It appears Virginia Tech's basketball team has finally learned how to win close games. After two seasons watching their NCAA Tournament bubble burst thanks to heartbreaking losses, the Hokies are doing their best to take the decision out of the selection committee's hands.
Tech enters conference play at 12-1 and barring a complete meltdown against NC Central will finish the 2009-10 season at 13-1, including wins against Iowa, Georgia, Penn State and Seton Hall. Their latest non-conference win against Seton Hall is the most impressive because the Hokies really shouldn't have won that game.
Tech was without star guard Malcolm Delaney and while it seemed slowing the game down would be the only way to beat the Pirates in Cancun, Tech beat Seton Hall at its own game. Tech played at a furious tempo for much of the second half and overtime and still came away with a 103-94. The up-and-down style was something I never thought I'd see from a Seth Greenberg team.
It also gave Greenberg's Hokies their fourth win against a BCS-conference team this season outside of ACC play. The Hokies were 2-4 against such teams in their previous two regular seasons. They've also taken care of another Achilles' Heel, close losses.
Tech didn't have a signature win going into Selection Sunday in either of the last two years. Close losses to Butler, Penn State, Old Dominion, Richmond, Clemson and North Carolina kept it out of the 2008 tournament. In 2009, heartbreakers against Xavier, Seton Hall, Wisconsin, Georgia, Clemson, Boston College, Florida State and North Carolina sent the Hokies to the NIT for a second consecutive season.
This year, those close losses have become close wins. Tech already has overtime wins against Delaware and Seton Hall and also survived scares against Penn State and Iowa.
Unlike the last two years, the Hokies go into conference play without a bad loss on their resume. Their only loss is to Temple, a solid team that has also beaten Seton Hall and Villanova. However, Tech still needs one big ACC win to bolster its tournament resume. It'll get the chance right off the bat this Thursday at North Carolina in the conference opener.
If the Hokies win that game, this could be a really special season for Virginia Tech basketball.