Virginia Tech needs to win more than popularity contests

Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, March 1, 2011; 12:22 AM

BLACKSBURG, VA. - Even before Virginia Tech defeated then-No. 1 Duke on Saturday night, senior Malcolm Delaney was calling the game "the most important of my career."

So as he was surrounded by thousands of fans who had stormed the Cassell Coliseum court following the upset victory, Delaney tried his best to take it all in. He said female fans told him, "They love me," and joked that he may have even gotten a couple marriage proposals during the fracas.

This sort of adulation is exactly what Coach Seth Greenberg spent the rest of the weekend warning his team about. During a film session Sunday afternoon, a big topic of discussion for Greenberg was the work that still lies ahead for the Hokies, who Tuesday face Boston College, a team in a similarly precarious status.

"Our goal wasn't to beat Duke; it was to make the NCAA tournament, and to make the NCAA tournament, we've got to continue to play well," Greenberg said Monday. "Whether they understand it . . . as soon as they walk out that door after I'm done with them, they've got to walk across campus and there's 27,000 people that are all of a sudden, 'Their guys.' That's the dangerous thing."

Complicating matters is that Tuesday is the final home game for Virginia Tech's three seniors: Delaney, Jeff Allen and Terrell Bell. All three have played remarkably well down the stretch, but Greenberg said coaches worry about how the emotion of the night will affect each player.

This senior class, though, is unlike many that have come before.

With four more victories, they would pass the group that graduated following the 1985-86 season as the winningest senior class in school history.

Delaney has led that charge. He's once again amongst the ACC leaders in scoring (18.8 points per game), and is shooting a career high 42.2 percent from the field. He's also 11 points shy of moving into third place on Virginia Tech's career scoring list.

Allen, a District native, battled immaturity and inconsistency throughout his first three years but has emerged as one of the best players in the conference this season. He's averaging career highs in points (14) and rebounds (10.5) and ranks second in the ACC behind only Maryland's Jordan Williams with 15 double-doubles.

Allen also is just two blocks from becoming the first player in league history to finish a career with more than 1,500 points, 1,000 rebounds, 200 steals and 150 blocks. Greenberg intimated that Allen is playing at a level that deserves first team all-ACC recognition.

The unsung hero of the three is Bell, who has saved his best basketball for the last few weeks of the regular season. Considered the Hokies' best defender, Bell has scored in double figures in three of the last five games and is shooting better than 65 percent from the field during that time.

His five three-pointers helped Virginia Tech complete a sweep of Maryland two weeks ago, and he scored five consecutive points to give the Hokies a late second-half lead it never relinquished against Duke.

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