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There is a very long list of teams from small conferences that have beaten Virginia Tech in basketball in the recent past, especially under former head coach Ricky Stokes. Under Seth Greenberg, the Hokies have managed to avoid losses to small schools for the most part, but as Thanksgiving night proved, they haven’t quite made it over the hump.
Western Michigan beat the Hokies 71-68 in Orlando. During the 2004-05 season, the Hokies finished fourth in the ACC but failed to make the NCAA tournament, partly because of a bad record in out-of-conference play. Losses to VMI (72-68) and Western Michigan (74-68) contributed to Tech going to the NIT rather than the NCAA tournament. Thursday night’s loss could potentially have the same effect.
The Hokies played East Carolina during the 2003-04 season, and fell 74-67. That loss was excusable. The Pirates entered the game 6-1 overall, with five starters returning from a team that beat the Hokies 76-60 the previous season. The Hokies were starting three freshmen you might have heard of…Jamon Gordon, Zabian Dowdell and Coleman Collins.
The loss to VMI in 2004-05 was inexcusable. The Hokies were 4-0, and VMI, as usual, did not field a very good team. But Tech didn’t show up to play and got beat. They were basically without the services of Coleman Collins, who was injured and scored just two points in 16 minutes. Still, the Hokies had the talent to get it done, and they didn’t.
In December, a Western Michigan team that would go on to play in the NIT came to Cassell and walked out a 74-68 winner. Coleman Collins did not play because of an injury, and there was no frontcourt presence for the Hokies. Jamon Gordon had eight rebounds and Zabian Dowdell pulled down seven, but Tech’s frontcourt was overwhelmed.
Tech’s loss to Bowling Green in the second game of the 2005-06 season was bad luck, but at the same time, they shouldn’t have allowed Bowling Green to be in the game at the end. The Hokies trailed most of the game, then finally rallied to take the lead 71-70. Bowling Green missed the game-winning shot at the end, but the Hokies’ A.D. Vassallo accidentally tipped it in for the Falcons, giving them a 72-71 victory in Blacksburg.
Tech’s loss on Thanksgiving night to Western Michigan was eerily similar to the loss to the Broncos back in 2004. Tech’s backcourt did all of the work, while the frontcourt failed to show up. This time Coleman Collins played virtually the entire game, but could only muster five points and five rebounds.
It’s just one loss, and the Hokies can definitely recover from it, but can’t afford to take anymore losses like this for the remainder of the season.
The Hokies have a very tough out-of-conference schedule ahead of them. They must face Iowa in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge, George Washington in Washington, D.C., Set0n Hall in Madison Square Garden, as well as Old Dominion, who beat Georgetown earlier in the season.
With that type of schedule, not to mention ACC play, the Hokies needed to win all of their games against teams they should beat. Unfortunately, they dropped one Thanksgiving night. At this point they can only hope that it doesn’t cost them a postseason bid.
On Friday, the Hokies got back on track with a 77-56 win over Montana in the loser’s bracket of the Old Spice Tournament, and with the victory, the Hokies earn a chance to make up for the loss on Thanksgiving. Tech takes on Southern Illinois, a highly-regarded outfit that returns their top eight players from last year. The Salukis are one of just 15 teams who have played in the last five NCAA tournaments, and after finishing fourth in the nation in scoring defense last year (57 points per game), SIU has upped the ante this year, giving up just 45 points per game.
Southern Illinois is
hovering around the outside of the top 25 and is a stiff test for the Hokies. A
win over the Salukis on Sunday (1 pm, ESPNU) would got a long way towards
erasing the loss to Western Michigan Thursday.
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