Ever since Virginia Tech began ACC play with four straight losses, many have drawn the comparison to the Hokies’ 0-6 start in the conference during the 2005-06 season, if only because it’s the only other time a Seth Greenberg-coached squad has struggled so much early on against the rest of the league.
But on Thursday, Greenberg made the connection himself. In bringing up that former Virginia Tech guard Zabian Dowdell will spend the next three weeks in Blacksburg rehabbing a knee injury, the coach mentioned a conversation he had with his old point guard about that team.
Dowdell was a junior in 2005-06, and reminded Greenberg of how that season featured a lot of close losses, which ultimately proved beneficial the next season when the Hokies qualified for the NCAA tournament.
It’s “kind of a similar-type season,” Greenberg said. “Hopefully we can get things going, but not dealing with a little bit of adversity as well as you need to deal with it, not getting those breakthrough close wins. But he said we can’t let it beat us down because there is a reward and a brightness at the end of this storm that’s exciting, because this group is going to be together for awhile and they’re pretty good. How do you learn to make good decisions? You make some bad ones.”
To check on Greenberg’s logic, I took a look back at all of the Hokies’ losses since 2005-06 that have come in overtime or when the margin of defeat was five points or less. In those situations, Virginia Tech is 2-5 this year. Back in 2005-06, the Hokies were 2-9.
That 2006-07 season that ended with an NCAA tournament berth? Virginia Tech went 6-5. But over the past four seasons, when the Hokies have seen their bubble burst on Selection Sunday, they are 26-24, including an impressive 8-3 mark in 2009-10.
So when Greenberg said after Wednesday’s loss to BYU that “when you win those close games, you have one of those special seasons,” it’s not an all-encompassing statement.
But these sorts of close defeats have helped derail Virginia Tech’s momentum this month. But as forward Jarell Eddie pointed out Thursday, “Even when we won those 11 games [before January], we had problems finishing in the second half.”
“We haven’t been able to show in league the resolve . . . to finish the way we need to finish,” Greenberg said. “Does that mean we’re a terrible team? No. We’re a pretty good team. I think that we play at times a little young and we’ve got to get better at that.”
If the Hokies’ recent history with Maryland is any indication, their poise down the stretch will likely be tested again on Saturday afternoon. Five of the past seven games between the Terrapins and Virginia Tech have been decided by single digits, including two overtime affairs.