There's a responsible way to talk about the Virginia Tech men's basketball team's 69-68 loss to the Miami Hurricanes on Saturday afternoon.
It would be responsible to talk about the Hokies controlling 65 percent of the game, only to let a single bad stretch let them down. Tech was up 12 with two minutes left in the first half, and had a chance to lead by double digits at intermission. Instead, Justin Robinson turned it over, and Hurricane point guard Chris Lykes trimmed the lead to seven in the closing seconds.
Robinson and company brought that flat, bone-headed effort into the second half, surrendering massive Miami runs. By the under 12 timeout, the Canes were up five and eventually stretched it to nine. DJ Vasiljevic—part A Night at the Roxbury stand in, part doughy Matthew Dellavedova— took advantage of mental lapses to bomb away from behind the arc. The Aussie hit four three pointers, all seeming to come in crucial moments.
It would be responsible to talk about the turnovers. For the first time since the Florida State loss, giveaways were both numerous and backbreaking. Robinson (who had a great game otherwise, with 18 points and six assists) committed six of Tech's 15 turnovers, which lead to 18 easy points for Miami. It's tough enough to win March, but it's nearly impossible to do so after giving away that many buckets.
It would be responsible to mention the no-showing of Nickeil Alexander-Walker, who hit just one of his six shots and was pulled for Tyrie Jackson down the stretch. And to talk about the team missing a few easy looks inside over the final five minutes. And to say that they shot just 68 percent (13-19) from the free throw line.
It's a responsible media outlet's job to identify all of the reasons why Virginia Tech dropped their final game of the regular season, a winnable affair that could have afforded them a double bye in the ACC Tournament. And head coach Buzz Williams will undoubtedly be kicking himself for letting his guys cough up such a meaningful result.
But if it's responsible to cover all of the reasons for the Hokies loss, then let's talk about the final one.
His name is Jamie Luckie.
With a handful of seconds remaining in regulation and the score tied, Lykes tried to blow by Robinson. The diminutive freshman had a step, fell to the ground, and drew a non-shooting foul with three seconds to go. I'll let you be the judge.
I have a ton of problems with this call. To blow the whistle on a non-shooting foul in that situation—a tied game with three second left—takes a kind of ego and self-importance usually reserved for a cartoon villain. Even IF there's contact, there's a 50/50 chance as to which of the two point guards initiated it. To not only make the call (which would have been questionable regardless of the moment), but to do so KNOWING it would effectively end the game, means that Luckie was arrogant enough in his opinion to not doubt the call.
Which gets to the second problem, that the whistle came late and only after Lykes hit the ground. It was reactionary. And reactionary is not something you want from a veteran official who's likely to work multiple tournament games.
Luckie's awful, ticky tack, chicken shit whistle was the final decider in an otherwise great game from both teams. And to have a man, who's known to do this, ultimately play such a big factor in ACC seeding is really a shame. And I bet Buzz would agree.
Again, the final call was not the only thing to factor into the loss. The Hokies gave up a sizeable lead, and seemed to lose their bearings for most of the second half. But after closing things out on a 13-2, with Chris Clarke taking over in the final throes (just like he did against Duke), it was clear that Tech put the work in to come away with a victory. But they were tripped up just short.
The Hokies dreams of a top four seed are dashed. With a win and a little help, Tech could have secured third place in the best conference in America. Instead, they fall to seventh, and a likely matchup with Notre Dame, a team that's won five of seven coming into the weekend. A team that gets All-ACC forward (and one man wrecking ball) Bonzie Colson back from a broken foot. A team that needs a magical run to make it to the NCAA Tournament.
Let's get ready for Brooklyn.