A Hokie Life: On the Outside Looking in

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A Hokie Life: On the Outside Looking in
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I have followed Virginia Tech sports (football and basketball) for a long time. There have been times when the Hokies have reached their full potential but, as most Hokie fans will tell you, Virginia Tech is a school destined for heartbreak.

The football program does this on occasion, like when they outplayed Michigan in the Sugar Bowl but still lost. Beamer will lose some games in this fashion, but the people of Blacksburg know where the real heartbreak lies and that is in Cassel Coliseum.

The Hokies basketball team has had more than their fair share of bad luck over the past four or five years. The last time the Hokies made the NCAA tournament was in 2007. They defeated Illinois in the first round before falling to Southern Illinois in the second.

Since then, the Hokies have been the team on the bubble. The current season is the first time since 2007 that Virginia Tech hasn’t been squarely on the bubble and that is because they are out of the conversation all together.

Seth Greenberg’s team has been one win away from the tournament during the past four seasons. It seems that those wins are often taken away on a ridiculous buzzer-beater. In 2008 Xavier beat the Hokies in overtime on a half court buzzer-beater that was well-defended. Virginia Tech lost by one point.

A similar situation occurred two years prior to that in 2006, during a game against Duke in Cameron Indoor Stadium. Sean Dockery hit a 44-foot shot as time expired to beat the Hokies by two. The shot prompted the Cameron Crazies to storm the court.

If buzzer-beaters aren’t the problem then the injuries are. J.T. Thompson was supposed to become a star for the Hokies playing beside the likes of Malcolm Delaney, Jeff Allen and Dorenzo Hudson. Thompson was the Hokies' sixth man during his first two seasons, but it all went wrong when he was set to become a starter. He tore his ACL before his junior season. He recovered only to tear his other ACL before his senior season.

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J.T. Thompson in 2009

Thompson isn’t the only player to have such luck. Florida transfer Allan Chaney will probably never play in maroon and orange and he may never play basketball again. After he transferred to Virginia Tech he was diagnosed with a heart condition. Chaney had a lot of potential and Coach Greenberg believed him to be a possible NBA talent.

The buzzer-beaters and the injuries are part of the problem at Virginia Tech, but the biggest reason for the Hokies' struggles and life on the bubble may be the state of mind in Blacksburg. It is hard for a Virginia Tech basketball fan to not believe in Murphy’s Law—that whatever can go wrong will go wrong.

Despite the heartbreaking losses and the major injuries, the Hokies have still fought over the past five years. After all, Malcolm Delaney and Jeff Allen didn’t have injury problems. They had highly productive careers in Blacksburg; they just weren’t rewarded with trips to the NCAA tournament.

During Delaney and Allen’s tenure as Hokies they won at least 20 games in three seasons and won 19 in the other. Virginia Tech was always listed as either the first team in or the last team out, but it didn’t matter because the Hokies never made it.

Being the last team out is like a slap in the face, it doesn’t matter if you are the last team out or the 200th team out, you are still out of the tournament. The NIT doesn’t really matter anymore, and a loss in the first round of March Madness is still considered as good, if not better than, winning the NIT.

The biggest snub to the Hokies probably came during the 2010-11 season. Delaney, Allen and Terrell Bell were all seniors. The Hokies were ranked in the preseason polls but quickly fell out of the rankings and never returned. Virginia Tech finished the season (including the ACC tournament) with a record of 21-11. They beat a Duke team that was ranked number one in the country and beat Florida State (a tournament team) twice.

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(from left to right) Malcolm Delaney, Victor Davila and Jeff Allen

After the Duke win, ESPN’s Dick Vitale told Seth Greenberg to bring his dancing shoes and declared that the Hokies' life on the bubble was over. Then Selection Sunday happened and the name Virginia Tech was nowhere to be seen. VCU was taken instead and the Hokies watched from home as the Rams went to the final four.

Malcolm Delaney and Jeff Allen were two of the best players in Virginia Tech basketball history and they never got to experience March Madness.

The 2011-12 season has gone the same way for the Hokies but with less success. Greenberg brought in his best recruiting class as Virginia Tech’s coach, but the offense is stagnant.

Virginia Tech lost to Florida State last week because they missed too many free throws down the stretch. Michael Snaer hit a three with 2.6 seconds left to take the lead. Hokies’ guard Erick Green appeared to be fouled as he shot from 40 feet to win but the call wasn’t made and Virginia Tech lost by one.

The Hokies lost to rival Virginia on Tuesday night; missed free throws and one bad call cost Virginia Tech the game. Cavalier guard Jontel Evans hit a three-point bank shot as the shot clock expired in the last few minutes of the game. A replay showed that Evans still had the ball in his hands when the shot clock hit zero. The officials didn’t review it and Virginia Tech lost the game by two.

At this point it seems that during every Virginia Tech game there is a moment when the fans all think “here we go again.” People can still hope, but the only way that Virginia Tech can make the tournament this year and get the monkey off their back is by somehow winning the ACC tournament.

Virginia Tech will be considered long shots to accomplish such a feat, but as a Hokie fan would say, “there is always next year.”

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