Wakes loss to Virginia Tech leaves NCAA fate in hands of committee

Though Wednesdays ACC tournament 99-90 probably didnt knock the Deacons out of the NCAA field, it did leave more to the discretion of the selection committee than coach Danny Manning and his players would have liked

Anthony Gruppuso—USA Today Sports
Mar 8

BROOKLYN — Now the waiting begins for the Wake Forest basketball team.The Deacons could have ended any discussion about their NCAA tournament chances by beating Virginia Tech in the second round of the ACC tournament on Wednesday. And for the better part of 24 minutes, it looked as if they would.But any hopes of a 20th win and a stress-free Selection Sunday ended with a second half defensive lapse that saw coach Danny Manning’s team surrender 62 points to the Hokies.Though the resulting 99-90 loss at Barclays Center probably didn’t knock Wake out of the NCAA field, which it hasn’t made since 2010, it did leave a lot more to the discretion of the selection committee than Manning and his players would have liked.”I’ve been very fortunate and blessed to be around this game for a very long time. Sometimes it’s not very logical,” Manning said afterward. “So we’re going to sit back and wait. That’s our reality right now.”It’s a reality that could have been very different and considerably less nerve wracking had the Deacons (19-13) not faltered down the stretch.They led by as many as eight in the first half and were still ahead as late as the 8:40 mark of the second after Bryant Crawford hit a pair of free throws to make it 67-66. Then the team fell back into an old, bad habit it appeared to have kicked by finishing strong in consecutive wins against Pittsburgh, Louisville and these same Hokies to close out the regular season.Wake allowed Tech to score on its final 11 possessions and 18 of its last 20 to let the game slip away.”We definitely still have some stuff to work on,” said star sophomore John Collins, who posted another double-double with 15 points and 10 blocks in 33 minutes, but was often frustrated by the constant double teaming of the Hokies’ defenders.”We have made progress, but we have to keep that progress in front of us and keep our heads forward. Knowing that we’ve come this far we don’t to bring back old habits.”The result was especially disappointing since for a while, it appeared as though the Deacons might have luck on their side.It happened in the final 1.6 seconds of the first after Tech coach Buzz Williams called time out to try and work a miracle play for a momentum-changing basket.Instead it was Wake that got the points.Greg McClinton, who was put into the game only to keep Collins from picking up a cheap foul, caught an errant length-of-the-court pass from the Hokies’ Zach LeDay and in one motion, heaved the ball from the opposite foul line into the basket as the buzzer sounded.”It was a great shot,” teammate Crawford said. “He was a quarterback in high school and he definitely has a good arm. Greg’s three gave us some energy, but we didn’t use it like we should have.”After making only three of its 11 first-half 3-point attempts, Tech (22-9) connected on seven of its 13 over the final 20 minutes. That, a 27-18 difference at the free throw line and a spectacular 31-point, 15-rebound, three-steal, two-assist performance by LeDay proved to be the difference.Though the loss hurt, it didn’t necessarily do much damage to the Deacons’ postseason resume, either — especially after they avoided what could have been a disaster by beating Boston College 92-78 in the opening round on Tuesday.Their RPI ranking, which is still used by the selection committee, dropped only two notches from 34 to 36. Their KenPom ranking is even higher at 30.Combined with those 19 overall wins and a 9-9 mark in the ACC, the website FiveThirtyEight.com gives Wake a 99.9-percent chance of making the 68-team field, based on the selection committee’s past performance.At this point, all Mitchell Wilbekin and his teammates can do is hope that assessment is accurate.”That’s what I’m hoping for,” he said. “Obviously we would like to have won this game to seal the deal. But I think our resume speaks for itself.”All the Deacons can do now is hope for the best. And wait.”I’m going to try not to think about it as much as possible until Sunday,” Collins said. “Then we’ll let the cards fall where they may. We know we’re going to be playing in a postseason tournament. We just hope it’s the NCAA tournament.”