Where do you start with Virginia Tech? The kindest thing you can say, really, is that it's nice to leave Blacksburg without a major injury or incident. During their time in the ACC, Tech has managed at times to play brilliantly. They also are building a legacy of punk behavior, whether it's Coleman Collins trying to humiliate Duke players when he thought Tech won in Durham, before Sean Dockery thoroughly shocked him, or Jeff Allen bumping into an official, or Deron Washington kicking Lee Melchionni in the head or pushing and tripping or swinging at Kyle Singler's back or walking into Duke's huddle or his various other antics in Thursday's game.
Washington essentially sabotaged his team, and he's the second player in a week to do it.
It got so noticeable that Len Elmore and Mike Patrick spent the last part of the game explaining why the officials were sick of him and predicting - correctly - that they were looking for an excuse to boot him off the court.
What was ludicrous, though, was that Elmore kept describing his punk behavior, then saying that he's a great kid. He knows more than we do, but it's hard to separate the good kid from the behavior he displays in public.
What's really too bad is that Greenberg is building a competitive program, and he's doing it against the odds. Guys like Allen, Washington, and Collins are talented, but they're jerks and they embarrass their coach on a regular basis. He's willing to tolerate it, and it amounts to a shortcut. At some point, indulging this sort of thing is going to seriously derail his program, and it definitely took something away from this game, which was too bad, because Duke and Virginia Tech have been putting on some good shows, and this game had some good elements once you got past the garbage behavior.
Virginia Tech had some sensational plays from Washington, A.D. Vassallo, and J.T. Thompson. It's a young team, but it's quick and athletic, and they're really not that far away from being consistently competitive in the conference. You can kind of lump them with Wake Forest as a team with a great young core which should only get better.
In Thursday's game, though, Duke continued their mastery of turnovers, taking it away from Tech 22 times, with nine of those coming from freshmen guards. Twenty-one turnovers and 41% from the floor will usually make for a miserable night. Toss in less than 60% free throw shooting, and it's hard to see how you can win any game.
Duke's shooting percentages weren't that much better - 47.5% and 60% - but they had an enormous advantage in turnovers, and outscored Tech from the bonusphere by 24-6 (Tech only managed .154%).
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Yet, despite building a 10-point first-half lead, Duke saw Tech fight their way back into the game, cutting the lead back to one just before halftime, and just before Taylor King nailed a three.
Vassallo opened the second half with a three, and that was about when Kyle Singler decided he'd had enough.
Singler answered with a three. Then he hit another basket, then a dunk, and there were a few rebounds in that stretch, too. By the time he was finished, Duke had an eight point lead back. It was a nice display of passion and intensity.
After Singler's follow of Paulus's missed three, there was a call on Washington on the Tech end of the court at the 17:17 mark which admittedly seemed pretty minor. The interesting thing was Greenberg's reaction. For much of the game, at least when the camera caught him, he seemed preoccupied, passive, almost depressed. We've never seen him like that.
That reaction was classic Greenberg: he shot up from his seat, stalked to the end of coaches box, his chin stuck out and almost quivering with rage. That's the Greenberg the ACC has come to know! The rage, the conviction, that, no matter how well things are going, that he's only a few seconds away from being screwed by someone.
The ACC has some interesting emotional characters. Take Gary Williams, who, when Maryland was melting down in the Final Four, smacked the scorer's table and screamed "how bad do you want Duke to win this game!" Sidney Lowe jumps up and down on the sidelines like no one else. Roy Williams can get pretty heated, but never out of control, although he periodically expresses himself in rather curious ways, with suggestions of suicide and a desire (not acted on) to sadistically force his players to practice until they vomit. Dave Leitao expresses sentiments that leave people on press row simply aghast. But there's no one in the ACC who rages quite like Greenberg with the arguable exception of Gary Williams, and let's face it, when you turn and just rant to anyone, people stop taking you seriously. We don't call him Gary Milhouse Nixon for nothing.
He's got nothing on Greenberg. On the plus side, when you're on his team, he's clearly willing to fight hard as hell for you, which is a good thing. The not-so-good thing are the guys he's putting on his side and having to defend. Our guess is that there's going to come a time when his willingness to indulge his players is going to dearly cost Virginia Tech.