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January 28, 2011
Hokies gear up for key stretch starting with Miami on Sunday

One of the most important weeks of the season for Virginia Tech’s basketball team begins Sunday when the Hokies face Miami in an key ACC game at 5:30 p.m. at Cassell Coliseum. The Hokies (13-6, 3-3) will visit N.C. State on Wednesday and Boston College next Saturday.

“It’s the second time we’re playing three games in six days, so that’s big,” head coach Seth Greenberg said. “This time, though, it’s three conference games, which is a little different than last week.”

The previous week, the Hokies played Longwood in a non-conference game at home sandwiched between league tilts at Maryland and Georgia Tech.

“As a team, we need to be more consistent and be more poised,” Greenberg said. “We’ve been very good at times and done a lot of good things. We can be a very good team. We talked before the [Georgia Tech] game about being smart and poised, and we were neither, quite honestly.”

But Sunday’s game with Miami presents another big opportunity for the Hokies, who need as many quality wins as they can get over the next six weeks. The ‘Canes, who have been hovering around the top-50 all season, present exactly that opportunity.

While Sunday’s game is huge for the Hokies, it’s also a key game for the visiting ‘Canes. Coach Frank Haith’s team has lost three straight games decided in the final possession: (A 55-53 loss to Florida State, a 72-70 defeat at N.C. State and a heartbreaking 74-71 loss to North Carolina on Wednesday). The net result is Miami brings a 1-5 ACC record to Cassell.

“In my 25 years, I’ve never been in a stretch where we had three straight games that came down to the last possession and they didn’t go our way,” Haith said in his postgame address to the media on Wednesday. “It’s tough. It’s tough.”

While they might be emotionally down at the moment, they remember the last time they faced the Hokies. Last March, the 12th-seeded ‘Canes beat Tech 70-65 in the quarterfinal round of the ACC Tournament in Greensboro. It was a breakout game for guard Durand Scott, who scored nine of his 17 points in the final three minutes to lead Miami to the win. It turned out to be a pivotal loss for the Hokies in their quest to reach the 2010 NCAA Tournament.

Sunday’s game may be equally pivotal. While their league record is poor, the ‘Canes have a high RPI and could be in the NCAA Tournament discussion with a strong finish. Plus, it’s the only home game of the three for the Hokies.

“Let’s face it. When you’re playing three games in six days and the last two are on the road, the home game is a big one,” Greenberg said.

Tip-off for Sunday’s game is 5:30 at Cassell Coliseum and students who show their Hokie Passports can get $1 hot dogs from the concession stands during the game. Also, the first 1,000 students will receive a pair of orange Tech wristbands.

The game is part of the Fox Sports Net Sunday night ACC national package. Maryland and Georgia Tech play the second game on Sunday night.

Wednesday is signing day for college football teams and we’ll have complete coverage on hokiesports.com. The signing day ticker, rosters, bios and audio podcasts this year will give you the inside scoop of Tech’s 2011 class.

Also, Tech recruiting coordinator Jim Cavanaugh will be making a tour throughout the region discussing the 2011 class and showing video clips. Here are the dates:

Mon., Feb. 7 - Richmond (dinner)
Tues., Feb. 8 - Peninsula (lunch) & Tidewater (dinner)
Wed., Feb. 9 - Culpeper (lunch) & NOVA (dinner ... in Arlington)
Thurs., Feb. 10 - Loudoun County (dinner ... in Ashburn)
Mon., Feb. 21 - Charlottesville (dinner)
Wed., Feb. 23 - Blacksburg Sports Club (lunch) & Roanoke (dinner)
Thurs., Feb. 24 - Charlotte (dinner)
Wed., March 2 - Lynchburg (dinner)
Tues., March 8 - Pulaski (dinner)

Bill,

Seeing such a depleted bench last night made me think of the four top-100 recruits sitting at home watching the game. I am sure that Greenberg would have loved to have had them on the bench last night. I hope that when they watch the games this year, they are studying it more than just watching. What is the NCAA rule for communicating with future players before they are on the team? Is Greenberg allowed to speak, email, Skype with them in anyway about the X’s and O’s of the game?

Secondly, again in light of the current injury situation, I wonder what kind of talent exists on campus right now. Maybe it is just a Hollywood-type thought, but how about some sort of open tryout or evaluation of a possible sleeper player that is currently a Tech student? If anything, he would at least be an extra man during practices. Or is it not worth the time? Nathan King, Wilmington, N.C.

Nathan,

Thanks for your note. Coach Greenberg is allowed to speak with the four players who have already signed their national letters of intent and will join the team next year. He can even go see them and watch them play. Remember, though, those young men are playing for their respective high school and prep teams right now and their main responsibility is to help those current teams win. They’re playing, practicing and focusing on their current teams, plus their schoolwork. Not much time to be sitting on the couch watching games on TV.

As for part two of your question, there are currently three walk-ons who are practicing with the Hokies: Paul Debnam, Andrew Griffin, and Prince Parker, a former Tech football player. All three have gotten into games and are helping in a big way this spring. Thanks for writing.

There were plenty of comments from the January 7 Kroger Roth Report (http://www.hokiesports.com/rothreport/recaps/20110107aaa.html). We can’t print all of the responses, but here’s a sampling:

Bill,

What a great story! You hit the nail on the head: the brightest of stars, but sometimes no flash at end of season. I attended two Orange Bowls, Sugar, Peach, Gator. We occasionally get beat by the Lucks, Mannings (Archie and Peyton), and Weinke’s. We did win all of them at least once. We just need one ourselves. Perhaps Vick was one, but without today’s surrounding cast? Harry Pasquier, Class of 1970, Miami, Fla.

Bill,

Great article. It was so good that I forwarded it to most of my friends and family that are located across the U.S. and don’t necessarily follow VT as close as I do (Alum, class of ‘00). I completely agree we are a team that is extremely consistent and our records prove it every year. However, like most college football fans think of VT, sure they are a solid program, but they don’t win the BIG games. Now after this year, I am slowly beginning to agree. I don’t want to agree, but history has shown it.

Yes, I doubt few teams can say they have lost to national championship teams or close to it in multiple years, but eventually we should win ONE of those games! Even the great Steve Young of the 49ers got the monkey of his back and won the BIG game. With the talent that VT recruits every year, we should have the players to be able to get us over the hump and WIN the BIG one, but for some reason it doesn’t happen. Now reading your article and thinking of the big bowl game losses, it is almost starting to sound like an excuse … KU had a magical year, so did Stanford, and yes, USC, Alabama, LSU won it all, but when does VT have the magical year?

I understand a lot of things have to happen almost perfectly in order to have that magical year, but when you enter a season so many times with such high expectations, eventually one year has to be magical! Yes, 1999 was a magical year, and through three quarters (as you know, VT was beating FSU 29-28), it was possibly going to happen, but it didn’t and I don’t think we need another Michael Vick to get us there again. I think we HAVE had the teams, but we just haven’t finished like we should have.

So, when does it happen? I ask you. We know it isn’t the lack of talent and the lack of coaching, which is one of the best in the nation at developing talent! Bill, tell me, what is it? What, in your own personal, opinion, is it? You have more insight than anyone with the football program, so please tell us. I am a diehard fan that wants to know because I am getting tired of the high expectations that never come to fruition. I will always be a diehard fan, win or lose, but man, it is tough! Thanks, Heath Stanford, Leesburg, Va.

Heath,

First of all, thanks for writing. As I wrote in the Feb. 7 Kroger Roth Report, the teams that are winning the national championship (5 straight SEC teams) and those that have beaten Tech in these BCS games have had great interior lines on both sides of the ball, and outstanding linebacker play. Enjoy the games, Heath. Ten- and 11-win seasons and conference titles are exciting!

Bill,

Love this last article. Really helped me put the Orange Bowl sting in perspective. I have indeed been wondering when things will take the next step so we can win some of these big games. Your insight holds up and that’s what I’ll take with me moving forward. I’d rather be Sirius than a shooting star. Carlos Lama, Clifton, Va.

Bill,

Just read you most recent column. You take great pains (two paragraphs) in making excuses/analogies for another high-profile loss. I didn’t see either the terms “JMU” or “1-19 vs. top 5” in your column to describe this year. You act like having winning records against a top-five team or consistently winning in a sub-mediocre conference are mutually exclusive. Do you believe that is true? Also what do you think is a bigger reason for the 1-19 record … being out-talented or being out-coached? Brandon, Derry, N.H.

Brandon,

No excuses were given. Stanford was better in 2010. Alabama was better in 2009, USC, LSU, Auburn in the previous seasons, etc. As I said, Tech is close to taking that next step. Look at the facilities, the infrastructure (academics, support staff, compliance), the population growth of the state and the fan support. Compare it to other schools and the landscape in general. The foundation is there.

As for the JMU game, it was not salient to my point. It happened. Hey, Louisiana-Monroe beat Alabama in 2007 and the Tide went 12-0 the follow season. Similarly, Tech lost to JMU and won 11 straight this year. In truth, it was a stumble, but it had little impact on the big picture. As I wrote, I think Tech is close, but we need a few more difference-makers up front.

Bill,

No question here. Just a “Thank You” . . . for putting it all into perspective. I told some friends before the game that I thought we were overmatched with Stanford. The first half of the Orange Bowl made me believe that we weren’t. I felt crummy at the end of the game and it really made me forget what an astonishing and tremendously gratifying season it has been, as with every season since Frank Beamer has been in Blacksburg.

I have been a season ticket holder since I graduated in 1990. Back then, our only expectation was that we get better and every once and a while show a little brilliance. And we did every year and that gave us great satisfaction. As you point out in your address to the Hokie Nation, it is that very consistency that makes us take our team for granted. I can’t remember a losing season, or not getting a bowl invitation, or getting beat because we didn’t have the depth to beat teams like Nebraska or Florida State. I can’t remember getting out recruited by UVa or even being the underdog in a game against those guys. For gosh sakes, I can’t remember not winning 10 games in a season.

Thanks for reminding us that it is our tremendous consistency in producing winning teams that sometimes makes us forget what a truly special program we possess. Steve Larson, Class of 1990 Raleigh, N.C.

Steve,

Thanks for your note. I’m of the belief that we shouldn’t try to tell people, particularly Hokie Fans, what to think, how to react, or what their opinions should be. Ten Hokie fans might watch the same game or season and come away with 10 different conclusions, right? That’s part of it, and it’s interesting to hear and share thoughts, etc.

It’s just a fact, however, that what Virginia Tech has done over the past two decades is remarkable. It’s not easy to do what this coaching staff and program has accomplished.

As I mentioned a couple of times in Miami, Clemson won the national title at the Orange Bowl following the 1981 season and that program has not been to a major/BCS bowl game since. Not one. That was 30 years ago. North Carolina hasn’t won an ACC football title since 1980. N.C. State’s last league title was in 1979. Championship seasons are special and should be savored and this senior class has three ACC Championship rings. That, in my opinion, is pretty special.

Bill,

As a rabid, but sober, Hokie fan and alum, I completely agree with your Roth Report assessment of why the Hokies lost to Stanford and in the other big games of the past. We are recruiting elite playmakers (WRs, RBs, QBs, etc.), but are missing the elite guys for the trenches that the Floridas, Alabamas, LSUs, Oklahomas, etc. consistently get. So that’s the big question: How does Frank Beamer, who is as established as a college coach can be, get those caliber of linemen to take VT from a very good, but frankly, second-tier program to one that wins against the truly top-tier teams at least half the time? If not now, then how can VT ever be able to field an offensive line on par with the nation’s very best teams? T Johnson, Derwood, Va.

Mr. Johnson,

Thanks for your note. I’m not sure what you mean by “top-tier” programs, but I agree, as does Coach Beamer, that we can be better. We have everything in place to be better and I’m confident that will happen. As for winning “at least half the time,” again, I’m not sure anyone does that against top-five teams. The best record I could find was Alabama, which is 7-12 in its past 19 games against top-five teams, which is about as good as it gets. Alabama is 12-25-1 in its past 38 games against teams ranked in the top-25.

Dear Bill,

All you do is make excuses for our program. Face it. We have NEVER WON a big game. Look at the numbers. They speak for themselves. Since we beat Texas in 1995, we’ve lost EVERY big game. You’re a great broadcaster, but you won’t show the real won-loss numbers, which are a JOKE! Paul Richards, Arlington, Va.

Hi Paul,

First of all, thanks for writing and listening. We will show the numbers here. Full disclosure, okay?

I agree, as does Coach Beamer, that Tech needs to win games against top-five teams. But to suggest Tech “has lost every big game,” in my opinion, is unfair to our guys, both players and coaches. Here are the “real” numbers, good and bad for Tech since joining the ACC:

vs. teams ranked 1-5: 0-8
vs. teams ranked 6-10: 4-1
vs. teams ranked 11-15: 7-0
vs. teams ranked 16-20: 5-1
vs. teams ranked 21-25: 4-2

So, against teams ranked No. 6- No. 25, Tech has compiled a mark of 20-4. That’s dynamite. And I’d say every one of those games was “big.” No excuses made, Paul. We need to win some of those top-five games, too. However, those teams ranked No. 1-No. 5 were better than Tech and were all favored to win. So we should give them credit.

Hey Bill,

Tough night, however, that Stanford team is extremely good (like that Auburn team we played in the Sugar) … they beat us 10 out 10. I think they are that good. There will be at least 10 significant NFL players/contributors off of that team (from the QB, O and D-line and tight ends alone).

Great season. The Hokies win a lot more than we lose. However, there are Seminole, and yes, even Cavalier footsteps that I hear behind us TIME TO GO TO WORK!
Michael Jackson, Atlanta

Michael,

Thanks. I couldn’t agree more.

Bill,

I don’t really have a question. I have a statement to make. I took my family to the Hokies’ wrestling match against Clarion the other day and I was very disappointed in the attendance. The crowd should have been five times the amount that was present. All the students at Tech should go to the matches. They are free and it is the best wrestling team that Tech has ever had. The matches are free and are great entertainment. So please support your team and go to the matches. Kirk Davis, Roanoke, Va.

Kirk,

The Tech wrestlers have big meets with Lehigh and UVa in the coming weeks. Hope to see you and lots of Hokies there.

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

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