Hokies hanging postseason hopes on more wins
Virginia Tech coach Seth Greenberg broke down a year ago when the Hokies lost to North Carolina at the buzzer to make their at-large bid likely moot.
Greenberg is not expecting to break down this weekend in Atlanta.
"It's just so hard because there are so few spots," Greenberg said. "This isn't a football bowl game where people are excited to go to the weed eater bowl. If you're on the bubble you're having a pretty good season. There are so few spots. The whole season is exhausting, especially this time of year."
If the Hokies play like they did in the convincing 65-47 win over Miami on Thursday in the ACC first round against a potentially Ty Lawson-less (bad toe) North Carolina then Greenberg won't complain.
The Hokies lost six of seven games heading into the ACC. Virginia Tech had chances, plenty of them against Florida State, Duke and North Carolina at home as well as the last-second losses to Xavier, Wisconsin and Georgia in the nonconference.
Greenberg isn't planning on false hopes. He knows the 18-13 Hokies would likely need to keep winning to have a shot at one of the 34 at-large berths if they can't win the ACC tournament.
"No disrespect to the mid- or low-majors but they get one shot and we get two shots [regular season and then again in the conference tournament to earn a berth]," Greenberg said. "They're not under the microscope. Their microscope doesn't come until championship week. For us it's our whole body of work."
Greenberg did lament that the Hokies shouldn't be viewed as a bad team because Xavier hit a half-court shot in Puerto Rico.
Still, it's hard to ignore the chatter that surrounded Thursday's eight-nine game. Pegging it as an elimination game to stay on the bubble between Virginia Tech and Miami wasn't difficult. Greenberg said he shielded his players as best he could from the talk and told them to enjoy the moment.
"There are a lot of teams like us that are good teams, good enough to win a game in the tournament," said Greenberg, whose Hokies are probably hanging their case on a win at Wake Forest, two W's over Miami, one over BC and one at Clemson.
"In the end every committee is different," Greenberg said of what each of the 10 selection committee members might value as important in selecting teams. "I just told our guys that this is a great stage to be on. Two years ago, many of these guys were driving around in vans to AAU events in Vegas and Orlando. We just have to stay in the present."
Unlike Georgia Tech, which has to win the ACC tournament to get any kind of postseason berth, Virginia Tech knows it will play in the postseason win or lose this weekend. To get to the NCAAs, the Hokies are going down the same path they did a year ago -- beating Miami and then facing North Carolina with the chance to earn an NCAA berth.
"It's the same story, hopefully with a little bit of a different ending," Greenberg said.
The difference against Miami was the Hokies' ability to defend at a higher level. Miami shot 26 percent on 3s and was ineffective on offense throughout the game.
"I don't know why [it happened now], but I'm glad we found it at the right time," said Virginia Tech's A.D. Vassallo, who scored 14 points. "We did a great job defending the whole game and in the second half we played better defense and shut them down. We wanted this game. We're trying to win the ACC tournament as much as get into the NCAA tournament."