Previewing Virginia Tech

Hokies coach Seth Greenberg said his team has been steadily improving. While that might be the case, it sure isn't showing in the win column.

If it's to have any realistic chance of making the NIT field, Virginia Tech must beat N.C. State in its final regular season game Sunday night. That's because it fell to 15-15 with its eighth loss by five points or less in the Atlantic Coast Conference, a 58-56 decision on March 1 at Clemson.

Should the Hokies lose to the Wolfpack, their postseason chances would fall to just about nil. They would need two wins in the ACC Tournament, with the second coming against North Carolina or Duke, to at least guarantee the .500 mark which is required for the NIT.

Athletic director Jim Weaver said earlier this week that Tech wouldn't accept a bid to the 16-team College Basketball Invitational for financial reasons. Virginia lost nearly $200,000 when it hosted three games in the event back in 2008, when the economy wasn't as sketchy as it is today, and Weaver doesn't want to take that kind of bath. P> So if the Hokies are to extend their season past the ACC tourney, beating N.C. State is essential. Otherwise, they could get knocked off the NIT bubble after years of falling on the wrong side of the NCAA bubble.

TRENDING: For the fourth straight ACC loss, the inability to make key free throws hurt the Hokies. Sophomore F Cadarian Raines missed two with 2.2 seconds left at Clemson which could have tied the game and possibly forced OT. The second was an intentional miss as Tech tried to get an offensive rebound, but wasn't able to pull it. In defeats against Florida State, Virginia, Duke and Clemson, the Hokies are a combined 35-of-64 at the stripe.

NOTES, QUOTES
-- The Hokies appeared to get a bad break from the officiating crew in a 61-59 loss to Virginia Feb. 21 when Jontel Evans hit a 3-pointer after the shot clock expired with 3:04 left in the game for a 59-51 lead. Coach Seth Greenberg wondered why crew chief Jim Burr never called for a replay review. "Isn't that a correctible error? Isn't that something they are allowed to go check? I still don't understand why they didn't check the monitor," he said to The Roanoke Times.

-- Whether it was because of better attention to detail or Duke's fatigue -- it was playing about 39 hours after closing out a win at Florida State -- Virginia Tech improved greatly on defense in the rematch with the Blue Devils. Duke hit just 38.5 percent from the field and 6-of-24 on 3s after canning almost 50 percent of its shots and 8-of-18 on 3s in a Feb. 2 win. In their previous four games, the Hokies had allowed a season-high opponents' shooting percentage to Boston College, Georgia Tech and Virginia.

-- Sometimes, the stats make no sense. In its 70-65 OT loss at Duke Feb. 25, Tech shot 13 3-pointers and the Blue Devils took 24, yet it was Duke which enjoyed a 34-16 advantage in free throw attempts. Freshman G Austin Rivers took 17 foul shots by himself. In the extra period, the Blue Devils got to the line 12 times and the Hokies didn't get there once.

BY THE NUMBERS: 12:22 -- Tech's field goal drought in the second half of its loss against Virginia. After an Erick Green layup gave it a 49-42 lead, the Hokies didn't make another field goal until his layup with 38 seconds left. They missed all nine shots in that span and also committed three turnovers to help the Cavaliers rally for the win.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "We're going to be in close games that come down to the end. We've got to strap up and make some plays when it comes down to the end." -- Erick Green after the Duke loss.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
THIS WEEK'S GAMES:
--vs. N.C. State, March 4
KEY MATCHUPS:
In their only meeting this season with the Wolfpack, the Hokies will have to display good attention to detail on the defensive end. If their rotations aren't precise, N.C. State has the inside-outside mix to make for a long night in Cassell Coliseum. A winning season and potential postseason tournament bid could be on the line for Tech.

FUTURES MARKET: F Marshall Wood of Rustburg, Va., could offer help in a spot role next year, although he might need to add strength to a 6-foot-8, 200-pound frame. Wood averaged 24 points, 12.7 rebounds and 3.2 blocked shots during the regular season, scoring 49 points in one game and enjoying a 31-point, 12-rebound, 10-blocked shot triple double in another. He projects as a taller version of A.D. Vassallo, a Hokies wing from 2005-09.

PLAYER NOTES
-- Senior C Victor Davila (groin) sat out his fifth straight game at Clemson and may have played his final game for the Hokies. Coach Seth Greenberg doesn't think that Davila will be ready to play on March 4 against N.C. State. Davila's absence continues to hurt this team inside, where his experience and defense aren't easily replaced. Without Davila patrolling the lane, Clemson earned a 36-30 edge on the boards March 1, permitting just six offensive boards.

-- Junior G Erick Green saw his ACC-leading string of 30 straight double-figure scoring outings end at Clemson as he hit just 3-of-11 shots for eight points. Green had to sit out a few minutes in the first half when he took an accidental elbow in the chops, but still logged 35 minutes. The last time Green didn't score in double figures was in Tech's NIT win last year over Bethune-Cookman.


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