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Posted at 11:17 AM ET, 03/16/2011

Virginia Tech gets ready to face Bethune-Cookman in NIT first round

The challenge facing the Virginia Tech men’s basketball team when it takes the court for the first round of the National Invitation Tournament against Bethune-Cookman is probably best illustrated by the way each team spent Selection Sunday.

The Hokies gathered at Coach Seth Greenberg’s home for the NCAA tournament selection show, expecting to hear their name called for the first time since 2007. When it wasn’t, Greenberg spoke with reporters and could only say, “I don’t know,” when asked how he would motivate his players for a fourth-consecutive trip to the NIT, or as some like to call it, the “Not Invited Tournament.”

Bethune-Cookman also gathered in front of a television screen Sunday night at a sports bar near its Daytona Beach, Fla., campus. Except the MEAC regular season champions knew exactly where they were headed. By losing in their conference tournament semifinals, the Wildcats were guaranteed a spot in the NIT. This is Bethune-Cookman’s first postseason appearance at the Division I level, and it seems the Wildcats could not be happier about the situation.

“We don’t have anything to lose,” Coach Clifford Reed told The Daytona Beach News-Journal. “If we lose, we were expected to. ... If we win, then [the Hokies] were probably distracted by the fact that they weren’t in the big show.”

How the Hokies have decided to deal with this latest venture into the purgatory that is the NIT is up for debate. With three seniors and just seven scholarship players, Virginia Tech could be galvanized or demoralized by this latest snub. We really won’t know for sure until tonight’s 8 p.m. tipoff. Players have not been made available to reporters since last Saturday’s loss to Duke in the ACC tournament semifinals.

They’ll be taking on a Bethune-Cookman team that won 21 games and went 13-3 in the MEAC this year. The Wildcats are led by MEAC player of the year C.J. Reed, who is also the coach’s son. The junior guard averaged 19.1 points and 4.8 assists per game this year. Forwards Garrius Holloman and Alexander Starling are also averaging double figures in points.

Early season nonconference results suggest Virginia Tech should have little trouble with Bethune-Cookman. The Wildcats lost by more than 30 points against both Arizona and Baylor, the two toughest BCS conference opponents they’ve faced this year.

But again, the big question will be the mental state of the Hokies after a shocking turn of events Sunday evening. The past three years, Virginia Tech has won at least one game in the NIT, but has never made it to Madison Square Garden for the NIT Final Four.

Wednesday’s game will be broadcast on ESPNU, and admission into Cassell Coliseum is free for all students. Tickets for adults are $15, while youth can get in for $5. Parking is free, and on a first-come, first-serve basis.

By Mark Giannotto  |  11:17 AM ET, 03/16/2011

 
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