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Keep An Eye On ND-UNC Game If You're A Hokie Fan

Day One of the Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament was just about all you could hope for. There was one decent game, one snoozefest, and one furious finish with a buzzer beater that just might help Virginia Tech Thursday.

Miami beat Pitt 79-73 in the first game, which was good, but not great. It was like two fat men sumo wrestling in a vat of chocolate pudding in an empty arena. One would make a move, the other would slowly answer. That kept it close, so you kept watching, but this was not a tape that was going to replayed at coaching clinics.

Finally, one of the fat men got tired, didn’t get up out of the mud to answer, and Miami ended up winning. The Hurricanes will be facing a Clemson team today where the pudding should be thicker and the opponent a bit leaner and active.

The second game reminded me of the Tom Clancy novel “The Sum of All Fears,” as Duke put together a decent game, made a boat load of three pointers, and the pundits rejoiced for a team that was now one game over .500 this season. I turned on ESPN this morning, and the chyron on the bottom of the screen asks “can Duke run the gauntlet?”

Dear ESPN: Of course they can’t. They’d have to win 5 games in 5 days. The most they’ve won all season is 4 in a row over 9 days. What are you, drunk?

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If Duke's A 20-1 Favorite, Then I'm A Unicorn

Today it begins.

Three games in the ACC Tournament are on tap, with Pitt playing Miami at 2, it's Duke versus Boston College at 4:30, and Notre Dame against Wake Forest at 7:30. All three games are on the ACC Network, meaning a heck of a lot of basketball fans who get their cable television from Comcast won't be watching.

None of these games are very compelling, so I decided to take a look at the betting odds to see which ones may be closer than I think. In the the course of doing this, it became apparent as to which team to pull against.

Starts with a "D", ends with an "e." Likes the color blue.

According to BetMGM, and posted in a story today in the Athletic, Virginia is the top favorite at 5-2. The Cavaliers should be, as they are the top seed and until someone tells me otherwise, have the last national championship trophy awarded sitting somewhere inside John Paul Jones Arena. Florida State is barely behind the Cavaliers at 11-4, and that’s understandable too, since they led the league down the stretch, and hammered Virginia in the last game between the two teams before laying an egg the size of Plymouth Rock against Notre Dame in the regular-season finale.

Virginia Tech and Louisville are both 7-1 favorites, and that seems fair too, considering how they finished the season.

But then you scroll down to Duke. They are 20-1 favorites.

Excuse me sir, you must be new here. You’re playing in the first-round play-in games on a Tuesday. You finished in 10th place in a 15-team league. Your odds should be 1000 to 1, as no one wins 5 games in 5 days in a tournament. Plus it’s not like Duke didn’t earn that appearance on day 1, either. Duke doesn’t even have a winning record, finishing the regular season at 11-11. The Blue Devils lost their last three games in a row to finish the regular slate, including a 91-73 thrashing at the hands of North Carolina.

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I'm Begging You Virginia Tech, Take My Money

A month ago, I wrote this story, saying how much I wanted a tin of popcorn with Mike Young's aging mug on it. 

Now I want more.

That request was for something I could send out to friends at Christmas time who were fellow Hokie fans. Everyone likes flavored popcorn, and there'd be no better way to say "Go Hokies" to friends in the middle of basketball season than a tub of it with the basketball coach's image on it.

But today's news warrants something extra. Perhaps a limited edition can to commemorate Mike Young winning the ACC Coach Of The Year honors.

The popcorn would still taste as sweet, but it would be something that would be more of a collector's item to remind you of what a memorable season this has been. It could be a limited edition run of only so many cans, and when those were sold, there would be no more.

Before you laugh, I have boxes of cereal from the 1990s commemorating Virginia Tech successes on the football field. You can buy old Sports Illustrated editions with Michael Vick on the cover for far more than what they cost back in the day. People like to have things that remind them of a happy time years ago. 

Exhibit A would be the tin of popcorn sitting on a shelf here in my office that says "Washington Nationals, 2019 National Champions." The popcorn was long gone only a few days after the tin arrived at my home

But it’s not going to ever be thrown away. Nor would a limited edition tin of Mike winning Coach Of The year. 

So to the good people in the marketing department at Virginia Tech, take my money. Give me a reason to overpay for popcorn. Force me to join the Hokie Club if you have to, but there's money on the table all across Hokie Nation.

Give me a reason to send it to you.

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Mike Young: A Very Deserved ACC Coach Of The Year Winner

Virginia Tech’s Mike Young has been named the Atlantic Coast Conference Coach of The Year, and for a minute there, I got a little nervous yesterday about whether he was going to gain the honor or not.

Pockets of people on social media were doing the old “let me dig up statistics and bend them to support my opinion” on social media, and there seemed to be some who thought Georgia Tech’s Josh Pastner was more deserving.

Some of the people saying this I like. Some of them I even admire. Some of them, I've always thought, are totally clueless.

To overlook Young as Coach of the year is to overlook just what the term “coach” means. You can look at it as an X’s and O’s game manager, and if you do, I suppose digging up stats to say your team had more wins on the road against teams ranked in the top 25 while the moon is in its waxing Crescent phase and Jay Bilas is involved in the ESPN broadcast might mean something.

But to me, a coach is more than a basketball strategist. Don’t get me wrong, it’s important. But he’s also a teacher, psychiatrist, talent evaluator, cheerleader, mentor, salesman, tough love kind of guy and second Dad. Young was all of those things, and he needed every skill he had to pull off the miracle that is Virginia Tech basketball finishing 3rd in the conference this season.

It was less than two years ago that Young took over a program that had been rebuilt by Buzz Williams, but after reaching the pinnacle of his 5 years in Blacksburg, he left the cupboard bare. Many coaches also find similar situations when taking over a program, but the Hokies weren’t even a couple of good leftover players and 5 guys from the Y. In fact, they didn’t even have 5 guys on the roster.

Buzz did a masterful job in his 5 years in Blacksburg, but he sold recruits on himself. Play for me, Buzz said, and you will be noticed by the NBA. Play for me, and I’ll teach you the game that will get you to the next level. That’s not a criticism of Buzz by any means, but it did mean when Buzz left, players left too. The reason they came to Blacksburg wasn’t UT Prosim and Hokie, Hokie Hi. It was Buzz Williams, who was now in Texas.

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Sometimes, You Need A Little Help From Your Friends

Earlier today I wrote a story analyzing the chances of various teams in the ACC Tournament.

I apparently didn't properly credit the assistance I received from a certain hound dog in drawing my conclusions, and Maggie the WonderBeagle is not happy about it.

So I'm posting this brief story to make sure she receives the proper credit that she believes she is due.

Maggie, for some reason, likes to sit in my lap when I'm writing, and when I'm staring too long at a screen, she will prop herself up to see what's so important that I'm looking at it for such a period of time. This morning, as you can see in the picture on the right, she sat up in my arms and seemed to be following along with me as I tried to see which teams could potentially be facing Virginia Tech when the Hokies finally play in the ACC Tournament Thursday night. 

Sometimes I will even ask her which team she prefers, and she usually responds with a look that says "did you ask me if I want a treat?" Other times I'll just ask her if she agrees with what I wrote, and she also will respond with a look that seems to say "did you ask me if I want a treat?"

She doesn't answer all questions that way. Sometimes she'll give a look indicating she wants to go outside and chase a squirrel. But it's usually food that drives her decision making tree.

So this week she will be watching basketball with me to study up for her potential upset picks when she fills out her NCAA Tournament brackets next Monday. And considering the degree of luck versus skill it takes to pick the NCAA Tournament winner, her guess is as good as anyone's.

Well, as long as you ask her if she wants a treat :)

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As No.3 Seed, Hokies Will Now Participate In The Late Show

As I’ve always known, the best way to jinx something you’d like to see happen is to write about it.

So yesterday, when I wrote this about not wanting to play in the 9 PM game Thursday or be in the same bracket as Florida State, I just about guaranteed those two things would happen. And indeed, the two things that needed to happen to force that scenario occurred within hours of me saying it.

The first was Notre Dame’s shocking 83-73 upset of the Seminoles, throwing them into the group of teams at the top of the standings with four losses (the other three at the time being Virginia, Louisville and Virginia Tech), then Virginia excused the Cardinals from the group by handing them their fifth league loss of the season.

When the smoke cleared, Virginia was in first by virtue of having played two more games than Florida State, so their .765 winning percentage made them the top seed, while the Seminoles .733 percentage dropped them to second. The Hokies moved up to the No. 3 seed, which ties for the highest seed the Hokies have ever claimed in the ACC Tournament (Seth Greenberg did it in the 2006-2007 season), while Georgia Tech filled Louisville’s vacancy to take the 4th seed.

Louisville, by losing, got drop-kicked all the way down to the 7th seed. Virginia Tech WILL now be in the 9 PM (or later) game Thursday night and they WILL be in the same bracket as Florida State.

But it’s not all bad.

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I'm Pulling For The 2:30 Game And Avoiding Ga. Tech

Today is not the regular-season finale kind of day I thought it would be for Virginia Tech’s basketball team.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s been an incredible and surprising season. Remember that feeling after upsetting No. 3 Villanova right after Thanksgiving? And wondering who this Keve Aluma guy was? Or beating Duke AND Virginia at Cassell? Or being ranked every week of the regular season like a big dog with the exception of one week, where pollsters punished the Hokies for losing to lowly Penn State?

I expected few to none of those things to happen in November, so no matter how the season finishes, it’s already been a great one. But with such flashes of potential during the season, today was suppose to be the day we all were locked in our chairs, watching every other ACC game to determine tournament possibilities, and hopefully ending the regular season on a high note.

Instead, it’s kind of lonely. The regular season ended with whimper, not a bang. Finishing in the top 4 and getting a double bye into the ACC Tournament should have been cause for celebration. Now it’s cause for concern.

We all know the story about how sitting on the sidelines affects a team, because we heard it often enough back on Feb. 23, when the Hokies played their first game after 3 postponements and 17 days of inactivity. The Hokies not only know the story, they lived it, showing the same rust everyone else did in losing 69-53 to Georgia Tech.

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When Cheap, Quick and Filling Is What You Crave...

I will admit that the first time I heard about this dish, I openly mocked it.

I saw it in a commercial from Kentucky Fried Chicken, and they called it a “Famous Bowl.” Where I grew up, I told my wife, that was called “leftovers” and there was nothing famous about them. You just dumped everything left over from dinner the previous night, topped it with cheese and said “here.”

But then one Saturday afternoon when my wife and daughter were out shopping, they brought one home, and offered it to me with the qualifier “if you don’t like this we’ll go get you something else.”

Since I was at the time hungry, I ate it. It’s hard to admit, but it wasn’t bad. It wasn’t steak and lobster, but it was good old fashioned comfort food with a touch of salty, sweet, crunchy and creamy.

So the other night, I found myself looking at a few items on sale at the grocery store and realized you could duplicate the dish at home with arguably better ingredients, yet cook everything in under 10 minutes.

It started with a buy one, get one special on Simply Potatoes, which are pre-made mashed potatoes. I got the garlic mashed potatoes flavor, then enhanced them. You’re suppose to cook them in the microwave for 3 minutes, remove the top, then cook 3 more minutes. I do just that, but at halftime, I add sour cream, a little garlic powder and butter. That makes them smoother, creamier, more garlicky and much better tasting than the KFC ones which bear a strikingly similar taste to a glue stick you’d accidentally stuck in your mouth back in second grade.

Right next to the potatoes at the store were a refrigerated chicken nugget product Perdue makes that were also BOGO. I've had them before, and properly cooked in an air fryer, are as good or better than what you can get at fast food restaurants. I realized I could now buy the chicken and potato parts for around $4 and their cooking times are similar. The potatoes cook in about 8 minutes (3 minutes on high, 2 minutes to rest, 3 more minutes on high). The chicken nuggets also take 8 minutes in the air fryer at 390 degrees. They're breaded and crisp just like the KFC chicken strips, only I cut them in half to give it more of a bite size consistency to blend in with the other ingredients.

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There Are Signs Out There Of Things Returning To Normal

Once upon a time, as a retired guy, I looked forward to that one day a week when I ran errands and got things done.

I called them “Thursdays.”

When you’re retired, you never really rush to do anything unless it involves the last serving of a decadent dessert on the counter in the kitchen, so I’d ease into the day with a few cups of coffee, a few bits of conversation with my wife, and a few snuzzles from Maggie the WonderBeagle.

The errands came first, and like the days of old, yesterday I took my wife to her appointed place to get the second of the COVID vaccinations. I always do this for all medical situations with her because it not only makes it easier when someone drops you off at the door, I’ve found as we grow older, there’s this slight bit of nervousness that accompanies all visits to a doctor. It’s like an inner voice that asks “am I OK? Am I having a side effect?”

Having a big, burly bodyguard in the car available to listen to all this and respond with feedback as to what is real and what is imagined, can be comforting. Plus, if there is a real issue, my vehicle knows the way to quickly get to places that can provide further assistance.

Expecting it to take a long time, I was pleasantly surprised with how quickly the vaccination process went. I couldn’t even get through the first round of senseless arguments on Twitter before I saw her returning to the car, so after taking her home, I decided to go on to the next item on my list: getting a haircut for the first time since before we were singing “Hark The Herald, Angels Sing.”

I used to always go on Thursdays because for some reason, nobody was there around lunch time of that day of the week. Now you need to set up an appointment and make it a much more formal event than just driving by and sticking your head in the door. But when I called, the voice on the other end said “when do you want to come?” and when I said “now,” he said “I’ll see you in a few minutes.”

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NC State Game Cancelled, Hokie Regular Season Is Over

Looks like the Virginia Tech men’s basketball regular season is now over.

The Atlantic Coast Conference announced that not only is tonight’s previously scheduled game with Louisville cancelled, but the season finale on Saturday against N.C. State has also been cancelled. On its website, the ACC said “The canceled game follows quarantining and a contact tracing review within the Virginia Tech men’s basketball program. The team is adhering to the outlined protocols within the ACC Medical Advisory Group report.”

You now have to wonder if the COVID issue is to the point that the team might not be able to clear contact tracing protocols in time and thus not be able to play in the ACC Tournament. The good news/bad news scenario for the Hokies is by not playing the final two regular-season games, they will finish with only four league losses, which puts them in the top 4 of the standings, and clinches a double bye in the ACC Tournament.

That could provide the time for Virginia Tech to clear up its COVID issues, but would also mean the team would once again go almost two weeks without playing a game. Such a long layoff occurred just ten days ago, and the team looked rusty from that layoff in a 69-53 loss to surging Georgia Tech.  

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Virginia Tech's Game With Louisville Wednesday Cancelled

Well, it looks like Virginia Tech’s streak with Louisville won’t end tomorrow night.

That’s because the game won’t be played. According to the Atlantic Coast Conference, the Louisville at Virginia Tech men’s basketball game scheduled for Wednesday, March 3 has been canceled.
 
The canceled game follows a contact tracing review within the Virginia Tech men’s basketball program, the ACC Site said. The team is adhering to the outlined protocols within the ACC Medical Advisory Group report.
 
So now, the Hokies have only one game left in the regular season, which is scheduled to be played at 2 PM Saturday in Raleigh against North Carolina State.

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