THE SEASON (19-15, 7-9 ACC — tied for seventh; ACC Quarterfinals; NIT Second Round)
Any way you look at it, this season was a disappointment.Â Back in November you heard one thing from almost every college basketball expert: this Virginia Tech team was an NCAA Tournament team.Â The players said that was their goal.Â Greenberg expected it.Â Everyone expected it after coming so close last year and having every significant player back other than Deron Washington.Â Well it turned out Deron’s loss was a very big one, as Tech went from having the best Scoring Defense in the ACC last year (and by over three points) to just the eighth-best Scoring Defense in the ACC.
The result was no invitation to the Big Dance for the Hokies.Â In fact Tech was further off the bubble this year than last.Â Tech completely fell apart in the second half of the season, losing six of their final seven ACC games.Â
One of the biggest frustrations this season was Tech’s inability to start and finish games.Â The Hokies regularly trailed by 4-7 points at the first media timeout.Â In fact, they were behind at the first break in their final seven ACC regular season games and nine of the last 10.Â In the ACC Tournament, Tech jumped out to early leads and we saw the results — VT was much more in control.Â
Just as frustrating was the final eight minutes of games.Â Tech was within three points (one possession) in each of their final three regular season games, but could never take the lead in any of them.Â In fact, the Hokies were within three points or less in the final eight minutes of 11 of their 15 losses, and led in the final 10 minutes of seven of those games.Â Tech just ran out of gas at the end of games, possibly due to how many minutes Malcolm Delaney and A.D. Vassallo had to play.
Another frustration was the off-the-court and on-court antics.Â A.D. Vassallo was benched at the start of two games for two separate incidents and Jeff Allen sat the second uva game for flipping off maryland fans.
Defense was an issue all year.Â The Hokies could not get stops when they needed them at the end of games.Â Tech’s low post defense was abysmal, allowing opponents’ big men to catch the ball way too close to the basket.Â Part of this had to do with the skinnier Jeff Allen, but it also had to do with Hokie big men not working hard at timesÂ when the ball was on the perimeter and rooting the opponents out.Â
VT also got dominated on the glass, giving up key offensive rebounds to bigger teams.Â Tech just doesn’t have the size inside to really secure the glass.
In perimeter defense, Tech got torched in non-conference games.Â In the two NIT games, VT allowed their opponents to hit 27 of 51 threes.Â And that wasn’t even their worst effort.Â wisconsin hit 12/18 (67%) in a key out-of-conference loss in December.Â The Hokies’ guards did a very poor job of fighting through/over screens, and the help defender often released too early.
Tech will have to improve in all of these areas next season if they want to return to the upper half of the league, a place VT lived in three of their first four ACC seasons.Â 6’9″ Cadarian Raines should help inside and lessen the impact of losing Cheick Diakite, but Jeff Allen needs to put weight back on.Â At maybe 6’7″, he needs that bulk to throw around against taller players.Â But Tech will still not have a really big body inside that many of the other ACC schools have.
On the perimeter, Dorenzo Hudson became a solid man defender as the year went on.Â But judging by the production of some of the guys he was guarding, like 46 by duquesne’s Jackson, ‘Zo needs help.Â The guards need to really embrace the defensive end and work harder to fight through screens, and the help man cannot release until the guard is back in position on high screens.Â Green, Boggs, and Atkins will add length on the perimeter and can help.
For Tech this season it was The Big 3 of Allen, Vassallo and Delaney.Â Those guys produced almost 70% of Virginia Tech’s points, and against boston college at bc, they accounted for 61 of 66 points.Â If two of the three were off on a given night, forget about it, VT was done for.Â But when they were clicking, Tech was tough to beat.
Vassallo was Tech’s most complete offensive player.Â He continued to drain threes, finishing his career with 267 made, a Virginia Tech record.Â He also showed a deadly runner either down the paint, or along the baseline.Â Every now and then he’d rock the rim with a dunk, and shot a career high 84% from the line.Â A.D. was third-team All-ACC (he was 2nd team last year) and finished as Tech’s fifth all-time leading scorer with 1822 points.
Malcolm Delaney had an up and down season on offense.Â He started out slow, getting most of his points from the line.Â But when the Hokies won nine of 10 games in December and January, Delaney started taking over the VT offense.Â He was named the ACC Player of the Week once in mid-January after torching wake for 21 and miami for 29.Â Then he scored 37 against clemson, a VT ACC game record.Â But as he got more banged up, he went into a shooting slump down the stretch, and to no surprise, VT struggled.Â He completely lost his ability to hit runners in the lane, a shot he was deadly with mid-season.Â Malcolm did set a VT single season record for free throws made with 225, crushing the old high of 200.
Jeff Allen also struggled down the stretch.Â He lost weight in the offseason and this allowed bigger opponents to push him out of the way.Â He did show a much improved three point shot, hitting 17/42 on the year, but inside his numbers went way down.Â He has a patented spin to the baseline and up and under move that worked very well this season, but he needs to add muscle this offseason to battle inside next year.
With the rest of the offense you never knew what you were going to get, if anything.Â J.T. Thompson showed an ability to convert second chance opportunities, and hit open mid-range jumpers, but that’s it.Â Terrell Bell, Hank Thorns, and Dorenzo Hudson really struggled shooting-wise most of the season.Â Â Thorns shot under 30%, Bell 33%, and Hudson 36%, though Hudson did improve as the season went on and as he took over the two-guard spot.Â
Tech also severely lacked ballhandlers.Â This will have to be addressed this offseason.Â Hudson needs to work on that aspect of his game, and Green should help with this next year.Â Momo Jones would have been a big help, but the Oak Hill point guard has reopened his recruiting and may not end up in Blacksburg.
Time to give out the Dundees!Â I mean the Niemo’s.Â Here we go…
- MVP: Malcolm Delaney — Hands down.Â No one meant more to this team.Â Vassallo was the better offensive player, but he didn’t play defense.Â And Malcolm was one of only two ballhandlers VT had along with Thorns.Â Plus, he was the team leader.Â As Delaney struggled down the stretch, so did VT.Â As he goes next year, so will Tech.Â Hopefully he won’t have to carry as much of the load.
- Offensive MVP: A.D. Vassallo — Like I said above, he can do it all on offense.Â He leaves Blacksburg as Tech’s fifth all-time leading scorer and best three-point shooter.Â He had a good inside-outside game, and could score off the glass.Â A.D. had his best season this year.
- Defensive MVP: No one — No one earned this.Â Cheick didn’t block as many shots this year.Â Allen didn’t get as many steals.Â The Hokie guards couldn’t shut anyone down.Â The low-post players couldn’t stop anyone.Â The team just couldn’t get stops.Â I will say that Thompson was the hardest working player on defense.Â Despite being undersized, he really battled inside.
- Most Improved Player: Dorenzo Hudson — He really struggled with his shot early in the year, but found his touch at the end.Â Hudson hit a three in each of VT’s last six games, and eight of nine games, nailing 7/16 threes in those final six games.Â Dorenzo scored at least six points in five of those six games, and had a career-high 15 points against duquesne.Â He hit 80% from the line on the season, and he became the shutdown defender for VT, drawing the opponent’s best guard in each game.Â Big things will be expected from him next year and he’ll have to pick up many of Vassallo’s points.
- Best Win: VT 78, #1 wake 71 — What a great road win for VT.Â This win put them at 3-1 in conference and gave Tech their third win over a #1 team all time.Â Things were certainly looking up at this point.
- Toughest Loss: Wow, there is no shortage of games to pick from:Â The xavier half court shot to beat VT in Puerto Rico…Â The off-balance jumper by wisconsin to give them a two-point lead with less than a second…Â The one point loss to georgia…Â The tip-in with less than a second left at boston college… The three point loss to unc in the ACC Tournament…Â But I’m going with clemson 86, VT 82.Â Tech led by as many as 15 in the second half.Â They could do no wrong.Â Delaney had 22 at the break, including a 3/4-court shot.Â But the wheels came off with 16 minutes to go and clemson went on an 18-0 run to take the lead.Â Tech battled the rest of the way but came up short.Â Had VT held on, they would have been 5-1 in conference with five very winnable games coming up and may have become ranked in the polls.Â Instead, the wheels started to come off and VT went 3-8 the rest of the way in ACC play (including this loss).