An inability to beat quality non-conference opponents during the regular season.
Tech has fared admirably well against ACC competition since joining the league in 2004, especially given the program’s state when Greenberg arrived in the spring of 2003. But setbacks to teams such as Kansas State, Purdue, Xavier, Gonzaga and Mississippi State have relegated the Hokies to four consecutive NIT appearances, with a fifth perhaps in the offing.
BYU was 56th on the NCAA’s Rating Percentage Index released Monday. The rankings updated daily at CollegeRPI.com have the Cougars at No. 54, just shy of the top-50 status the NCAA tournament selection committee so values.
In Greenberg’s first eight regular seasons, Tech was 2-11 against non-conference opponents that were among the top 50 on Selection Sunday. Both those victories, over Penn State in 2011 and Old Dominion in 2007, were at Cassell Coliseum.
This season, the Hokies are 0-3 against non-league teams among the top 50, and if BYU nudges higher, the mark will be 0-4. Since Wednesday was Tech’s final non-conference game, there’s no chance to improve that record.
When you’re oh-so-close to making the NCAA field, as the Hokies perpetually seem to have been, those defeats are daggers.
Greenberg’s annual Selection Sunday angst may end this March. Tech (12-8, 1-4 ACC) isn’t in the NCAA conversation presently.
The Hokies’ non-conference trials are especially confounding when compared to their ACC resume.
Yet during that span, Clemson has made four NCAA tournaments, Wake Forest and Georgia Tech three each, and N.C. State two.
Yes, Virginia Tech has been far more stable than, say, Wake Forest, which has interspersed 13-3 and 11-5 ACC finishes with 3-13 and 1-15. But consider Clemson.
In earning NCAA bids each of the last four seasons, the Tigers went 10-6, 9-7, 9-7, and 9-7 in the ACC. The Hokies went 9-7, 7-9, 10-6, 9-7 with no NCAA bids.
The difference was, in large measure, top-50 non-conference victories. Clemson had five in those four seasons, the Hokies one.
Here’s how Tech has fared against top-50 (RPIs cited are end-of-regular-season) outside competition under Greenberg:
2003-04: No games.
2004-05: Lost to No. 29 Mississippi State 71-65 in New Orleans.
2005-06: Lost at No. 5 Ohio State 69-56.
2006-07: Defeated No. 40 Old Dominion 72-55 at home; lost to No. 7 Southern Illinois 69-64 in Orlando, Fla. The Hokies made the NCAA tournament, defeated No. 29 Illinois in the first round and lost to Southern Illinois again in the second round.
2007-08: Lost to No. 17 Butler 84-78 in overtime and No. 30 Gonzaga 82-64, both in the Great Alaska Shootout.
2008-09: Lost to No. 17 Xavier 63-62 in overtime at the Puerto Rico Tip-Off and at home to No. 45 Wisconsin 74-72.
2009-10: Lost to No. 8 Temple 61-50 at The Palestra in Philadelphia.
2010-11: Defeated No. 39 Penn State 75-69 at home; lost to No. 12 Purdue 58-55 in overtime at home, at No. 23 Kansas State 73-57 and to No. 25 Nevada-Las Vegas 71-59 in Anaheim, Calif.
It remains to be seen whether Minnesota remains among the top 50 or BYU cracks that rank. Regardless, when Erick Green and Robert Brown missed final-possession shots Wednesday, it continued a frustrating trend.
“When you're having a special season, all those two-point games go your way,” Greenberg told reporters afterward. “We haven't been as fortunate as we would like. It's the difference between a good season and a great season.”
The difference between the NCAA and NIT.
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