For the third consecutive ACC tournament, Seth Greenberg pondered how an exasperating defeat might affect his team's postseason ambitions.
And for the third straight time, Greenberg did so with the raw honesty and anxiety that in just six years have made him among the conference's most compelling characters — in the mold of Bones McKinney and Lefty Driesell.
Greenberg's Virginia Tech Hokies lost to Miami 70-65 in Friday's ACC tournament quarterfinals. They missed 12 of their final 14 shots and saw their best player go 0-for-8 from beyond the 3-point arc.
Miami, you'll recall, was the conference's worst team during the regular season with a 4-12 league mark. Moreover, the Hurricanes were without their leading scorer and rebounder, Dwayne Collins, who's nursing a leg injury.
But before indicting Tech for losing to a last-place opponent, consider that Miami abused Wake Forest 83-62 in Thursday's opening round, and that freshman guard Durand Scott is a future star in this league.
Sure, the Hokies could have better defended Scott's dribble penetration. And yes, they boxed out poorly inside against 6-foot-10, 295-pound freshman wide-body Reggie Johnson.
But as Greenberg said, "This ballgame doesn't diminish what this team's accomplished this past year. They have a great character and great toughness."
He can only hope the NCAA tournament selection committee concurs, and that when the bracket is unveiled Sunday evening, the Hokies are included.
Barring bizarre champions in other conference tournaments, Tech (23-8) certainly is deserving after tying for third in the ACC regular season. That won't keep Greenberg from rubbing divots into his bald dome for the next two days.
"I don't know," he said quietly of the Hokies' NCAA prospects. "We'll just sit and wait."
After a two-point ACC tournament loss to North Carolina in 2008, Greenberg remarked that anyone who didn't consider Tech NCAA-worthy was "certifiably insane." The selection panel disagreed and bypassed the Hokies.
After falling to the Tar Heels by three in last year's conference tournament, Greenberg seemed resigned to another NCAA snub and instead lamented some foul calls that went Carolina's way. Sure enough, Tech was relegated to the NIT.
On paper, these Hokies are better credentialed than in 2008 or '09. On the court, they are more balanced on offense and aggressive on defense.
"We came here to win the tournament," sixth man JT Thompson said, "and we're going home early."
After concluding a 10-6 ACC season with a victory at Georgia Tech last Saturday, such aims were reasonable. But Malcolm Delaney, Tech's unanimous, first-team All-ACC guard, missed all eight of his 3-point attempts Friday, and after a 5-for-9 start, Dorenzo Hudson missed his last seven shots.
"I got so many open looks," Delaney said. "Easy looks. … We had the game under wraps. We just couldn't finish it."
With the Hokies trailing 66-65 in the final minute, Delaney twice rebounded his own misses before Malcolm Grant stripped him of possession near the goal. Delaney reacted as if blindsided by Ray Lewis, while Greenberg pounded the scorer's table and stomped his foot.
Referee Bryan Kersey showed admirable restraint in not assessing Greenberg a technical foul that would have sealed Tech's demise. Instead, Grant made both free throws, Tech's Terrell Bell missed a rushed 3-pointer — he, too, thought he was fouled — and Scott made two free throws to advance Miami to this afternoon's semifinal against top-seeded Duke.
"He hit my hand," Bell said of Miami's Johnson. "I looked at the ref, and he didn't make a call. Malcolm (Delaney) just told me they weren't going to call it and there was nothing I could do."
Exactly. Play it like pick-up.
And how will Bell spend the next two days?
"Getting ready for the NCAA tournament," he said.
"Hopefully we're in. I'm not nervous. Not at all."
The same can't be said for his coach. Asked how he'd handle the NCAA tension with his players, Greenberg joked about hiding their cell phones and television remotes, and locking them in a padded room.
A friendly media heckler suggested that it's Greenberg who needs such confinement.
"You're not the first one to say that," he said, breaking into a wry grin.
David Teel can be reached at 247-4636 or by e-mail at email@example.com. For more from Teel, read his blog at dailypress.com/teeltime.
Black Friday in GreensboroBlack Friday in Greensboro On his blog at dailypress.com/teeltime, David Teel writes that poor shooting from their stars derailed the Cavaliers and Hokies.