I’m sure many of you are still reeling a bit from what transpired on Selection Sunday. I imagine even going through this the three previous years still couldn’t prepare you for Virginia Tech being snubbed a fourth time in a row by the NCAA Tournament selection committee.
Coach Seth Greenberg took out his frustrations Sunday night by claiming conspiracy, saying “it makes you wonder if someone in that room has their own agenda, and it does not include Virginia Tech unfortunately,” He asked us reporters whether there had ever been a team that finished witha 9-7 conference record and beat a No. 1 seed that still did not qualify for the tournament.
Well, like fellow beat writers Kyle Tucker of the Virginian Pilot and Darryl Slater of the Richmond Times-Dispatch, I went searching for an answer last night using the site College Basketball Reference. What the research tells us is that, in fact, the Hokies became the sixth team since the tournament field expanded to 64 in 1986 to go at least 9-7 in conference and defeat a No. 1 seed, but not make the NCAA tournament.
The list looks like this:
-1988 Stanford (21-12, 11-7 Pac-10) beat No. 1 seed Arizona
-1994 Mississippi State (17-10, 9-7) beat No. 1 seed Arkansas
-2006 Florida State (19-9, 9-7) beat No. 1 seed Duke
-2007 DePaul (17-13, 9-7) beat No. 1 seed Kansas
-2009 Providence (19-13, 10-8) beat No. 1 seed Pittsburgh
-2011 Virginia Tech (21-11, 9-7) beat No. 1 seed Duke
Now, I’m going to stay out of this debate over whether Virginia Tech deserved a bid or not. I’ll just say it seemed appropriate that Malcolm Delaney and Jeff Allen get a chance to play in the NCAA tournament and that I was surprised at the reasoning, not necessarily that the Hokies aren’t going dancing.
But calling this agenda-driven, as Greenberg did Sunday night, is a bit far-fetched. The bottom line is that the Hokies didn’t make enough plays in crunch time against good competition to remove themselves from the bubble conversation. That left their resume open for misinterpretation, especially since the Hokies got swept by Virginia, lost at Georgia Tech and ended the regular season with losses to fellow bubble teams Boston College and Clemson.
I point to three games that the Hokies could have — and maybe should have won — that ultimately cost them. Emerge victorious in just one of these, and my guess is Virginia Tech is at least preparing for a play in game today:
1. Purdue — Virginia Tech led, 50-46, with two minutes, 34 seconds remaining in regulation against the Boilermakers. But then Purdue’s E’Twaun Moore hit a three-pointer, and Hokies senior Terrell Bell went 1 of 2 from the free throw line. With eight seconds left, Purdue’s JaJuan Johnson hit a tough fadeaway over Victor Davila, and Delaney then missed a potential game-winner at the buzzer, forcing overtime.
In the extra session, Johnson scored four of the Boilermakers’ six points and Delaney turned the ball over on Virginia Tech’s final possession. The Hokies mustered just three total points in overtime in the 58-55 loss at Cassell Coliseum.
2. at North Carolina — Despite 28 points from Delaney and a 16-point first-half lead, the Hokies couldn’t close the deal against the Tar Heels, who escaped the Dean Smith Center with a 67-64 victory. If you remember, in the waning moments Allen had a dunk waved off by the referees, who called him for charging into North Carolina’s Tyler Zeller. Freshman Harrison Barnes then hit clutch a three-pointer, and Delaney just missed on what would have been a game-winning three-pointer with just less than six seconds left.
3. at Boston College — The Hokies wasted a dominant 25-point, 19-rebound performance by Allen when Delaney, the best free throw shooter in school history, missed the front end of a one-and-one with 24 seconds remaining. Then sophomore Erick Green capped off an 0 for 8 shooting performance by missing a a wide open three-pointer with less than four seconds remaining. Boston College won, 58-56, the first victory in what would become a season sweep of the Hokies.
All that said, Greenberg’s reaction Sunday night was understandable. This was undoubtedly a bitter pill to swallow. He clearly was hurting for his three seniors, all of whom have seen their four seasons as college basketball players end in excruciating fashion. Now, we’ll just have to see how they react Wednesday when Virginia Tech hosts Bethune-Cookman in the first round of the National Invitation Tournament.