It’s December 2nd. Virginia Tech has just lost a heartbreaker on their home floor. The team is disappointed. It hurts to lose a one possession game like that. All you can do is get up the next day, lace up the shoes, and get back at it.
By the way, I’m not talking about the loss to purdue on Wednesday. I’m talking about December 2nd, 2002. Virginia Tech has just lost to… are you ready for this? wofford. That’s right, wofford. Do you even know what state wofford is? Or their nickname? I’m pretty sure they are in South Carolina, but I couldn’t tell you their nickname if it got me a night with Jessica Biel. The game was played in front of 3,114 fans at the Cassell. Rather, that was the PAID attendance. How many people were actually there? I have no idea. I wasn’t there. I probably didn’t even see the score until the next day. I sure as heck wasn’t ‘all in’ before the loss, and sure as heck wasn’t after that point.
If we were on TV, I watched. Like our win over uva at home later that year. But after only missing one home game in my four years at VT in the mid-90s (and it was my first game – stupid frat commitments), I had completely lost interest in our program. It was too painful. Too rough. I used to sit near the VT bench and watch ricky stokes stand around the huddle, saying absolutely nothing. I actually wondered if he was in a coma at times and it just hadn’t been diagnosed yet. He looked as prepared as the “Boom goes the dynamite” guy for most games.
This season marks the 50th season VT has played in the Cassell. You know how many losing records the Hokies have had at home for a season? One. The 2000-01 season where Tech went 6-9 at home, including consecutive home losses to bill & mary, uva, and liberty. The Hokies lost their final 10 games that season and went 2-14 in the Big East. Thanks, ricky.
That 2002-03 season, stokes’s last (thank goodness), VT went 12-17 and 4-12 in the Big East, ricky’s best season in the Big East. If a tree had fallen in the Cassell during most games, only about a dozen people would have been hurt but they’d surely have heard it since it was so quiet.
Fast forward to December 2nd, 2010. Tech lost to #22 purdue the night before. The loss stings. In a year that we all expected great things from the Hokies, they now sit at 4-3 and have missed several chances at great wins that would look fantastic on their NCAA Tournament resume come March. It will be tough to make the Big Dance now, and VT has an uphill battle. Tech went 10-6 in the ACC last year and didn’t get in, largely because they didn’t beat anyone of any merit out of conference. And the ACC is even more down this year than last, so barring a win over duke at the Cassell in February, VT won’t have many chances at a big time win in conference. Their strength of schedule will be a lot better which will help, but you still need quality wins, there are no ‘quality losses’.
But you know what? Who cares? I still know this is a good Virginia Tech team. We aren’t as good as we thought because we lost our energizer, JT Thompson. And we don’t have Allan Chaney to help inside like we hoped, but we didn’t have him last year, either. And Dorenzo Hudson is really struggling battling chronic injuries. But this is still a solid, and veteran team with a couple of stars and boatloads of experience. As they do each year, they will ratchet things up in ACC play.
Yes, they have major issues on offense, and 3-on-1 or 2-on-1 fast breaks might as well be 1-on-1 because we don’t know how to pass in transition. But they had those issues last year, too. This team plays great defense and that will keep them in almost every game. They just have to re-discover that magic they had last year at closing games.
And I’m telling you right now the ACC is BAD this year. wake’s already lost to stetson, vcu, and winthrop. georgia tech lost to kennesaw state, the ‘cuse, and by 20 at northwestern (and they have the second worst coach in the ACC who will not be around next year). nc state is coached by Sidney Lowe… nuff said (he’s the worst). They lost by 39 to wisconsin last night (wisconsin usually doesn’t score much more than 39). unc was once again way overrated by the media, and while Harrison Barnes is good, he’s not a John Wall or Kyrie Irving type impact freshman (nor was John Henson last year). They just lost too much, and that was off a team that went 5-11 in conference last year. maryland lost three of their top players from their experience, VT-like team from last year. florida state still can’t score against good teams. clemson lost Booker and has no inside presence, just two midget guards that can score. boston college lost to yale earlier this season, and while they are improved, they still have too far to go. uva is awful. Yes, they just won at minnesota, which is better than any win VT has, but they also lost by 21 to stanford who just finished 7th (of eight) at the 76 Classic. Then uva lost by 43 to washington and later to wichita state. miami, who I thought would be greatly improved, lost by 16 at rutgers. I think I overhyped them… I mean, they did go 4-12 in the ACC last year. How good could they really be?
duke? Well, yeah, they are amazing. They are the clear-cut #1 team in the nation. Kyrie Irving is the real deal. Heck, they bring Curry off the bench. But if the Hokies can finish as the #2 or #3 seed in the ACC, and I’m telling you they can very easily, they wouldn’t face duke until the ACC Finals if VT could make it that far. And that’s if duke isn’t upset in the quarters or semis.
In all honesty, what would you rather have: a NCAA Tournament appearance where VT is a middle of the pack seed and might lose their first game, or an ACC title? I know what I’d pick. Even if you said the Hokies couldn’t play in the NCAA Tournament if they won the ACC (I know, just go with me here), I’d take that in a second. Winning the ACC is a big deal, even this year. 40 years from now when I’m getting my diaper changed and I’m telling the other old farts around me about our ACC title, no one is going to ask, “But wasn’t the ACC down that year?”
We can win the ACC. Say it with me. WE CAN WIN THE ACC! Believe it, I do. And that journey starts Sunday. Let’s be there and support the boys. Let’s remember the days of 3,114 fans and take pride in what our program has become. Virginia Tech basketball is meaningful now, it is relevant. That’s awesome. And as we all know, we do two things really well: chew bubble gum, and pound uva. And Sunday we are all out of bubble gum!
I’m all in, are you?