March 20, 2008
Hokies excited about NIT - and possibilities it could mean for the future

Isn't it exciting to see Virginia Tech's basketball team back in postseason play?

As the Hokies prepare for the second-round of the NIT, folks in Blacksburg are talking hoops, discussing the recently concluded ACC tournament, and praising the job that Tech coach Seth Greenberg is doing with his 2007-08 team.

It's exciting because usually by this time of year, spring football and the outlook for Frank Beamer's Hokies dominate the conversations. And while this is going to be a critically important spring on the football field, one worthy of much interest and discussion, fans are still chatting up hoops in the football-crazy 'Burg, which is unique and refreshing.

The NCAA Tournament snub has something to do with it, no doubt. Even the New York Yankees' Hal Steinbrenner talked about the Hokies' NCAA situation when we visited during the baseball game at English Field this past week. You could make the argument that Virginia Tech basketball, and Greenberg himself, got more publicity on the national level by not making the tournament, than had the Hokies been selected. Greenberg was on every national TV show and talk shows around the country, and he took advantage to play up Hokie basketball. The residual effect: Everyone saw Tech highlights and heard Greenberg talk this week. I don't know if that was the case with Keno Davis.

If you're not aware, in his first season as a collegiate head coach, Davis took a team picked to finish ninth in the Missouri Valley Conference preseason poll and guided Drake to a school-record 28 victories. Keno is the son of former BC and Iowa coach Tom Davis and his team is a No. 5 seed in the NCAA Tournament, Drake's first appearance since 1971. They are ranked 14th in this week's AP poll. He might be the national coach of the year. He did an amazing job with his team this year.

Yet it was Greenberg who was chatting up the Hokies on WFAN's "Mike and the Mad Dog" show on Monday morning. It was Greenberg talking about the Hokies on Jim Rome's TV show, and on SportsCenter, and on the other programs.

Greenberg is making some pretty sweet lemonade here. He's turned what some might perceive as a negative into a big-time positive for his program. While some regarded Greenberg's appearance as moaning and groaning, the bottom line is that we saw lots more of Seth on the tube than Davis, Miami's Frank Haith, or many other NCAA-bound coaches. Now, Tech needs to go win some ball games.

While the Hokies have had their moments, postseason basketball at Virginia Tech hasn't been a common spring distraction. The Hokies have played in the NCAA Tournament eight times and the NIT eight times. That's 16 teams that have made a postseason tournament in 100 seasons of basketball in Blacksburg. Thus, it hasn't been an annual tradition. In fact, it's more like a species of cicada that comes along every six years, makes a little noise, and then hangs a banner in Cassell Coliseum.

Regardless, in this new era of Tech basketball, Greenberg has now taken Tech to three postseason tourneys in his first five seasons as coach, and with this young roster, it's fair to expect the success to continue.

Like most of you, I'm anticipating the start of spring football. But it's nice to hear the balls bouncing in Cassell for a few more weeks. Hopefully, that will be a consistent sound of spring for years to come.

This is Virginia Tech's eighth NIT team, and without question, the youngest. Look closely at how the Hokies fared in the year following each NIT appearance. With the exception of Tech's tragedy-filled 2007 season, the Hokies have traditionally followed an NIT bid with an outstanding season the next year.

Here's a look:
Year: 1966
In the NIT: Lost to Temple at MSG 88-73 in first round
Coach: Howard Shannon
Key players: John Wetzel, Ron Perry, Ted Ware
The next season: Tech finished 20-7 and made the Elite Eight of the 1967 NCAA Tournament.

Year: 1973
In the NIT: Won championship
Coach: Don DeVoe
Key players: Allan Bristow, Bobby Stevens, Craig Lieder 
The next season: Tech finished 13-13.

Year: 1977
In the NIT: Beat Georgetown, lost to Alabama at MSG
Coach: Charlie Moir
Key players: Duke Thorpe and Phil Thieneman
The next season: Tech finished 19-8 in its final year as an independent and was invited to the Metro Conference the following spring.

Year: 1982
In the NIT: Beat Fordham in Blacksburg, beat Mississippi in Oxford, lost to Georgia in Athens
Coach: Charlie Moir
Key players: Dale Solomon, Jeff Schneider
The next season: Finished 23-11 and made the NIT.

Year: 1983
In the NIT: Beat William & Mary in Blacksburg, lost to South Carolina in Columbia
Coach: Charlie Moir
Key players: Reggie Steppe, Bobby Beecher, Perry Young
The next season: Finished 22-13 and made the semifinals of the NIT.

Year: 1984
In the NIT: Lost in semifinals to Michigan at MSG
Coach: Charlie Moir
Key Players: Al Young, Bobby Beecher, and Perry Young.
The next season: Tech was 20-9 in 1985 and made the NCAA Tournament.

Year: 1995
In the NIT: Won championship
Coach: Bill Foster
Key players: Ace Custis, Sean Smith, Damon Watlington, Shawn Good, Travis Jackson, David Jackson.
The next year: Tech spent most of the season ranked in the top 20, won 23 games and made the second round of the NCAA Tournament.

Year: 2005
In the NIT: Beat Temple, lost at Memphis.
Coach: Seth Greenberg
Key players: Coleman Collins, Jamon Gordon, Zabian Dowdell
The next year: Tech finished 14-16 in 2006, but responded with a 22-12 NCAA Tournament team in 2007.

As Greenberg has already suggested, a fourth-place finish in the ACC and an NIT bid in 2008 doesn't guarantee 2009 will be better. Coaches, like any mutual fund prospectus, are quick to advise that past performance does not guarantee future success. But some of Virginia Tech's very best teams have used the NIT as a springboard for the following season. Hopefully next year's team will follow suit.

For updates on Virginia Tech Athletics, follow the Hokies on Twitter (@hokiesports).

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