The Hokies took out their frustration of their long losing streak (dropping 13 of their last 17 games) and their most recent loss to Clemson exactly a week ago with a 68-63 win over the Tigers in the first round of the ACC Tournament Thursday night in Atlanta. With the win they advance to the ACC Quarterfinals and a Friday night matchup with Duke at 7 p.m. For more on this exciting win, keep reading after the jump.
The Hokies came out with a fire about them that we have rarely seen since ACC play began. They passed the ball well, they didn't turn it over at an obscene rate, and they won the rebounding battle on both ends of the floor. They passed on the fast break, they hustled for loose balls, and for the most part they took pretty good shots (though they are head over heels for the 3-pointer). They were even good from the line in the clutch.
Erick Green led the Hokies with 24 points with 4 assists . Dorenzo Hudson tacked on 19. Dorian Finney-Smith had one of his best overall games with 8 points, 8 rebounds, 3 assists and 3 steals, but his impact on this game felt even bigger. He was our spark tonight, diving for loose balls, keeping the ball alive on the boards and making the smart passes. His development is really impressive, and just like this team, he continues to get better with every game he plays.
Unfortunately with Victor Davila continuing to struggle with a groin injury and Marquis Rankin injuring his knee in practice on Wednesday, the Hokies are again down to seven scholarship players. It is highly unlikely that Davila will be back. I think even though he still has something to offer the team, any minutes taken away from Cadarian Raines right now stunt his development, and Greenberg would be against that. Additionally, if Davila did go, he wouldn't be 100%, so there's no real point of throwing him out there. As for Rankin, there's no information on him yet, but based on how fatigued the guys (and especially Erick Green) looked out there on Thursday, having an extra body who can spell guys for even a minute is a huge deal.
Jarell Eddie, who bombed the Tigers out of the building from deep in the two earlier match-ups and averaged 15 points against Clemson this year, went 1-for-7 and 1-for-4 from deep on Thursday in Atlanta, playing only 25 minutes despite not being in foul trouble. We'll see how that develops going forward.
As for the Hokies chances, they aren't going to surprise anybody (other than Clemson). All the teams in the ACC know what Tech can do (both this year and years past) and they're not going to sneak up on anyone. Duke remembers the team that played them tough for 30 minutes in Blacksburg and came within a whisker of beating them in Durham. The biggest challenge to Tech's ability to keep winning is legs. The more back to backs you play versus the teams who are fresh, the less likely you are to advance.
I do like the fight I saw out there today, including the fight from Greenberg. He definitely sees this as a teachable moment right now and he's treating it that way. I also liked that he asked the question "why not us?" to his players. Even if it's a little 2004 Boston Red-Sox'y, it sends the right message. For the Hokies to make it past Duke though and continue in this tournament, they will have to play their most complete game to date. They have the talent, but the odds are stacked against them. That's the point of seeding in the ACC Tournament. If you earn a bye you have the easier road. If not, you have to fight uphill. An interesting tidbit is that Tech is the lowest remaining seed among the eight teams. We'll see if Greenberg can keep this team's intensity up and parlay the "why not us?" mantra into a Cinderella underdog story or if it will just be comforting that we were able to make it as far as we did given the circumstances.