Va. Tech's upsets put in perspective

Wins over Duke, N. Carolina vault Hokies into Top 25

ACC notebook

January 17, 2007|By Heather A. Dinich | Heather A. Dinich,Sun Reporter

In the same breath, Virginia Tech coach Seth Greenberg managed to downplay his team's shocking wins last week against Duke and North Carolina, but also put them into their proper historical context.

"Obviously it was a good week," Greenberg said nonchalantly of knocking off two of the league's perennial powers in a span of eight days, including the then-No. 1 Tar Heels for the first time since 1966. "That's probably an understatement, in terms of Virginia Tech basketball."

The No. 23 Hokies broke into the Associated Press poll this week for the first time since the final rankings of the 1995-96 season - the last time Virginia Tech made it to the NCAA tournament.

Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said the difference in this season's Virginia Tech team lies in its veteran guards, seniors Zabian Dowdell (17 ppg) and Jamon Gordon (12.4 ppg).

"It's the most experienced team in our league with two guards who are probably as experienced as any guards in the country," said Krzyzewski, whose program has been beaten just twice by the Hokies since the 1967-68 season.

"The freedom Seth gives his guards to run his attack benefits everyone. They're not a team that turns the ball over very much because both guards can have extensive dribbles in a comfortable manner and create shots at a moment's notice for themselves or others."

Greenberg, whose Hokies will face struggling Florida State at 7 tonight in Tallahassee, Fla., said returning to the NCAA tournament carries far more weight than any rankings along the way.

"Unfortunately in the culture of college basketball today, there's one thing that means something, and that's the field of 65," he said. " ... It's not right. Guys have great seasons and don't make the NCAA tournament, but the culture we live in today, everything points toward March and being in that field of 65."

Greenberg said he is trying to keep his team grounded and focused on what lies ahead.

"The message is very simple: What we were able to do the last two weekends is terrific, but it has nothing to do with the next seven weekends," Greenberg said. " ... There are no rocking chair games in this league. ... I think our guys understand the more you win, the more exciting options come available, but to win you have to compete hard."

Miami coping

It has come to this: Miami coach Frank Haith can barely get through practices without the help of his four walk-ons, including one who broke into the starting lineup against Maryland.

Three players are out with injuries, most likely for the rest of the season, and each is in the frontcourt. Senior center and captain Anthony King had wrist surgery Monday; sophomore forward Adrian Thomas has a lower abdominal strain; and sophomore backup center Jimmy Graham broke his hand against the Terps and will miss the rest of the regular season.

"It's been a tough year, a lot of adversity in terms of [injuries], but losing three guys to your front line - that's very difficult," Haith said. "Just not having those guys makes it very difficult for us to defend."

Walk-on Keaton Copeland, a 6-foot-5 forward, is now a starter along with freshman center Dwayne Collins. The Hurricanes have only 12 players on scholarship. Even sophomore guard Jack McClinton, the team's leading scorer, has had nagging back and knee injuries.

Earlier this week, Haith said McClinton was about 80 percent healthy, and senior guard Anthony Harris strained his calf against Duke.

Tar Heels loaded

North Carolina point guard Quentin Thomas is the only junior on the Tar Heels' roster with any playing experience, but is averaging just 6.1 minutes - half of the playing time he received last season - because of talented underclassmen in front of him.

"He's got to do everything better and continue to improve but there's also some competition there at other players," coach Roy Williams said. "I had a question the other day about [whether] I see him moving up to the 20- or 30-minute range. If that's the case, you have to sit down Ty [Lawson] ... and you have to sit down Bobby [Frasor].

Frasor is questionable tonight against Clemson anyway because of a foot injury he suffered in a loss to Virginia Tech. An X-ray showed it was not broken.

heather.dinich@baltsun.com

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