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The Hood on the Flats

Of all the ACC basketball games, those between Virginia Tech and Duke are my least favorite. Sunday night was why.

Many are aware that I have closely followed Duke basketball for decades, more closely and much longer than I have followed the same sport at Tech. Through the good graces of a fellow Hokie who also holds an MD from Duke, I have often been invited to attend games in Cameron Indoor Stadium. Take away my years as a Tech student and I have watched more games in Cameron than in Cassell. I was in attendance  Sunday and for only the third time in all of my years in Cameron, I found myself wearing a maroon polo shirt emblazoned with ‘VT’ and desiring something other than a victory by the Blue Devils.

I didn’t get it. As is usually the case when Duke plays basketball on its home turf in Methodist Flats, the Devils won. Nothing much out of the ordinary there. While this Duke team is a far cry from the dominant ones of years past, it is the class of a down ACC. What was different from this trip when compared to most, other than my rooting against Duke, was the style of basketball being played. I don’t particularly care for it.

There was Virginia Tech in all of its trash-talking glory, fouling constantly while complaining bitterly about the ones that were actually called, seemingly trying their best to turn an high-quality ACC match-up with much riding on the outcome into a gang fight from the ‘hood. It is the way Tech plays under Seth Greenberg.

It is the way all of Seth’s teams have played. The only thing that overshadows Seth’s lust for publicity is the us-against-the world mentality he fosters in his teams. Seth has a compulsion to play the victim card, over and over and over, even to the point of making up perceived slights. He has done it everywhere he has been, at least until he runs away in the middle of the night via a back door seconds before the whole house of cards comes crashing down. For all of the good Seth has done for Virginia Tech basketball, which is a lot, his ‘they’re all out to get me’ means of drawing attention to himself is very off-putting. So is the gang-fight method in which his teams play. Especially so to a Hokie also fond of the Devils who finds himself sitting among friendly wearers of the true blue and having to explain, if not defend, what is transpiring on the court.

What was transpiring on the court, in between all of the elbows and forearms thrown by Tech players, was a demonstration by Duke that they could match the tough-guy image Tech portrays. There are teams in the ACC that Tech has physically intimidated- Carolina without Tyler the Good and a McFarlane-less Wake pop to mind- but the Devils ain’t among them. After experiencing some difficulties with Tech’s street ball style following ACC expansion, Coach K has adjusted quite well.Tech kept it close for most of the game, but, in the end, Nolan Smith standing jaw to jaw with Dorenzo Hudson demonstrated that if Tech wants to play this type of game, Duke will oblige, and win.

Since arriving in its spiritual and cultural home, the ACC, Virginia Tech has contributed more than have the Canes and Fredo combined. Tech football is all that has kept the league’s football expansion from being even more of a failure than it is. Across the board, athletically and academically, Tech has demonstrated that it belongs in the ACC and is a valued member. It is past time for the basketball program to start acting like it.

Around the rest of the ACC, it ain’t too often you see two last-second shots go in, even less when they both come from the same team. Were it not for more Terp heroics, the Maryland assistant that called the time out nanoseconds before the heave by Grevis Vasquez went in would find himself exiled to Tony Bennett’s Hoo staff. From a Maryland standpoint, all’s well that ends well. Twice.

Speaking of Bennett, there probably won’t be too many Coach of the Year votes awarded to a guy whose team has spent the past week getting blown out in one game after another. All of the algrohed bball coaches who preceded Bennett also experienced early success in Hooville. Jeff Jones, Petey and Fallback Dave, however, did extend it past the first month of their first conference season.

Carolina demonstrated that even when they play relatively well against a fellow ACC standings laggard, they can still lose, as the Heels did against Fredo. That’s what happens when you attempt to play without a coach, as Ol’ Roy keeps reminding all that none of the mess in Blue Heaven is his fault.

Then there is NC State. Given up for dead since an improbable beat-down of Duke back in January, up popped El Sid’s pack of wolves to knock off Wake Forest. At least for last Saturday, Dino Gaudio’s team looked very much like last year’s, right down to the collapse after losing to Tech.

The ACC now moves to the home stretch of the regular season. Tech has a very important street fight game looming at Fredo. The loss to Duke must be shaken off, or all of the good done during the wins over Clemson and Wake will be neutralized and Tech will find itself right back on the NCAA bubble. Also on the horizon is next Saturday’s home game against Maryland. That could mean much in the way of ACC tournament seedings and byes. While it always interesting to observe the dual Oscar-worthy performances of Malcolm Delaney and Vasquez and the sideline antics of Seth and Gary Williams, hopefully some actual basketball can be squeezed in. That would be ACC basketball, rather than Baltimore street ball.

I am quickly reminded that my views on Seth are not shared by a number of Hokies. That doesn’t particularly bother me. My opinions are my own. I would point out, however, that the Comments section is at the approval of the moderator, me. It will not degenerate into a loon-infested message board.


  1. BobLee — February 22, 2010 #

    The “good thing” about the degree of meltdown with this year’s version of UNC BB is that the nightly beatdowns are soooo complete that not even the looniest of the CaroLoonies are whining “it’s the refs fault”. …. :>)


  2. Jim — February 22, 2010 #

    That sure ain’t the case when Tech loses. The Hokie loons are in full throat.


  3. Paul — February 22, 2010 #

    While I agree that the style of basketball is not pretty and that there was a lot of junk that was going on last night, I do find it frustrating that the foul of going over the back of a player for a rebound has almost all but become extinct. I suspect that there are many footprints on the back of those orange jerseys that Tech had on last night.

    I knew that Tech was in trouble early in the game when Duke was having difficulty finding water when falling from a boat and Tech could not build any sort of advantage. You knew Duke would eventually find their range, it was just a matter of time.

    In the end, we were not expected to beat Duke and did not deserve to. Seth’s style is a bit unpleasing on the eye and it appears as if, once again, our offense is degrading to a stand around and let one guy try to break players down. We need to get an offense we can run and stick with it and stop whining when we don’t get calls.


  4. John — February 22, 2010 #

    I’d like to be able to defend the Seth-coached teams, but I’m reminded of:

    Allen’s “bumping” of the referee and subsequent “time-out.”

    Allen’s elbow into a player’s head a few games ago, and subsequent ejection.

    Deron’s “how do you like the taste of my Nike’s?” moment a few years ago (to the player laying on the Cassell court.) There are others, these are just the ones that come to mind.

    And last night, we were treated to Dorenzo’s arm-thrust to the face of the trash talking Duke player – several replays worth.

    At some point, you do have to begin to question the leadership set by the coaching. Seth also made a wisecrack last night on the radio interview about the foul trouble, I don’t recall the details, but something about getting a bunch of fouls called during warmup. There’s little question his attitude 1) helps our players win games on occasion, by being feisty and never giving up, and 2) encourages them to slip into a “street-fighting” mode when things aren’t going so well. I like the “no-quit” attitude, but the elbows and other stuff bother me.

    The worst thing is this kind of thing repeatedly happening give ammo to the crew who like to paint Tech as “Thug U.” A tar brush, for sure, and I don’t believe that’s what we’re becoming, but the points you make today are very valid.


  5. cgb — February 22, 2010 #

    While I agree that the style of basketball is not pretty and that there was a lot of junk that was going on last night, I do find it frustrating that the foul of going over the back of a player for a rebound has almost all but become extinct. I suspect that there are many footprints on the back of those orange jerseys that Tech had on last night.

    When you play at Duke you just have to assume they’re going to get more than their fair share of calls. We didn’t capitalize on their mistakes and at the end of the day it bit us in the ass. What bothered me the most is we lost our poise: the trash talk at the line, physical contact, Seth screaming at Delaney during one of the final timeouts and Delaney not paying attention to him. When you’re on the brink of making the NCAA tournament you can no longer play the victim card and going forward, if we want to make a run, we need to be mentally tougher.


  6. HokieJayBee — February 22, 2010 #

    although i can’t disagree with your sentiments on the street ball attitude and behavior, as i am also embarrassed by the antics of our players lately, i can’t help but read this and still think you’re bleeding that cameron indoor blue.

    duke is by no means a clean team or God’s gift to clean basketball. duke is a well coached, well oiled machine in the ways of under the radar trash talk, in the lane hidden elbows and pinching, and getting their opponents to commit the second foul. or at least the more egregious foul.

    i’m not excusing elbows, thug-life, middle fingers, or screaming coaches – but let’s not paint duke in a perfectly innocent light either.

    we need to tighten up, as other commenters have said, both mentally and physically, and win 2 or 3 more games to get ourselves off the bubble and into a 5-12 game.

    in the spirit of your request for message board behavior, note neither dog fighting or lacrosse teams were brought up. dammit. it slipped.


    cgb Reply:

    Fair or not, Duke excels at and wins the game within the game. If we want to win the big games, we’ll learn how to do that too.


    HokieJayBee Reply:

    Yep CGB, I think a little bit of my sentiment got lost in the tone of a medium that is commenting on a blog. And perhaps I didn’t even blatantly say some of what I meant to get across.

    With this paragraph, “duke is by no means a clean team or God’s gift to clean basketball. duke is a well coached, well oiled machine in the ways of under the radar trash talk, in the lane hidden elbows and pinching, and getting their opponents to commit the second foul. or at least the more egregious foul.” — it is meant to imply, and I meant to end it with — “and for this, I am jealous.”


  7. furrer4heisman — February 22, 2010 #


    Didn’t we all want to kick Lee Melchionni in the face?


    Jim Reply:

    I didn’t.


    John Reply:

    LOL, it was Melchionni, wasn’t it? Well, now that you mention it….


  8. Eric — February 22, 2010 #

    At least when Beamer’s teams started getting a reputation for thuggishness, he did something about it. The opportunity now exists for Seth to do the same… Will he or won’t he? Seth jokes about his players getting 2 fouls during warmups, hinting that the refs have it in for them, well perhaps they do. VT’s football players lost the benefit of the doubt with the refs in the early-mid 2000’s and started racking up 15-yarders by the bushel, looks like the same is happening with our roundballers…


  9. Bon Air Hokie — February 22, 2010 #

    Our guys are gritty, street-ball type players. Would I rather see us making silky smooth assists with guys gliding to the basket or draining perfectly arced 3’s? You bet. But I fail to see the degree of coarseness of our game the way you imply Jim. We have been mugged and robbed at Cameron in the past and I’ll never forget our initial visit under the ACC banner when the ref’s decided to haze us into submission to let us know just how uncouth we were to slip into their league.

    Seth’s never met a microphone or camera he could resist. But he sure beats the hell out of milk toast Stokes and a couple of others before him. Seth has gotten us respectable, he’s got us new facilities, he’s gotten the students behind him and he’s gotten most of us alumni behind him too. I don’t want Frank Beamer as a basketball coach. I don’t want thugs on my team either but I haven’t seen that our guys are that bad. Maybe my maroon and orange glasses are almost opaque but I don’t believe the behavior of these young men rises to the worst of the Beamer era or even comes close.


    Jim Reply:

    I do not believe for a second that Tech has been ‘mugged and robbed’ or ‘hazed us into submission’ just as I didn’t believe the cries of the ABC crowd back in the 80’s claiming Carolina got all the calls. I have known enough refs over the years to understand they have no agendas.


    Bon Air Hokie Reply:

    Almost forgot. Keep up the good work. I look forward to your commentary on the pastimes of college sport more than the sports writers rehash of a game I’ve already watched. However, I do miss the stories of political intrigue in the metropolis of Danville.


    Jim Reply:

    I have to be careful about what I say about Danville. I’m friends with 3 councilpersons, 2 of them Hokies. The 3rd is my cardiologist.


    GT Reply:

    I agree Bon Air that the Hokies aren’t that bad. At least not to me. One thing that is really bothering me about this team right now and that is the way Delaney is shaking his head and acting after every foul is called. He needs to just play the game and forget about that stuff, imo. I also agree about the 1st game in Cameron. That was baptism into Duke and Acc basketball like no other. They let the Hokies know who was boss at that point. Thankfully, since then, the Hokies have had a very fair shake in the Acc, imo. I like the Acc officiating. But as Seth has said he does not want to be another one of the teams, getting beat by Duke and Unc over and over, but to be beating those teams. Not to just be thankful he is in a league with them. I think the program is headed in that direction.


  10. snakeman40 — February 22, 2010 #

    First off, it’s a damn good thing I have a calculator handy to figure out this SPAM filter crap of yours. Second, and most important, is THE TAR HEELS ARE GETTING HOSED BY THE REFEREE’S! God, I mean “ROY” (say it with reverence!) can only do so much. He coaches the best of any coach out there, past, present, AND future. He recruits better than anyone past, present, and future. He teaches better than anyone past, present, and future. His players are the BEST that can be recruited. So that leaves the lousy ref’s. Those hangnail losses this year (which is every one of them) are the direct result of crooked ref’s being paid off by coach ‘cay and all those other lousy programs that are tired of Carolina whipping their butts. GO HEELS!


  11. snakeman40 — February 22, 2010 #

    By the way, thanks for keeping those Hokie loons off the board. Us intelligent Heels don’t like slummin’ with them…..


    Jim Reply:

    Between you and BobLee, there is no more room for loons.


  12. Randy Barnhart — February 24, 2010 #

    Hey Jim,

    If you have three star players with 4-5 star athleticism, most of whom come from tough backgrounds, Seth’s way is the only way to beat most good teams. Jmo

    Btw, the correct answer to the spam filter Q is: “The number of obvious fouls Dook got away with in the first half.”

    See you at the Clubhouse sometime in the Fall.


    Jim Reply:

    How is San Fran? Been to Haight-Ashbury yet?


  13. Dalai Lama — February 26, 2010 #

    First rule of the Fight Club is you don’t talk about the Fight Club.

    Kumbaya, people, kumbaya.



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