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March 9, 2009

An unlikely league coach makes case for Hokies

By: Jimmy Robertson

Judging from message board fodder, snippets of conversations unintentionally overheard and harsh critiques delivered by friends, the prevailing thought here is that Tech fans certainly care little for the Duke Blue Devils.

Part of that stems from paranoia – you know, those private school future lawyers and doctors looking down on the public school built on blue-collar values. Most of it stems from knowing that Duke officials retched at the thought of Tech being in this country club of a league and all but spouted so publicly.

And maybe Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski felt the same way. If so, he appears to have pirouetted 180 degrees, or at least that’s the impression your resident wordsmith gets after listening to Coach K following Tech-Duke hoops games.

Duke won the latest installment in this series, a 72-65 decision on Feb. 28 in yet another breathless, passionate game between the two. The Blue Devils took the season series and have secured their fair share against the Hokies since Tech joined the league, but those conquests rarely have come easily, as evidenced by the sweat on Coach K’s forehead as he met with the media afterward.

As it usually does in March, the discussion migrated toward the NCAA Tournament. This time, Krzyzewski came out of character. Unprompted, he basically took the microphone and espoused the Hokies’ credentials, no matter their conference record (Tech was 7-8 in the league at press time), for several minutes.

And his voice went up an octave as he did so.

“What should happen in the NCAA Tournament, once you get your conference champions, from then on, it doesn’t matter what you’ve done in your conference,” Krzyzewski said. “It matters what you’ve done your whole season. To put more criteria in, like what you’ve done in your past 10 games or what your conference record is, is wrong because not everyone plays the same last 10 games and not everyone plays in the same conference. But everyone plays a whole season.

“After the 31 champions are determined, it’s the 34 best. Twelve of them could come out of our conference or 10, 6, 4 … it shouldn’t matter. Conference affiliation after you pick the conference champions shouldn’t have anything to do with it.

“Virginia Tech’s had a great year. They’ve been in some hellacious games. Because of a skewed schedule, you can’t look at conference records either. My feeling is that the top eight teams in our league need to be in. There might be nine. But it shouldn’t have anything to do with conference record. I think that is such a big mistake.”

Now, supposedly the selection committee plans on putting primo emphasis on the Ratings Percentage Index and on top-50 wins (Tech had four at press time). We’re skeptical. To break stalemates, will the committee revert back to record in the past 10 games or conference record?

“A lot of people don’t even know who is in the conference,” Krzyzewski said. “They couldn’t even tell you the difference between Notre Dame’s schedule in the Big East and Cincinnati’s. If you don’t think the schedule is different, you’re nuts. So why are you looking at the conference record? It’s the same thing in our conference. Because of expansion, there is a different schedule.”
He brings forth a compelling point. It will be interesting to see what happens, not just in the Hokies’ case, but also in others.
Of course, by the time many of you park yourself into your recliner to read this issue, Tech’s NCAA Tournament fate will have been decided. For sure, the Hokies will have some allies in the continuing debate.

Tech fans, though, should remember that Coach K – interestingly – is one of them.

Looking to next year’s slate

Tech coach Seth Greenberg commented on the Hokies’ 2009-10 schedule on a recent Hokie Hotline and divulged some interesting tidbits.

First, he plans on scheduling at least 16 home games next season. This year, the Hokies played just 14 home games – the fewest in the ACC.

Second, two of those home games will be part of a four-game tournament. The other two games would be in Philadelphia. The field hasn’t been disclosed.

Also, Georgia comes to Cassell Coliseum next season in return for the Hokies’ visit there this season. And the Hokies may add another SEC team – LSU – to the slate. Officials from the Wooden Classic have approached the Hokies about playing the Tigers.

So if this all works out, Tech would play Georgia, LSU, a team from the Big Ten as part of the ACC-Big Ten Challenge and then whoever participates in the four-game tournament. That said, the Hokies have the makings of an intriguing schedule.