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The Students Storm The Cassell

The Maryland-Tech game certainly proved at least one thing beyond a shadow of a doubt. An ice storm that blanketed most of the state except my own promised to give all of those NOVA season-ticket holders a plausible reason to stay home. An icy I-81 also meant those from Roanoke and most everywhere else would watch the game somewhere other than Cassell.

Tech’s solution was to let the students in free and allow festival seating. This provided a large and enthusiastic game for the nationally-televised affair and provided an answer for that question that had hung in the air for the last decade or so. It can now be said that the Tech students will indeed walk across the campus to watch the basketball team.

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They are watching a pretty good one, too. Tech again rode the experienced backcourt tandem of seniors Jamon Gordon and Zabien Dowdell to a tough overtime win over a tough Maryland team that didn’t seem to want to go away. The Terps had ridden what seems to be the standard Tech late-game fade to send it to OT and make viewers wait a little longer to see whether Peyton Manning could remove the playoff monkey from his back [He did].

Tech won a game it really needed to for a couple of reasons. It was ‘Tech Night’ on Comcast Sports Net. With all of the emphasis the Washington-based cable channel was putting on Tech, which no doubt irked local boy Gary Williams, form dictated that the Hokies win. That live postgame interview with Seth didn’t need to start with “It was a tough loss.” Tech was the star of the show and really needed to win.

Before getting to the second and more important reason Tech needed a victory, a few slings and arrows need to be thrown at Comcast and will. It seems impossible for this second-rate operation to get through a game without major glitches. While those several minutes when Comcast was beaming to the entire Mid-Atlantic a pot holding weeds did enable many to get up to speed on the Colts-Patriots donnybrook, at least this observer would have preferred to stick with the Hokies and Terps.

Then for a period of time when live action was again shown, sort of, it looked very much like Net streaming back in the days before high-speed connections. Since Comcast 28.8 has a monopoly on these Sunday night Fox games in this neck of the woods, when they deign to show them during those rare times ACC basketball doesn’t conflict with the Wizards or some hockey team [has the NHL settled their strike?], they really should work a little harder at presenting a decent telecast.

The problems could have come from Fox Sportsnet, but after years and years of watching the Orioles lose on Comcast, I doubt it.

Comcast might be the place where smoke signals and beating hollowed out logs with sticks would seem to be major technological advancements; it often seems the concept of sending visuals of live sporting events through coaxial cable is beyond their capabilities. The place that proclaims they telecast More Live Sports unless they do not should devote less energy to self-promotion and more to keeping the hamsters fed.

Comcast rant aside and forgoing another on the overall lousiness of these Sunday ACC basketball games on Fox Sportsnet, there was a second, more important reason that Tech pretty much had to win over Maryland . For all of the excitement over Tech’s big ACC wins, it should be noted that the long-coveted NCAA bid has likely not yet been secured. The big wins over Duke and Carolina did little more than offset the bad early-season losses.

Tech and Maryland entered Sunday’s game with virtual identical RPI ratings, despite Tech residing at one end of the ACC standings and the Terps at the other. This was due to Maryland having some big OOC wins while Tech has some bad OOC losses. Losses to the directionals and that Marshall debacle are going to haunt Tech for the rest of the season. Every year there are teams from the power conferences with close to 20 wins and a .500 mark in league play that are squawking about their omission from the NCAA’s field of sixty-five. A close examination of their record usually reveals December losses to directional or hyphenated teams.

Playing .500 in the conference from here on out would mean around a 9-7 ACC record which would translate into a 19-11 overall record, which would likely put Tech into the less-desirable NIT. Given the difficulties of winning on the road in the ACC, the big win at Cameron notwithstanding [the loss at Florida State is much more par for the course in the ACC], it is imperative that Tech continue to hold serve at home. That made the Maryland game and most all remaining home games almost must-wins. Losing at home to the Terps would have basically meant the big Duke win would have been given back.

To get into the NCAA Tournament, Tech is going to have to win its remaining home games, which would give it nine ACC wins. It will probably be necessary to steal another on the road. That starts Tuesday night at Miami , where, even though the Canes are giving every indication of being not very good, the short forty-eight hour turnaround will make it a very difficult game for Tech to win.

This will certainly make for an interesting February. In the meantime, Tech won a very big game over Maryland . They won it with a huge assist from the raucous atmosphere created by the students, who showed they will indeed get behind a winner, which is what this Tech team is doing.

After a week of tough road games, Tech will be home in a fortnight, hosting NC State on a Wednesday night. This can be expected to be another game lightly-attended by season-ticket holders, meaning lots of empty seats at courtside, where an enthusiastic crowd can do the most good [Cameron].

The Tech administration demonstrated some creative thinking in order to provide a great environment for the Maryland game. The team responded. If the season ticket holders either can’t or won’t attend most games or give their tickets to somebody who will, it would seem the Tech team could use a little more administrative creative thinking. A team that is 4-1 in the ACC and near the top of the conference standings certainly deserves it.

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