Sunday, March 20, 2011

Sports columnist Aaron McFarling: Tough call for Hokie Nation, churchgoers as Virginia Tech plays in morning NIT game

Tough call for Hokie Nation, churchgoers

This week's Q&A-Mac is brought to you by miniature FM radios: Frowned upon in churches for generations.

Q: Thinking of blending a little Roth and Burnop with the fire and brimstone today, eh?

A: Well, Mike does pronounce his last name Burn-up, so at least we'd have some literary congruence with fire. Nah, I wouldn't recommend listening to sports in God's house. But churchgoing Virginia Tech basketball fans have a decision to make this morning thanks to the unfamiliar 11 a.m. start time of the NIT game against Wichita State.

Q: Oh, come on. Nobody cares about the NIT, do they?

A: Well, the crowd was really paltry on Wednesday night (2,892) -- especially considering students were admitted free. But it was Bethune-Cookman. And it was one day after UAB got blown out in the "First Four," lending even more punch to the argument that Tech (or Colorado, or the local rec team) should have gotten in the NCAA tournament ahead of the Blazers. The fans were mad, and judging by their quotes in Thursday's paper, so were the players.

Q: You think they're over it by now?

A: Doubt it. But this one really feels like the gateway game for Tech. The Shockers have a powerful frontcourt and don't need any help to compete against Tech, which is going to have to be emotionally invested to win. If the Hokies can get past this one -- a big if -- I think the fans jump back on board this week and help them advance to New York.

Q: How's your NCAA bracket looking?

A: Let's just say I'm comforted by the fact that of the nearly 6 million brackets submitted on, zero were still perfect after Friday.

Q: North Carolina, Duke and Florida State all are in action today with a shot at the Sweet 16. How about the ACC, huh?

A: Looking good. Even Clemson got an official tourney win before bowing out against West Virginia on Thursday. A 4-1 NCAA record isn't bad for a league that's as low as it's been in years.

Q: Both UVa baseball coach Brian O'Connor and Tech baseball coach Pete Hughes spoke out this week against the new bat restrictions in the college game, which have sapped home run production at even the elite programs. Are you in agreement with them?

A: Not on this one. Perhaps it's because I was on the wrong side of too many four-hour games in college.

Q: Perhaps that could be attributed to the pitchers and not the bats?

A: Touche. But I still like the idea of strategy, small ball and an increased emphasis on defense. I'm all for dead bats.

Q: What was your favorite reader comment on the blog this week?

A: That came from "Jonathan," regarding the bat topic (and earlier discussions regarding Seth Greenberg and the NCAA tournament selection committee). "Pete Hughes thinks the bat-deadening is an NCAA conspiracy," Jonathan wrote. "You're up, Frank. Hokie Nation turns its lonely eyes to you ... and your NCAA conspiracy theory of choice."

Q: I thought you loved Pete Hughes?

A: Oh, I do. And I don't think he actually was alleging any conspiracies with the bat thing; he just prefers more scoring. But funny's funny.

Q: Who wins today's Sprint Cup race at Bristol?

A: Kyle Busch. Hard to argue with his performance the past 10 races there -- four victories and two runner-up finishes.

Q: Too safe. How about a darkhorse pick?

A: Jamie McMurray, who's facing 25-to-1 odds in Vegas. He finished in the top-10 at both Bristol races last year. With the added wild card of the weekend tire switch, he could sneak into Victory Lane.

Q: Are mini FM radios allowed in Victory Lane?

A: Trust me, if McMurray makes it in, he won't hear a thing either way.

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