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I’m Still All In, Are You?

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?

This post was written by:

- who has written 1215 posts on Tech Hoops.

Niemo is a member of the VT Class of '98. While not a professional journalist by any stretch, Niemo analyzes and breaks down every minute of Hokie hoop action. He also researches topics of interest such as Hokie recruits, program revenue, statistical data on the team, previews VT opponents, and discusses his favorite bourbons/Scotches. In addition to his passion for Hokie hoops, Niemo has attended 126 straight VT football home games (every game since '94), eclipsing the 100 mark in September of '09 and recently attended his 20th consecutive VT/uva game. During the final home basketball game of his senior year, he was brought onto the court and was awarded 2 passes to the Atlantic 10 Basketball Tournament in Philly during a timeout for being a "Super Fan" during his time at VT. The Hokie Bird made the award on behalf of Athletic Director Jim Weaver. Niemo was known to be in the front row of every home game with his familiar red afro hairdo.

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  • Rigo

    Your point about how far this program has come is a good one. As strange as it sounds I actually said to someone last night something to like “We need a new coach, Greenberg can’t get it done” and immediately thought how ridiculous that sounded. He’s brought this program a long way and we should be grateful and continue to support it.

    That being said, I have to lob some criticism at this year’s team. I just don’t feel like they are “all in” as the rest of us are supposed to be. There is too much standing around at times and the dumb plays are just painful to watch. I know it’s a team without depth so fatigue may be an issue and it’s early in the season but it was made clear before the season that this teams goal was to make the NCAA tournament and they knew that this part of the year was when they would make that happen. It’s frustrating to watch the them fail.

    I hope things change because it would be great to see these seniors go out with something to be proud of but I’m just not convinced.

  • John

    The last time we made the tournament, we started out the season 4-3. And that doesn’t even factor in the loss to Marshall, which happened later. But that year we won big-time ACC games. I think we can turn things around, although I didn’t think that little things like layups, free throws, and ballhandling would be such an issue, especially with our experience backcourt. Let’s rock the Cassell Sunday and go for 1-0 in the ACC!

  • Mr.Obvious

    I just went all in. Problem is, I only have one chip left.

  • Will Stewart

    Good post, Niemo. So far this season, my biggest fears — that the Hokies are still a bubble team — are being realized. We’ll see where it goes from here.

    What I really wanted to post is that I was at that Wofford game back in December of 2002. The Hokies were down 43-26 at half time. The final wound up being 79-77, but those of us who were there — both of us — remember that it wasn’t that close.

    The worst moment of the game came when Wofford got a reverse slam off an alley opp … on an inbounds pass. It was pretty humiliating. Maybe my memory is enhancing the badness of it all … but it was bad.

    Keep up the good work.

    – Will

  • chris

    Always all in Niemo! Recovering from devastating basketball losses happens more quickly than football losses anyway. You’re right, we should never forget where we came from. Lots of basketball left!

  • King

    Great post Niemo, lest the youngins forget about Ricky Stokes. Those were dark times indeed. Pretty interesting postgame interview with Greenberg on hokiesports.com following the Purdue game. You can hear the frustration in his voice & see the anguish in his face. He calls out the leadership on the team and suggests some players are playing more for themselves than the team. I wonder if he means Delaney, specifically his decision-making down the stretch & his unwillingness to defer on the game winning chances at the end of regulation & overtime. Your thoughts?

  • hokiegrad

    Hear, hear. Just like after the JMU game, there are still a lot of games to be played. Yes, we don’t look very good right now. But let’s keep our hopes up, let’s reserve judgement, let’s see what this team is really made of. I’m proud of what our football team has done. Can we be equally proud of our basketball team at the end of the year? I hope so.

  • HokieGuru

    Absolutely all in, bro!!!

  • H-SCokie

    Unfortunately it doesn’t matter that the ACC is down, because this team is going to play down to the level of their competition night in and night out. If we can demolish some teams in our next slate of OOC games, I’ll be back all-in.

  • Danram

    This season is still very salvageable. Excluding the K-State game, where we were simply outclassed by the nation’s #3 team on the road, we’ve lost a couple of games to a couple of very good teams, games that, had we simply made a few more FTs and converted a couple more breaks, we could have easily won. We’re an eyelash away from being 6-1 instead of 4-3.

    We can start winning these types of games, BUT to do so we have to …

    * Start shooting our FTs better, most especially Jeff Allen and Victor Davila

    * Quit making as many open court turnovers off bad passes and, as you say Niemo, PASS the effing ball when we have 3-on-2 or 2-on-1 breaks to get high % shots

    * Keep feeding the low post from the perimeter like we started to do against Purdue

    * Start hitting more of our open outside jump shots

    Malcolm Delaney isn’t gonna go 2-for-18 from the floor very often. We need to get things back on track starting tomorrow against UVA.

  • HokieGuru

    Absolutely all in, bro!!!!!!

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