Sweaty palms and a rapid heart rate go hand-in-hand this season with Virginia Tech men's basketball.
An agonizing 2011-12 campaign has seen a young and talented squad come up short numerous times in unbelievable fashion, but there is hope.
Although a losing record is assured, the team's first since 2005-06, Hokie fans would be wise to have some patience and let Seth Greenberg's stellar recruiting class have some time to grow.
Don't get me wrong, it's been hard to watch. Those sporting maroon and orange may have shut off the television numerous times, failed to attend games or chose not to watch a contest or two all together. But one thing is sure, come 2012-13, watch out for the boys in Blacksburg.
Suffering through this year's results, with freshmen becoming a bit more seasoned, before the conclusion of 2012, Tech will be making noise.
Unfortunately though, this season, noise was being made for the wrong reasons.
So, so close
Many would agree with me that most of the time, excluding the convoluted bubble talk, losing 60-50 is preferred over a 60-59 loss. It's simply painful, no matter what the sport, no matter what the level. The smaller the deficit, the bigger the hurt, usually. (Aside from blowout wins over Virginia in football)
This year, in 10 of Tech's 16 losses, 28 total points decided them, an average of 2.8 points per defeat for those who didn't major in math.
There was the short-coming at Minnesota, the uninspired ACC-opener at Wake Forest, both Florida State games and many more.
Now, while most of it has been awful to watch, the team should be given a bit of credit for grabbing a few late wins, including at Virginia and against Georgia Tech at home, with Dorenzo Hudson coming up big. It doesn't make the season any better, but those who expected this team to truly contend with so much youth were delirious.
Look, I love the Hokies as much as anyone, but often it seemed like watching college swimming would be more entertaining, certainly less stressful. With four freshmen receiving plenty of playing time, we should have seen it coming. Youth does equal inconsistency, unless you reside in Lexington, Kentucky.
Want evidence of just how inconsistent this team is? Well, Tech hasn't won consecutive games in 2012. As for the droughts without a field goal, it's simply unbelievable.
Droughts without a field goal this season, starting with ACC play
Over five minutes
Home versus Clemson (67-65 W)
At Virginia (47-45 W)
Over six minutes
At Duke (70-65 OT L)
Home versus NC State (70-58 L)
At Florida State (63-59 L - In same game, Hokies went five minutes without a field goal to end the game)
At Maryland (73-69 L)
Over seven minutes
At Clemson (58-56 L)
Over eight minutes
At Miami (65-49 L)
Over nine minutes
BYU at home (70-68 L - drought started the game)
North Carolina at home (82-68 L)
At Boston College (61-59 L)
Over 12 minutes
Home to UVa (61-59 L)
It's unbelievable how that many droughts can happen for that long. Sure, it's part of the game and this does come with poor offensive execution. Every team experiences it, but this much? I'm sure each of you grabbed your head numerous times, wondering why Victor Davila was taking so many shots, why Erick Green didn't attack the basket more, why Dorian Finney-Smith was still in the game?
But, evident from above, cutting out those scoring droughts would obviously change the results. Robert Brown will become more consistent, as will the other freshmen. Fortunately, it's safe to not expect a repeat of this with a more experienced team come this Fall.
Little support, little atmosphere
This season's attendance numbers have been worse than Finney-Smith's field goal shooting. The final attendance figures for the regular season show that the team attracted the lowest amount of fans to Cassell Coliseum since 2003-04. Obviously, fans flooded in to see the Tar Heels and Blue Devils.
But, the Hokies averaged 8,395 fans in the Cassell, which holds 9,847. That's expected with a poor team, but nobody talks about fan support more than Greenberg, who is surely disgusted with the turnout. But those who didn't show up and care about the sport, feel the same way, just about the team's play.
Recent history should have fans feeling good
Long droughts without a field goal, narrow losses and lack of fans sum up this dreadful season. But, when taking a glance around the country, getting young players quality time will go a long way towards improving the squad. Yes, coaching and resources have plenty to do with it. But, after missing out on the NCAA Tournament again this season, albeit it wasn't even close, it's safe to say next season this team will have a heck of a chance.
Look around the nation at teams that suffered with their youth, only to improve down the road. It's logical that experience will make players better.
Remember when a young Connecticut team came to Blacksburg to play in the NIT in 2009? The team had the 10th best recruiting class in the country and Kemba Walker. Next season, the Huskies were national champions.
Iowa State (16-16 last season), Indiana (12-20 last season) and South Florida (10-23 last season) all appear NCAA Tournament bound and had young players gain plenty of experience during a trying 2010-11 season.
The Cyclones top scorer is sophomore Royce White, who is also the top rebounder. Another sophomore, Melvin Ejim, is one of the top scorers and rebounders. The current team has four sophomores and four juniors, to go with two key seniors.
The Hoosiers have certainly been aided by super freshman Cody Zeller (15.4 points to lead the team), but younger players carry the rest of the team, forming one of the surprises this season in Tom Crean's squad.
The Bulls have one major senior contributor, but the rest are younger guys who have come through after earning major minutes last season. Not one player on the team averages more than 10 points per game. They also play in the Big East, a tougher conference than the ACC.
Now, by getting a bit more out of everyone next season, a similar turnaround to the last three should be expected, with Green leading the way and sophomores turning into studs.
A low year will be worth it. Those who saw Virginia Tech on the schedule and brushed if off, won't do the same next year. This team will learn its lessons. It will learn from its mistakes and train each day with the hope of getting better. This team will make the NCAA Tournament in 2013. Those close games, with the experience of so many this season, more will surely go our way.
Yes, the numbers have been bad. Next year, it should be another story.
Many fear that the end of the world comes late in 2012. Doubtful. But, thanks to experience gained this season, it could mark the beginning of one of the top eras in Hokie basketball.
...More... To continue reading this article you must be a member. Sign Up Now for a FREE Trial