At some point last night as I was heading up I-66 around midnight on my way home from the VT/uva game, doped up on enough 5 Hour Energies and Coke Zeros to kill a spastic child, I kind of hoped a deer would dart out in front of my pimp rental Cadillac DTS ($30/day – thank you Linda!!!). Why did I hope to see a deer? I was going to picture it wearing a #23 jersey (i.e. Mike Scott who now has 3 straight 20+ point and 10+ rebound games against VT) and finally put a stop to him since Jeff Allen clearly couldn’t. But then I realized uva needed something to be happy about. They’ve had it pretty rough. I’m glad their fan finally had something to take pride in. (Seriously, Mike Scott must salivate waiting to play VT)
Then I wished a deer with the ACC preseason predictions painted on it would dart out, and I could blow it up like things have seemingly blown up for VT. Or maybe the deer would have a basketball dry erase board around it’s neck… blank like VT’s playbook seems to be.
Alas, as you can probably guess, no deer dared across the highway. Probably for the best, VT doesn’t need any additional bad PR with the hippies from PETA.
I decided to take a deep breath and not write anything today. Well, I made it 21 hours, but here are my ramblings…
The Offense… What can I say that hasn’t been said? Emilio Estevez’s Mighty Duck team looked more organized at the beginning of that movie than our offense does. All you had to do was watch last night’s game and you got a clinic in what we are doing wrong. What did uva do all first half? Either dribble inside the three point line, draw the defense, and kick it to an open wing. Or feed the post, and if VT doubled, the perimeter guys would slide to an open area and the post player would kick it out for a wide open look. And you know what? They made their wide open jumpers. No double? Mike Scott would back his man down, drop step, and score.
The point is, uva got a LOT of wide open looks, and shot 56% for the first half. That’s easy to do when you have no one in your face. And Mike Scott abused Jeff Allen like a rented mule. Jeff was trying to overplay him to one side, or front him, and it didn’t work. A good feed to the opposite side and Mike was drop-stepping and laying it in. I actually thought Davila did a nice job on Scott (playing behind him) – when Scott got the ball, faced up, and went up to shoot, Davila would step into him and put two hands straight up right in his face and that’s when Scott went cold.
Now, there was the Tech offense. When VT fed the ball inside, the perimeter players wouldn’t move. As a result, if the defense keeps their eye on the ball while they look to double, they are also able to keep a hand in the passing lane because our guy was in the same exact spot! If you move, the defender either has to double down, and you are open, or he stays with you and the post player has a one-on-one, and I like Allen or Davila in that situation.
On VT’s first possession Jeff got doubled and Delaney got a wide open look. Second possession, Allen had a one-on-one inside. Third possession, Davila thought he was going to get doubled and went to kick it out, but since Hudson hadn’t moved, the pass got intercepted. After that, Tech seemed to go away from this. But the point is, you have to have movement on offense or it is very easy for the opponent to guard you. I remember one play in the oklahoma state game where one of our post players had it down low. osu doubled him. But the two players on the left wing were standing in a straight line (one behind the other). So one guy was able to guard both and stay in the passing lane. The right wing? Same exact thing. So a third player was able to come down and take the ball away from the post player while two other guys were able to guard four Hokies. Terrible spacing, no movement.
Because of the lack of spacing and movement, guards are forced to try and fit the ball into tight spots. I mean, if no one is moving, then no one is open, so if you get stuck, you have to throw it somewhere. And our bigs aren’t great passers, but more on turnovers in a bit…
Turnovers… VT is averaging 3 more turnovers per game this year than last. Tech has had a negative turnover margin in 5 of their 8 games so far (including all 4 losses). The guards are either forcing passes in the half court or on the break, and our post players aren’t great at kicking the ball out (they really aren’t used to doing it).
Fast Break Points… The other thing greatly missing from VT’s arsenal this year is easy buckets. Tech just is not getting many fast break opportunities. The catalyst of this is the Hokies not creating, or converting, live ball turnovers. Check out this crazy stat: in the unc-g game, the Hokies pilfered 20 steals. 20! In the other 7 games, they have just 24 steals. Tech averaged 7 steals per game last year but average just 5.5 this year (and that’s including the unc-g game). Throw out the game in Greensboro and the Hokies are averaging just 3.4 steals.
During their current three game losing streak, the Hokies have forced just 29 total turnovers combined, for just 30 total points (exactly 10 in each game). Last year Tech was regularly getting 20 or more points off turnovers per game.
Live ball turnovers lead to odd man rushes (to steal a hockey term), which lead to easy bucket opportunities. The fewer turnovers you get, the fewer the fast break points you’re going to get. But even when Tech gets a chance, VT is horrible on the break anyway. Players are too selfish and go right at a defender or settle for a pull up jumper. What they should be doing is drawing the defender and then kicking it to the other man (far enough from the hoop) for an easy bucket. Instead, when VT does pass, it is either too tough to catch, too late and the guys are too close together (and therefore easier to defend), or the Hokie jumps drops it. Either way, it ain’t working.
Also, uva was clearly prepared for our 1-3-1 half court trap and neutralized it for the most part. ACC teams are going to have practiced against it, and it isn’t going to work as well as when it was a novelty earlier in the season. Tech needs to find different ways to be aggressive and create turnovers.
Scoring… VT is 271st in the nation in scoring at 64.4 ppg… out of 345 teams. Tech has now failed to reach even 60 points in 4 straight games and were held in the 50s in all 4 losses.
Shooting… VT is in the 200s in 3-point percentage, FG%, and Effective FG%. Tech cannot hit their jumpers, largely because they have a man in their face (due to the reasons listed above), while opponents like uva get wide open looks.
The Cassell… Tech went 17-2 at home last season. They are 1-2 this season. Conjuring up the ghosts of ricky stokes! And I’m sorry, but the crowd sucked last night. No energy, no enthusiasm. It was maybe, and I mean maybe, 80% full. Yes, I know many of us were at the ACCCG Saturday night. I was there, I was up until 3 AM, and I still made it to the Cassell and was loud and proud, knowing I still had a 4 hour drive home to go afterwards. Do I want a cookie? No. I want fans that give a crap. This was uva. Yes, I know we stunk worse than a NYC cab driver in July in the first half. I’m talking about before the game, when it started. The place was dead. And when the football team came out? Suddenly all these people had life.
I watched the Sunday Night Hoops game last week… it was unc vs college of charleston. unc had a huge crowd and they were into the game, even though their team was stinking it up and trailed in the second half. I’m not saying we have to be unc (nobody wants that). But this was uva!!! I mean, come on, we won’t have another wahoo turd in Lane or Cassell for another 13 to 14 months. Have some enthusiasm, or give your tickets to someone that will. And show up or give your tickets to someone that will. Yeesh. I’m calling all of you out. It’s sad when you can’t get up for uva. Our fans need Viagra for cheering/rivalries.
I’m tired of us being a football school only, and if football is doing well, we don’t give a crap about basketball. I want us to be great at both. If we had made that place crazy last night, the guys would have raised their game early and had more energy… trust me. Instead, the fans and the players were flatter than my tire after I accidentally backed over the “Severe Tire Damage” spikes pulling into the rental return lot this morning (just kidding).
ACC Openers… The Hokies are now just 1-6 in ACC openers. So VT is certainly familiar with this hole. It just stings because this was at home against a team picked to finish at the bottom of the ACC. Only one other loss in an opener was at home (for some reason VT had opened on the road in 4 of their first 6 seasons in the ACC).
Loss #4… VT didn’t lose their 4th game until January 31st last season.
Davila… He actually looks good to me right now. I was stunned he only had 4 points last night on 2/8 shooting. Seemed better than that. And as I said above, his defense looked good, too. Feed him the ball. No, his hands aren’t great, and no, he isn’t a good passer, but we don’t have many other options.
Hudson… Some people keep wondering where his three point shot has been this year but that’s not the issue. He hit just 21% from deep as a freshman, 33% as a sophomore, and 29% last year (so not as high as many, including me, remember — he did go nuts from deep in the middle of the season but he also went 0/13 to close the regular season, so this wasn’t a huge part of his success last year). He’s back down to 21% this year (3/14), but it is his midrange jumper that we really miss. Last year he getting pull up jumpers on the baseline, or coming off a curl and getting a jumper at the elbow… and hitting them. He’s not getting those looks this way. I don’t know if those plays were scrapped (especially the curl to the elbow) or what, but let’s bring it back.
Conclusion: Are we not as good as we were last year?… I actually don’t know how to answer this question yet. Basically, we are the same team as last year, but without JT Thompson, our heart-and-soul guy who brings high energy. We miss him a lot. But before you say, “What about Cadarian Raines?” remember one thing – he missed 40% of the games last year, so Tech survived in large part without him. Though it would be great to have him. So essentially you’ve traded Jarell Eddie for JT Thompson… and that hasn’t been a good thing to date.
But let’s look back at VT’s ACC games last year. They remind me of the Atlanta Falcons games this year. Like Matty Ice and the Dirty Birds, Tech would hang in games, and find a way to win at the end. While “lucky” isn’t the right word, Tech also easily could have lost many of their 10 ACC wins last year. Tech trailed by 3 to bc at home with 29 seconds to go last year, but won thanks in large part to a questionable jump ball call when Jeff Allen was standing out of bounds.
Five days later VT won at uva despite being behind by 10 with under 3 minutes to go.
The unc at VT game was a 2 point game with a minute to go (though VT did lead the final 17 minutes of it).
Tech trailed by 3 in the uva at VT game with under 2 minutes to go.
The Hokies were down 61-50 to wake with 12:30 to go in the second half in the demon deacon game, but won.
Tech lost to the ACC’s last place team, miami, TWICE.
So were the Hokies as good as we made them out to be last year? Or were we somewhat lucky in that we won so many close games, while they haven’t been able to close the games this year? I just don’t know. And I don’t think we will know until our sample size is larger. I do know that yesterday was just one game. There’s 15 more to go (in the ACC). And we were 0-1 last year, opening up with a loss to one of the ACC bottom feeders. So all is not lost, but I’ll admit I have a lot more doubt. Luckily we have 5 weeks to figure things out before our next ACC game.