Hokies hope 10-6 in ACC is good enough

ATLANTA -- Virginia Tech coach Seth Greenberg doesn't care that the Hokies played most of the ACC's better opponents only once this season.

And he doesn't care that the Hokies' RPI rating is worse than each of the six other ACC teams in contention to play in the NCAA tournament, either.

The only thing that matters to Greenberg is that Virginia Tech finished 10-6 in ACC play this season after beating Georgia Tech 88-82 at Alexander Memorial Coliseum on Saturday.

"To win 10 games in the ACC is really hard," Greenberg said Saturday, shortly after the Hokies improved to 23-7 overall and earned a first-round bye in next week's ACC tournament in Greensboro, N.C. "I don't care what schedule you played. We played the schedule we were given. It's tough to win 10 games."

Ask Georgia Tech coach Paul Hewitt how hard it is to win 10 games in the ACC.

Even during a season in which defending national champion North Carolina limped through one of its worst seasons in history, his team only won seven ACC games during the regular season.

The Yellow Jackets, despite having potential NBA lottery picks Derrick Favors and Gani Lawal playing in their front court, find themselves firmly on the NCAA tournament bubble heading into next week's ACC tournament. And by finishing 7-9 against ACC opponents, Georgia Tech just gave the NCAA selection committee an excuse to leave it out of the NCAA field.

"I still feel we have a very good shot," Hewitt said, after his team lost for the fifth time in its past seven games. "We have to go to Greensboro and get a couple of wins and see where it falls from there. Thankfully we have a chance to improve it. They're not handing out bids tomorrow, and that's how we have to look at it."

If Selection Sunday were tomorrow, there's a good chance the Yellow Jackets would be excluded. They won only one ACC road game in eight chances, beating North Carolina 73-71 on Zach Peacock's go-ahead shot with 25.7 seconds left after nearly blowing a 20-point lead.

The Yellow Jackets lost at Virginia and Miami, two of the ACC's worst teams. Against NC State, the league's other cellar dwellar, they nearly blew a 16-point lead in the final five minutes before winning by a 73-71 score at home.

Since beating Clemson and Wake Forest in consecutive home games in late January, the Yellow Jackets haven't beaten anybody of consequence. They've beaten four opponents since Jan. 29 and each of them at home: Division II Kennesaw State, NC State, North Carolina and Boston College.

That's hardly the resume of an NCAA-worthy team.

"We're just focusing on getting us back together mentally and physically," Hewitt said.

Hewitt might want to focus on his team's lack of defense. In their past two games, the Yellow Jackets surrendered 91 points in an 11-point loss at Clemson on Tuesday night, and then 88 points to a Hokies that played without junior guard Dorenzo Hudson, their second-leading scorer.

Virginia Tech came into the game ranked last in the ACC in 3-point shooting, but went 9-for-17 beyond the 3-point arch against the Yellow Jackets.

"We did not do a great job of defending, but at the same time give Virginia Tech credit," Hewitt said. "They made some big shots."

Junior guard Malcolm Delaney made many of them, matching his season-high with 32 points. Tech's defense allowed the Hokies to spread the floor whenever they wanted to, and Delaney worked his magic from there.

"Delaney does a good job of penetrating," Hewitt said. "He did a good job of getting into the paint. He does a great job of drawing fouls. You've got to put good pressure on him and deny him when he gives it up."

Now the pressure is on the Yellow Jackets as they head to Greensboro.

The Hokies are probably in pretty good shape, but Greenberg isn't taking any chances.

"I said before the season we'll win as many games as we can and see what happens," Greenberg said. "We've had the same mindset all season, even when we lost three games in a row. That's been our focus all season -- control what we can control."