Seth Greenberg's lemonade stand of a basketball roster isn't what he envisioned, though it does provide him with familiar slogans and marketing opportunities.
No one would suggest that Virginia Tech's coach feels better about the team he has, compared to the one he was supposed to have.
What the present group permits him to do now, however, is tap the vein that he's mined his entire time in Blacksburg, indeed for his whole coaching career.
Underdog. Respect. Us against the world. Nobody believes but the people in this room. The only way we win is to work harder than the other guys.
That was a tougher sell with a 25-win team that returned everybody and was picked to finish just below defending national champ Duke in the ACC.
Remove 36 percent of the workforce due to injury and absence, including a couple of the more productive members, and suddenly Greenberg is doing Gerard Butler as the Persian army approaches Thermopylae.
"We always create causes," Greenberg said earlier this week when asked to take his team's temperature. "That's who we are. I think coaches, in general, try to create a cause."
This particular cause is in Greenberg's wheelhouse. Pundits and casual observers have re-calibrated the depleted Hokies' chances and find them destined for the middle of the ACC pack, like most every other year they've been in the league.
Greenberg's mantra since he arrived at Tech: We're not Duke and Carolina, selecting McDonald's All-Americans. We have to be tougher and work harder than the swells to earn respect.
Same at South Florida, when the Bulls were looking up at Conference USA and national powers Louisville and Cincinnati and DePaul. And at Long Beach State, which wasn't UNLV or New Mexico State in the Big West at the time, and certainly wasn't UCLA.
"No one thinks we can pull this thing off now," Greenberg said. "I think our guys feel like, the guys that are healthy feel like they're going to get their chance. Our starting lineup is a little bit affected, and obviously our frontcourt depth is affected significantly. But they're looking forward to the challenge (and) excited about it."
In case you've been otherwise occupied by holiday revelry, or you don't much engage college hoops before the New Year, Tech is down to eight scholarship players and will be for the remainder of the season.
For sure, there's quality in All-ACC guard Malcolm Delaney and talented, if chronically mercurial, forward Jeff Allen. Terrell Bell and Victor Davila are veteran presences.
Guard Erick Green has begun to fulfill his promise. Underclassmen Manny Atkins, Jarrell Eddie and Tyrone Garland have potential.
That's where it ends.
"We're not the same team we were three weeks ago," Greenberg said. "Three weeks ago, we thought maybe we'd have Cadarian Raines and Dorenzo Hudson. We're sure not the same team we thought we were going to be in the summer, when we thought we'd have JT Thompson and Allan Chaney."
Then the conjunction that you knew was coming.
"But, I like my basketball team," he said. "I think that we're developing a really good chemistry. I think we've been really unselfish. We're taking better care of the basketball in the last five games. We're making some shots. I think we're developing a good chemistry, and a good trust for each other, so that's been positive."
The Hokies shot 53.4 percent from the field during the current five-game win streak, compared to 42.9 percent in their first eight games.
They flip-flopped their assist-to-turnover ratio, as well. They have 32 more assists than turnovers in the past five games, where they had 29 more turnovers than assists through the first eight games.
Granted, some of that is the level of competition, which wasn't ACC caliber. The pace picks up considerably Saturday, when Florida State comes to town, and the Hokies hope to avoid an 0-2 conference start.
"I'm more concerned about just getting our guys, keeping them in a good frame of mind right now," Greenberg said. "I think that right now, we're in a pretty good place. We really are. But winning puts you in that place, and you've got to continue to win."
Odds are against the spartan Hokies meeting preseason expectations. But it won't be for lack of effort or inspiration from the man who preaches it daily.
Dave Fairbank can be reached at 247-4637 or by e-mail at email@example.com. For more from Fairbank, read his blog at dailypress.com/fromthetarpit.