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March 13, 2013Sign-up for HokieHaven.com Wireless Text Alerts sent right to your cell phone!
In some ways, Virginia Tech and Liberty's men's basketball teams were similar this season. But in most ways, they aren't.
The Flames began the season with ten losses in its first 11 games, while the Hokies got off to a 7-0 start. But entering their conference tournaments, they both entered with dismal, losing records.
That Liberty was able to win three games in the Big South Tournament to punch a ticket to the NCAA Tournament isn't lost on senior Erick Green. Virginia Tech, the No. 12 seed in the ACC Tournament, will attempt to also get on a roll, beginning at 2 pm tomorrow in Greensboro in the first round.
"It just shows that when you get to tournament time, it's a fresh start and anybody can get beat," Green said. "When Liberty won it, they lost 20 games this year and that's a heck of an accomplishment for them to just go in there and let everything go and just play ball. It's just coming to play hard and everything will work out. That's the same thing we've gotta try to speak to the guys about, is it's a fresh start. We've got nothing to lose. Let's go in there, play our hearts out and leave it all on the floor and try to win."
It helps the Hokies that they almost pulled off an upset at NC State last month. Despite the Wolfpack hitting 31 of 43 free throws to Virginia Tech's 5-7 free throw shooting, NC State needed overtime to pull out a 90-86 win.
Of course, between that loss and the losses since, coach James Johnson sees a number of things that need correcting for the Hokies.
"We've gotta get some more guys attacking the basket, get the ball inside to our post guys," he said. "I thought we did a good job on the offensive glass, but we didn't get possession of the ball, take it up strong and shot fake and get to the free throw line. We didn't have enough guards attacking the basket. Green I thought attacked a little bit, but we need more guys attacking the basket and making plays."
But the fact that Virginia Tech was able to hang with the Wolfpack certainly resonates with coach Mark Gottfried. Since that matchup Feb, 16, Gottfried believes his team has made improvements, especially on defense.
"I watched the tape of that game this morning and I do think in the last seven or eight games we've defended a lot better," he said. "Naturally, I think we are hopefully playing better defensively as a group. We'll make some adjustments, do things a little differently than we did the first time, but at the end of the day, you'd better figure out a way to contain Erick Green, which not many teams in America have done."
For the Hokies, it's an almost certainty that Green will get his points. The nation's leading scorer with 25.4 points per game, he was named the ACC player of the year yesterday.
Virginia Tech will need more from sophomore guard Robert Brown, who after appearing to finally free himself of a season-long slump, had a three points in a loss at Duke and loss at Wake Forest to finish the season. Brown was substituted for sophomore guard Marquis Rankin for much of the second half in the latter game and played just nine minutes.
"I'm not concerned with him being in a slump, but definitely would like to see him play a little better, stay aggressive as he was in that Clemson game," Johnson said of Brown. "I don't think it's a slump, but we definitely need him to play better and do the things he's capable of doing. In the Wake Forest game, he may have played better, I just thought Marquis was playing well at that time and attacking the basket and I went with Marquis."
Perhaps even Brown will get a jolt from knowing the Hokies nearly won at NC State, the pre-season favorite to win the ACC. Green is hoping all his teammates keep that in mind.
"We know NC State is a good team, they've got some good players, but we've gotta come ready to play," Green said. "It's a fresh start. I'm just trying to get these guys going and it's a new beginning and just go in there with the mindset of anything can happen. There's been so many upsets in the ACC Tournament over the years. If we can just go in there with a clear mind, a fresh start and just play ball, anything can happen. We've just got to come together, stick together as a team, and hopefully things will work out."
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