GREENSBORO -- When the Hokies tip off at 2 p.m. Thursday, they will do so with the knowledge that their next loss will be their last.
Unlike years of the recent past, when the Hokies have missed the tournament after their proverbial “bubble” popped beneath them, at 13-18 the only way they will continue to play basketball is by winning.
Their first challenge comes in the opening round of the ACC tournament against a N.C. State team that beat the Hokies this year on February 16th. The loss, however, will not be enough to make the Hokies lose confidence – the Wolfpack victory was by a mere four points in overtime.
ODDS ARE IN THE HOKIES’ FAVOR
The 12-seeded Hokies are aware their chances of making a deep run into the tournament aren’t great, but history proves they stand a legitimate chance in the first round. Since 2006 the 12-seed has won their first round matchup four times – the most recent being in 2010 when Miami defeated Wake Forest and then the Hokies to advance to the tournament’s semi-final round.
WHO TO WATCH?
With the nations scoring leader and ACC’s Player of the Year playing for the Hokies, they know they always have a shot. Erick Green (25.4 ppg) has the ability to take over a game when he chooses – this epitomized by his 35 points against Wake Forest last Sunday – but as has been the case throughout the season, the Hokies fates will depend largely on his supporting cast.
One of the biggest contributors from this supporting cast could be freshman Marshall Wood. Wood, who missed seven games this past season with a broken foot, had his biggest game of the year last time out against N.C. State; he scored 14 points and added 16 rebounds in that contest. However, he has not scored in the past four games despite playing double-digit minutes in three of them.
Another player who could contribute in a big way is sophomore forward Jarrell Eddie. Eddie, who was named to the 2012-13 All-ACC Academic team – along with teammate Christian Beyer – scored 17 against the Wolfpack in February and went 5-7 from three-point range. Eddie is coming of back-to-back double-digit performances against Duke and Wake Forest – despite averageing only 8.2 points on the year – and hopes to carry that momentum with him into the tournament.
For the Hokies to defeat N.C. State and secure a date in the tournament’s second round with in state rival Virginia on Friday, Green must receive support.