NCAA basketball: Virginia Tech falls to Duke in ACC tournament semifinals, will await fate on Selection Sunday

Duke claims a spot in the ACC tournament final with the victory at Greensboro Coliseum, while Virginia Tech will wait and see if it's done enough for an NCAA tournament bid.
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, March 13, 2011; 4:45 PM

Virginia Tech could have removed any doubt as to whether it would make its first NCAA tournament appearance since 2007 with a victory Saturday at Greensboro Coliseum. But when it comes to March Madness, Coach Seth Greenberg's bunch never seems to make life easy on itself.

Less than 24 hours after a stunning turn of events propelled the Hokies into the ACC tournament semifinals, they lost to No. 5 Duke, 77-63, and must once again wait and see whether their nightmares on the bubble will come to an end on Sunday.

"We're proud of our body of work, but certain things are out of our hands," Greenberg said. "I would hope this team presented itself in a manner that they will be given an opportunity, with three seniors and what they've accomplished, to be in the tournament. But we don't have any say in that. If we did, it'd be great."

This year's team seems better positioned than the past three to hear its name called by the selection committee thanks to the expanded field of 68 and a softer-than-usual bubble. Then again, the Hokies won a school-record 25 games a year ago and were still relegated to the National Invitation Tournament.

Virginia Tech entered Saturday ranked 61st in the Rating Percentage Index, a mathematical formula used by the committee to judge teams' relative strength, and now has a 2-5 record against teams ranked in the RPI's top 50.

After Saturday's game, no player was willing to speculate on if this group would finally get over the hump and hear its named called on Selection Sunday. After three years of disappointments, they know better than to make any assumptions.

"I won't believe we'll be in until our name's called," said senior Malcolm Delaney, who along with classmates Jeff Allen and Terrell Bell, has never appeared in the NCAA tournament. "I'm not gonna go to bed thinking we're in. I'm gonna think the worst and hopefully come out with the best tomorrow."

Playing their third game in three days with just seven scholarship players, the Hokies never truly threatened after the Blue Devils went on a 13-4 run midway through the first half. ACC player of the year Nolan Smith, who injured his toe in a quarterfinal win over Maryland on Friday night, scored 10 consecutive Duke points during the surge and finished with a game-high 27 points.

Virginia Tech cut the deficit to six when sophomore Erick Green (17 points) hit a floater with just less than 18 minutes remaining in the game, but that was as close as it got. The Hokies finished with a season-low three assists against a tenacious man-to-man defense, and shot just 36.8 percent from the floor.

Delaney led the Hokies with 19 points, but made just 4 of 14 shots. Allen, meantime, had a miserable afternoon and finished with just two points and seven rebounds after fouling out with more than six minutes remaining.

Duke moves on to face rival North Carolina in Sunday's ACC tournament final.

For Virginia Tech, though, thoughts of what went wrong Saturday quickly turned to what could transpire over the next 24 hours. Greenberg said he's "gonna think the best," but admitted that he didn't expect to sleep much Saturday night.

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