There are plenty of reasons why the 12-year television contract that went into effect this year between the ACC and ESPN is beneficial for the league’s members, starting with the $1.86 billion the network owes the conference – a figure that could rise when Syracuse and Pittsburgh join the ACC. But Saturday’s matinee between Virginia Tech and Georgia Tech is not one of them.
Less than 48 hours after a gut-wrenching, nationally televised one-point loss to No. 20 Florida State in Tallahassee, the Hokies face a quick turnaround game with the Yellow Jackets coming to Cassell Coliseum for a 3 p.m. tip in a battle of teams that have gone a combined 5-19 since the calendar turned to 2012.
Last week, Miami Coach Jim Larranaga faced a similar situation, when the Hurricanes beat the Hokies in South Florida in a 9 p.m. Thursday game and then had to fly to Florida State for a 1 p.m. matchup with the Seminoles last Saturday. On Monday’s ACC teleconference, he gave reporters a glimpse into the sort of issues facing a coaching staff with so little time between games.
“Finished up playing about 11:00, 11:30 and the next morning at 9 a.m. we were at the airport to board a flight to Tallahassee. Really only had about an hour’s preparation for the Florida State game in terms of the things we would like to do,” Larranaga said after the Hurricanes lost to the Seminoles, 64-59.
These packed schedules are normal for Big East and Big 12 teams that play on Saturday and Monday for television reasons. But Virginia Tech’s challenge may be more difficult, even though Georgia Tech has lost eight of its past nine games, including a 59-50 defeat at Wake Forest Wednesday.
For one, the Hokies are banged up. Forwards Victor Davila (groin) and C.J. Barksdale (ankle) missed Thursday night’s loss at Florida State and will once again be game-time decisions against the Yellow Jackets, associate head coach James Johnson said Friday afternoon when he filled in for Coach Seth Greenberg during the coach’s weekly “Chalk Talk” with students.
In addition, sophomores Cadarian Raines and Jarell Eddie both succumbed to cramping during the second half Thursday night and needed IVs administered before the team left Tallahassee. Greenberg, meanwhile, stayed behind in Florida for recruiting purposes, so he won’t be able to meet with his coaching staff until Friday evening.
But Greenberg said earlier this week the most daunting part of playing an NBA-style schedule – Virginia Tech also has a home game against Virginia on Tuesday – is that the Yellow Jackets run a system the Hokies are unfamiliar with because Georgia Tech is led by first-year Coach Brian Gregory.
“If we were playing Georgia Tech and it was Paul’s team,” Greenberg said Monday, referring to former Yellow Jackets Coach Paul Hewitt, “we would have a little bit of a better understanding of what he wanted to do. But because Brian is a new coach and they have got a new system, we’ll have a report done on Wednesday, quite honestly.”
“You know, again, a lot of things we are just going to have to defend on principal, but how you are going to play the game, how you are going to approach the game is different when you’re playing someone for the first time, because you really don’t have a real good understanding of who they are, as opposed to when you play the team a number of times and you have a better feel.”
Georgia Tech is led by
junior Glen Rice Jr., a streaky shooter who is averaging a team-high 13.1 points per game and point guard Mfon Udofia, considered one of the top 50 recruits in the nation by many recruiting services three years ago. Center Daniel Miller is also second in the ACC averaging 2.5 blocks per game.
UPDATE: Gregory said late Friday afternoon that junior Glen Rice Jr. has been suspended and will not travel with the team. Rice was averaging a team-high 13.1 points.
But as a whole, the Yellow Jackets struggle on the offensive end, ranking last in the ACC in assists, turnover margin and three-point shooting.
“Rebuilding in and of itself signals that you’re going to have to go through some tough times,” said Gregory, who came to Atlanta from Dayton this past offseason.
The question facing the Hokies is how they’ll rebuild their psyche after a stunning collapse in the waning moments against Florida State. Virginia Tech coughed up a nine-point lead over the final 89 seconds, so perhaps getting back onto the court quickly could be a blessing in disguise.
“We’ve lost a game probably every way you can lose them,” Johnson told the collection of students on hand Friday afternoon. “But you just hope these guys will start getting rewarded for all the hard work they’re putting in.”