Rather than just focus on last night’s game, let me give my grades for the first month of the season.
COACHING: Grade = A
You can’t ask for anything more than what Coach Johnson gave us in his first month of games as a Head Coach. VT is 6-0, we’ve been fun to watch, he’s engaged the fan base (especially the students), and interest is picking back up in the program since really falling to its lowest level since joining the ACC at the end of last season (the Bandwagon is gaining momentum!).
I almost hope he hasn’t set the bar too high for himself, though. This team does have critical depth issues that won’t matter on a perfect night (plenty of teams only play 8 guys), but will become very apparent if foul trouble in the post, or even worse, an injury surfaces. But hey, let’s stay positive! So far, so great for JJ and his staff. Plus, Hokie fans needed something to rally around after that stinker on the gridiron, so this has been just the tonic.
OFFENSE: Grade = A
Like I said above, this team has been fun to watch. I mean, between O’Cain-spring and Seth’s offenses, being a VT fan was quite boring. 3 yards and a cloud of dust (or in football this year, a tackle for loss).
Here are the positives I’ve seen on offense:
- Passes on the break – Making a pass leads to easy buckets – imagine that! The result has been a huge increase in fastbreak points, though that is slightly misleading (VT had decent number out of conference but fell to getting nothing on the break in the ACC). Let’s hope we can keep it up all season this year, and with our athletes, there is no reason why we can’t.
- Up-tempo – This team has looked to get the ball up the floor quickly. We still aren’t exactly vmi or unc, but we are now middle of the NCAA pack in Adjusted Tempo (168th of 347). Again, it has been more interesting to watch.
- Half Court Offense – Guys are taking the first open shot without fear of getting yanked. This has really liberated some guys. Dowdell, Delaney, and Green never worried about this (after they established themselves), but this has given Eddie and Brown a lot more confidence. Wood might need a bit more of a filter on his shooting (4/22 from deep), but I’ve liked the confidence guys have. And JJ has still laid down the law when bad shots are taken, as he did with Barksdale after a long jumper.
- Be fun – Hey, we’ve tried 3 alley-oops this year. I dont’ think we had tried 3 in the previous 3 years. It is actually enjoyable to watch our games.
- Tech is averaging 107.3 (50th best in the nation) in points per 100 possessions. So VT has been effective, too, while being faster. That’s because when you take the first good shot, instead of what’s available at the end of the shot clock, your % goes up.
- 41% on 3s, 49% overall on FGs, and 77% on FTs. Awesome.
DEFENSE: Grade = B-
The defense has held opponents to 42% shooting and 23% on 3s, but that’s partially been due to teams missing open looks. That won’t last all year. Also, Tech has really given up spurts. iowa had that 14-0 run last night (they ultimately scored on 8 straight possessions), and Tech twice blew 14 point leads in the unc-g-spot game. The Hokies need to do a better job of limiting runs. This might be taking timeouts sooner or mixing up defenses (2-3 zone, half court trap, something) to get the opponent out of their rhythm.
In the post, there have been some defensive lapses. With iowa it was doubling too far from the basket on bigs that aren’t going to hurt you from 20 feet away. Against rhode island it was losing site of their man. At other times it has been bad rotations on the back end of help defenses (this is where better teams will knock down open 3s that opponents to date have missed).
We haven’t faced many dynamic guards, but the JUCO transfer for rhode island and unc-g’s star player were able to beat us off the dribble and get to the tin to score fairly easily, so this could become a concern as we face better guards as the season schedule gets tougher.
The good thing is we’ve seen VT be able to adjust in game and correct issues, as they did against iowa.
We know guys like Johnston will have issues on defense, and that’s where depth will come into play, but in general the guys, especially the interior guys (props to C.J.), have been busting their butts. Effort goes a long way.
REBOUNDING: Grade = C-
This was definitely a D before iowa. Even still, Tech is getting just 25% of their misses on the offensive end while their opponents are grabbing 28% of their missed shots. That might not sound like much until you consider the Hokies have played five very small teams by ACC standards. This ratio could get much worse, though the Hokies took care of a bigger hawkeye team last night (VT had a higher % of offensive rebounds by far).
Rebounding must be a team effort this year. There is no Jeff Allen or Doo-Doo that can soak up the rebounds. I’ve been very pleased with Eddie on the glass (he really positions himself well) for a wing player, and Barksdale, Wood, and JvZ have been aggressive going to get rebounds. Raines has greatly improved his productivity, too.
This will be an issue all year, especially since you want to lead a guard out on defense to push the ball, but as long as guys are selling out on the glass Tech can limit the damage. And I’ve liked what the two freshmen have brought in terms of rebounding since I had questions about their strength.
No grade here. It has always been what it is in November and even December. Just 6,505 seats SOLD (that’s not actual butts in seats) on average per game at home (that’s 2/3). But, like I said at the beginning, interest is rising and that horrendous football regular season is over, so we’ll see how things pick up, especially this Saturday against a good okie state team.
- Erick Green – really does look like the best PG in the ACC right now. No weaknesses on offense and is the best free safety I’ve ever seen in basketball (picking off passes).
- Cadarian Raines – He’s been up and down this year. Still has those great post moves we saw this year, but I feel like he needs more touches and that’s not on him. Has passed well inside at times, especially to the other big on the block.
- Jarell Eddie – Dude was automatic for a week. He really can light it up from deep, but has also shown an ability to pump fake and go to the rim. Makes bad passes at times on the drive, but has really stepped up his game.
- Robert Brown – His scoring could really explode next year. Has even done a good job handling the ball to allow EG to work off screens and without the rock. Brown has a great outside shot and pull-up jumper. I’d like to see him attack the rim more to get more FTs.
- C.J. Barksdale – Struggled out of the gate but is really looking like a solid role player now. And he has a nice 16-foot jumper and is good on the line (85% on FTs). Needs to continue to be a terror in the paint on defense, flash on the perimeter, and get after those rebounds.
- Marquis Rankin – Hard to judge as he missed the first two games and is just now getting into game shape.
- Joey van Zegeren – Better than I expected. He can play physical and is a shot-blocking presence inside, which VT needs. His hands are his biggest weakness, though, as he has trouble catching passes (i.e. early Davila).
- Marshall Wood – Also more physical than I expected for a freshman post player who likes to shoot 3s. No one will mistake him for “soft as Scott tissue” Wood for nc state inside. But Wood needs to think more about when to shoot a quick 3, and when to pump-fake and drive. But gotta love the hairstyle.
Let’s hope we see similar grades for December, but the Hokies have a tough two game stretch to start it.