With 14 games in the books and 17 games in the regular season to go (16 ACC games + byu), here is my assessment of everything VT basketball…
- Grade: B. The Hokies won all the games they should have, avoiding any bad losses. But once again they failed to get a statement win, losing all 3 of their games against RPI Top 50 teams (syracuse #1, minnesota #18, kansas state #29). The Hokies do have 4 wins over Top 51-100 teams though (norfolk state #51, st. bonnie #89, and oklahoma state x2 #94).
- Looking Forward: You have to show you can beat NCAA Tournament caliber teams (Top 50s), and Tech hasn’t done that… again. VT does have 8 games remaining against teams currently 71 or higher, but just 3 of those are in the top 50 currently (unc #12, duke x2 #2). uva could move into the top 50 soon, though, and VT plays them twice. VT, meanwhile, currently sits in the top 40 of the RPI, a good place to be. Stay there and they are in… we think.
- Overall Grade: B. Tech is 5th in the ACC in PPG and 124th nationally (out of 345). The Hokies success from the FT line and 3-point line has blown me away. I cannot believe how well they’ve done in both areas. But what has disappointed me is the turnovers and the lack of fast break points (or emphasis on pushing the ball), other than in a few recent games. You cannot be a half court team AND turn the ball over a lot and expect to win against better teams.
- 45% FG%: B+. VT is 6th in the ACC in this category and around 100th nationally. The Hokies have shot the ball well, but imagine how much higher this could be if Tech got out and ran more and PASSED the ball on the break, leading to easy layups.
- 38% 3-Pt%: A+. 4th best in the ACC and top 60 nationally. I didn’t see this coming in my wildest dreams (yes, I dream VT basketball… I also dream about my 116 VT football home game streak coming to an end but I digress…). Erick Green and Dorenzo Hudson were both below 30% for their careers coming into this year, and we had no known 3-pt threat with Manny Atkins gone. I’d have taken 33% at this point in a heartbeat. Zo is still under 30%, but EG is at 43% (though dropping fast). Meanwhile, Jarell Eddie has really stepped it up (49%) with freshmen Robert Brown drilling just over 40% and Dorian Finney-Smith hitting 35%. And as I said last week, it isn’t just quality, it is quantity. VT makes 6.4 3-pointers per game, also 4th best in the ACC. Let’s hope this stays up and that the Winchester Rifle can regain his early season stroke: started 17/34, just 2/10 in 5 games since.
- 75% FT%: A+. #1 in the ACC! 21st in the nation! This cannot be Virginia Tech, can it? Well, this is Hokies 3G.1. Even Victor Davila, around 50% for his career coming into this year, has made 16 of his last 21 FTs (after starting 4/13), including 2 big ones to break the tie with osu on Saturday with 90 seconds to go. Tech’s big men have been great from the stripe – freshman C.J. Barksdale has made 15/19 (79%). Well, Raines is the weak link at 53%, but oh well. Hudson and Green are both in the top 10 in the ACC at 87% and 86% respectively, and they shoot a lot of FTs. Jarell Eddie has hit 90% of his attempts (but he’s shot just over half of Zo and EG). Brown is at 72% and Doe Doe has gradually improved to 63%. Seriously, it feels great to know that in a close game down the stretch, VT has a lot of options from the line to close out games. They did it twice to okie state, scoring nothing but FT in the final 5+ minutes of both games.
- Transition Game: D. Every year we hear Tech will run more. Every year they don’t. It has gotten better, though. Early in the season VT was getting about 8-12 fast break points per game. That raised to about 20 per game lately, against weak opponents though. The press helped and I hope Seth uses it some each game the rest of the way. Tech cannot expect to shoot this well all year (every game), so they need to get some easy buckets. At least they have finally figured out it is legal to pass on the fast break (that’s a residual of Delaney never passing on the break, which rubbed off on Hudson and to some degree Green).
- 13 Turnovers PG: D. This won’t cut it in ACC play. The Hokies have a negative turnover margin and turn the ball over on 20% of their possessions. That’s 1 out of 5 possessions wasted. As I said, when you aren’t getting a lot of fast break points, you have to execute in the half court. And a 20% turnover % (200th in the nation) isn’t cutting it. EG has 24 turnovers. Not bad, but he never turned the ball over last year. DFS leads the team with 31, sometimes trying to force passes.
- 38% Offensive Rebounding %: B+. Tech is 5th in the ACC in this stat and 36th nationally, pretty darn solid for a team that lost Jeff Allen and Terrell Bell on the glass. VT won both oklahoma state games with offensive rebounding. Normally I’d say, “Let’s see if they can keep it up against the dominate inside players of the ACC.” But the truth is, the ACC doesn’t have many other than Mike Scott, Mason Plumlee, Tyler Zeller, and good rebounders like “Beanpole” Henson and Bernard James. There are a lot of teams, like bc and georgia tech, that have pretty much no inside presence. VT should be able to exploit this against a lot of the ACC. The key will be finding 2nd chance points against the good teams like uva, duke, and unc.
- Overall Grade: B+. See below…
- 59.4 PPG allowed: Tech is allowing less than 60 ppg, 4th best in the ACC.
- 39% FG% against: Opponents are shooting under 40% from the field. VT gets beaten like a rented mule off the dribble on the perimeter except for Marquis Rankin. Green, Brown, and Eddie are all average on-ball defenders at best (Eddie is the worst of those 3). Zo works hard but can be beaten. Doe Doe is a solid defender but grabs too much instead of working through screens, leading to cheap fouls.
- 24% 3-Pt%: #1 in the ACC and nation before the osu game Saturday. Tech got lazy in the 2nd half against Ollie, not fighting over picks and instead getting hung up going under them. But they have really worked hard all year to flash out on shooters and get a hand in their face. With Tech’s length, they should do well here all year if they keep hustling.
- 67% Defensive Rebounding %: This will be a vital stat against uva, duke, and unc. Tech must limit 2nd chance opportunities for those teams. All have good, high-scoring low post threats. The Hokies are currently 7th in the ACC here and over 200th nationally. That has to improve. VT couldn’t rebound a FT miss to save their life early in the year, but that has improved of late. The struggle here is – do you send more guys to the defensive glass, thus limited who can leak out on the break? Personally, I’d like to see VT run more, so we may have to accept some struggles here.
- 6.4 Steals PG: 5th in the ACC and 182nd nationally. Erick Green is GREAT at reading passes and intercepting them, like a ball-hawking safety. But the rest of the team doesn’t create many steals. Cadarian Raines is actually 2nd on the team behind Green’s 20 with 13.
- 4.4 Blocks PG: 9th in the ACC 77th nationally. Tech blocks 8% of their opponent’s shots. That’s really good. What that tells you is the ACC has a lot of great shot-blockers since VT is near the bottom in the ACC, but top 100 nationally. Raines is a real force at blocking shots while Finney-Smith gets them because of his length. And Davila has gotten a few beauties coming over on help defense.
- Overall Grade: B+. At 11-3 with a very young team that just lost 2 of the school’s 10 greatest players, I’d say Seth and the guys are doing a really good job. But again, Tech has to win some big games… and more than 1 as we learned last year.
- Best move: I like the incorporation of some full court trap press – I hope we keep that up.
- Overall Grade: C. Tech is averaging just 7,100 fans per home game. But, I’ve been impressed with the actual number of butts in the seats at games this year. In the 7 previous ACC seasons, almost every game was a sellout from season ticket sales. Apparently the fans that had season tickets, but weren’t coming, didn’t re-up this year. I guess that’s fine. This way, fans that will come can get tickets for the ACC games. Still, I’m sure the program could use the money and not selling almost 3,000 tickets per game for each of the home games so far has to hurt.
MVP: Erick Green – He’s in the top 10 in the ACC in PPG, FG%, Assists, FT%, Steals, and Assist/Turnover Ratio. He’s scored in double digits in every game, the only Hokie to do so (or even come close). While his 3-point stroke has faded of late, he’s still be consistent each game on offense and defense.
Rookie of the Year: Robert Brown – seriously! We all knew Doe Doe was great. And Dorian is in the top 10 in the ACC in Rebounding. But his lack of offense, and being able to create his own offense, has been a disappointment. He is a great passer, though. Meanwhile, I already believe Brown is Tech’s best all-around offensive threat. He 20/57 on 3s (35%), he has a deadly runner in the paint, and Brown has the Play of the Year to date on his dunk over a helpless north florida player. Robert does need to improve his defense (Doe Doe is a much better defender at this point). But I’m giving Brown the vote because I’d say he’s been as good as Dorian with lower expectations.
Most Improved Player: Cadarian Raines – easy pick here. 5 PPG, 4.4 rebounds PG, 14 blocks and 13 steals. He’s stayed healthy and given Tech the disruptive force they needed inside with JT out for the season. Cadarian still has no effective post moves, but he is a high energy guy that will get those 50/50 balls. FYI: Jarell Eddie would be my 2nd choice, and VD’s FT shooting at 3rd.