Virginia Tech will learn its NCAA Tournament fate this Sunday and like the three Selection Sundays before it will likely not know that fate until the last line on CBS' bracket is announced.
The initial reaction will be visceral no matter what happens: Elation if the Hokies make the tournament and despair if they don't. But the Hokies' NCAA Tournament fate and its ensuing reaction shouldn't be what determines whether or not Virginia Tech's 2010-11 men's basketball season was successful.
How Tech does in its next (hopefully) two or three games will determine only whether it plays in the NCAA or NIT. Deciding the success of this season is a little tougher.
What were your expectations for Virginia Tech going into the season? For me, I expected Tech to get a first-round bye in the ACC tournament, make the NCAA Tournament and, in the best-case scenario, make the second weekend of the Tournament.
That all changed around Christmas when Dorenzo Hudson and Cadarian Raines were added to the long list of players who were out for the season. With just eight scholarship players left for the bulk of conference play, it was apparent that nothing would come easy for the Hokies, least of all the NCAA Tournament.
So the criteria with which you could judge the Hokies changed. It could no longer been seen solely in the postseason result. The main question you have to ask at the end of the day is whether or not the program is better off at the end of this season than it was at the end of last season.
Right now, I honestly don't think it is. Even if Tech makes an expanded NCAA Tournament field, it did so thanks to an incredibly weak field of bubble teams. And even once they get to the Tournament, the best you can realistically hope for is one win on a Tuesday or Wednesday night in Dayton against a fellow bubble team.
And that's what we're really arguing about with the bubble. Which teams get the honor of flaming out after one or two games (and earning about $200,000 per game for their conference). The money, the exposure and the experience would do wonders for the Hokies' players, but does playing in a big neutral site arena instead of at home in the NIT really indicate the program's on the right track?
This season should have been better. Even when the Hokies were at full(er) strength at the beginning of the year they were rolled by a Kansas State team that was horrible until about a month ago and got beat by every halfway decent team it faced. That was with a very experienced team.
After the injuries, the Hokies become one of the more inconsistent teams in the ACC if not the country, beat Duke and got swept by UVa and Boston College. At the end of the day, this program didn't make the kind of jump it was expected to, even judged against the mounting injuries and suspension.
It's easy to sit back and say that the current state of the program is still light years better than it was before Seth Greenberg arrived in Blacksburg. That's true, but the program has now stalled, regardless of what happens the next two weeks. So what will be done about it? Will Greenberg make changes to his own philosophies the way the football team did in response to it's stall? Or will we just keep on trucking and hope for the best with the new recruiting class.
The new recruiting class will be bright, shiny and new when the Hokies take the court next year, but they will face plenty of growing pains in the ACC. Heck, even Harrison Barnes took a while before he started playing to the level of his hype. The future of this program is bright, but nothing is guaranteed. Just look at this year's team.
For what he was forced to work with, Seth Greenberg did a solid job with the Hokies during the 2010-11 season. The team overcame a lot of adversity and provided us with one incredible win over the No. 1 team in the country. To say the season would be a failure if the Hokies don't make the tournament would be unfair. But it would be equally unfair to call it a success if they do make it.