Seth Greenberg's task is to keep things as normal as possible on a day at Virginia Tech that's anything but.
Greenberg's Hokies have the rare opportunity Saturday to host the No. 1-ranked team in the country, Duke, as well as the ESPN College GameDay crew and the attendant, day-long hype that surrounds both of their visits.
"For two hours in the morning, we essentially get a two-hour infomercial on Virginia Tech at the Cassell (Coliseum) with the student body in the background," Greenberg said. "People all over the country will get a chance to see what makes Virginia Tech special, with the students and the campus and other parts of the school.
"Then, for two hours in the evening, we get to compete against the No. 1 team in the country, and people get to see our basketball team. It means that (ESPN thinks) enough of us to put us in that position."
Tech officials will open the doors to Cassell Coliseum at 8:30 a.m. Saturday, in advance of ESPN's 10 o'clock broadcast. Students and fans will be allowed in for free and provide the backdrop for the ESPN heads' morning discussion of Duke-Virginia Tech and all things college basketball.
Greenberg said he's spoken to several of his colleagues whose schools also have hosted the GameDay crew about strategies for handling the day.
He said that he intends to stick to the Hokies' regular routine when they play 9 p.m. games, with one adjustment. He and the players will come to Cassell during the morning to soak up a little atmosphere and so that they can acknowledge and appreciate those who arrive that early to support them.
"Only eight schools in the country get College GameDay, and Virginia Tech was selected as one of them," Greenberg said. "ESPN took a risk on us. After all the injuries, they really took a risk. Thank goodness we've won enough games to justify their decision. It means we're in a very select group."
ESPN selected GameDay locations in August, long before Tech was beset by injuries. The Hokies were picked second in preseason voting.
Greenberg's larger points, though, are that Tech is not a traditional basketball hotbed that might normally attract GameDay interest, and that the Hokies' success this season make Saturday a more attractive matchup than it would have been had they stumbled.
The Hokies (18-8, 8-5 ACC) are in fourth place in the conference and once again are in contention for an NCAA tournament berth. They're down to eight scholarship players and have adjusted following season-ending injuries to JT Thompson, Dorenzo Hudson and Cadarian Raines, a medical condition that sidelined transfer big man Allan Chaney and the transfer of reserve guard Ben Boggs.
Senior guard Malcolm Delaney (19.1 ppg, .427 from 3-point range) is 21 points shy of passing Dale Solomon (2,136) for third place on Tech's career scoring list. Senior forward Jeff Allen (13.8 ppg, 10.3 rpg) is playing the best basketball of his career. Sophomore guard Erick Green (11.1 ppg) leads the ACC in assist-to-turnover ratio (2.7-to-1).
Meanwhile, Duke (26-2, 12-1 ACC) has won 11 of 12 and is No. 1 for the second time this season. The Blue Devils have two of the best players in the nation at their positions in guard Nolan Smith (21.4 ppg, 5.3 apg), who leads the league in scoring and assists, and forward Kyle Singler (17.2 ppg, 6.3 rpg). They have size in the Plumlee brothers, Mason and Miles, and Ryan Kelly, and plenty of perimeter scoring threats.
"They attack you," Greenberg said. "That's the biggest thing — they attack you. We have to be efficient offensively. We can't turn the ball over. Our offense can't lead to their offense. We've got to be able to guard the ball and play good defense, and we have to stay out of foul trouble."
The Hokies are 3-7 all-time versus No. 1. Saturday will mark the fourth time they host the top-ranked team. Twice they've beaten No. 1 at Cassell, most recently a 94-88 decision against North Carolina on Jan. 13, 2007.
The only other time was a 69-56 win against Memphis State on Jan. 10, 1983, on a team led by Perry and Al Young, Bobby Beecher and a young guard named Dell Curry, who became one of Tech's greatest players and had a long NBA career. Curry's son, Seth, is in his first season at Duke after transferring from Liberty.
Undoubtedly, that's one of the storylines that ESPN will explore in Saturday's coverage.
"Having College GameDay here is great, it's exciting," Greenberg said. "But in the end, we've got to play ball."Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times