everyone's expectations. VT went on to beat Miami, but looked shaky late after blowing a big lead. Then Delaney went for 37 against Clemson but the team faltered in the second half (what is it about Clemson?!!) and from there the team went 4-8 down the stretch, finishing at 18-14 after yet another loss to UNC in the ACC tournament. Wake would finish 24-7 and bow out meekly to Cleveland State in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.
Friday, March 13, 2009 vs North Carolina Tar Heels, Philips Arena, Atlanta, GA
North Carolina Tar Heels 79, Virginia Tech Hokies 76
The Heels never led by more than the final margin. Hansbrough scored off an offensive rebound to give the Tar Heels a 77-76 lead. Then on the ensuing possession he bear hugged JT Thompson to cause a jump ball, possession Tar Heels, then he sank two FT's for the final margin. A.D. Vassallo (26 pts./10 reb.) missed a 3-point shot to tie, rolling Friday the 13th and Groundhog Day all into one. The Hokies couldn't take advantage of Ty Lawson missing the game due to a toe injury, and there was some rather dubious home cooking that saw the Heels get to the line repeatedly while the Hokies couldn't even get into the bonus (only needing to draw 7 piddly fouls) in the 2nd half. "I guess we foul and they don't", said Seth Greenberg. "What I saw doesn't count, so it makes no difference. The only people that count are the guys in the striped shirts, and so, what they saw is what happened," he griped. This on the heels of the prior year's "certifiably insane" rant.
The Hokies would once again advance to the Virginia Tech Invitational (NIT), while the Tar Heels would go on to their 5th National Championship. The following season would see the Hokies finish 25-9, win double figure games in the ACC and still get refused an invite to the NCAA in what was a "certifiably vindictive" moment on the Selection Committee's part. That group of kids was deserving of the moment, and it was snatched from them for no reason at all, if not for Greenberg continuing to bray loudly about various conspiracies. But Greenberg deserved to go to that tournament too in that class's junior and senior years. It's a crying shame that the groundwork was laid in 2008 and 2009 for whatever vendetta the committee executed against the program.
Saturday, February 26, 2011 vs Duke Blue Devils, Cassell Coliseum, Blacksburg, VA
Virginia Tech 64, Duke 60
Full disclosure: I was stuck in the restroom during the first half due to over-consumption of Jack Daniels. How can a 35-year old not know better than to do this? Good question. I guess being overexcited and having a full day to imbibe on an empty stomach and little sleep. Rookie move, I know. I did watch the DVR replay however, twice. I just wish i could have accompanied my friends to the bar and been obnoxious alongside them, because nothing trumps beating #1 Duke with Gameday on campus. Jeff Allen had a monster game, with 18 points and 15 rebounds. The defense forced Duke into 4-of-20 3-point shooting. It was a strong effort start to finish.
The Blue Devils entered the game on a seven-game win streak, led by Kyle Singler and Nolan Smith. In retrospect, it wasn't the strongest Duke team, and they were buoyed by a weak ACC, the same weak ACC that had VT squarely on the bubble once again due to lack of quality wins. Duke represented the last best chance to impress the committee and all eyes were on Blacksburg. VT had had their opportunities against two ranked teams earlier in the season, but failed to pick up wins against Kansas State and Purdue. Allen led a balanced attack that even featured an off-night from Delaney, who did hit a big 3 to stave off a Duke comeback. The usually offensively impotent Terrell Bell even had 12 and a couple critical buckets to pace the Hokies late.
With the win, the Hokies joined Maryland and UCLA as the only teams in with 3 career wins over #1 teams while unranked. They moved to 19-8 and appeared to be in the field of 65. However, they turned around and dropped the next two games to bad RPI schools, and finished 3-4 to receive the final snub of Greenberg's Hokie career. He was eventually dismissed as head coach in April of 2012 after a disappointing year with a highly regarded recruiting class. Duke would go on to lose to 15th seed Lehigh in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, confirming everyone's belief that the best of the ACC wasn't good enough to be the best anywhere else that year.
If you've remained on through the end, i hope it was as rewarding for you as it was for me to put together. You definitely deserve a hearty snack. I suggest a healthy bowl of Count Chuckula cereal to keep in theme with me, Chuck, and the Cassell under which I dwell.
I do need to take the time to mention that i used ESPN, HokieSports Media Guide, Wikipedia, Some Old David Teel articles (is he the only one who cares?), and my own extensive collection of worthless basketball trivia. Now you may go forth and flower the world with your new-found knowledge. We'll all be better for it.
Remember, the huge game vs #1 Michigan State tips at 9:30 Friday Night. I'll be back late tonight with a look at the opponent, and some keys to the game.
As always, Mi Cassell es su Cassell. Have a peaceful Thursday!