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State of the Program | Midseason Report Card

Updated to include my thoughts on JJ’s future below…

The Hokies finished their out of conference schedule with a 7-5 record (8-5 overall with the win at miami).  But before we get to our assessment of the first half of the season, let’s take a bigger look at this program as a whole.

  • Record: It’s all about wins and losses and Tech is just 9-26 in the ACC in the last two-plus seasons.  That’s the fewest wins over that span (gt and wake have 10, bc has 11).
  • Attendance: Virginia Tech is averaging less than 4,700 fans per home game (through 9 home games), 2nd-worst in the ACC and more than 500 below 3rd-worst, miami.  (bc is averaging just over 2,400 fans per home game to easily set the low bar).  With just 3,400 season ticket holders, an empty seat is now more common that a filled seat in the 9,847 seat Cassell Coliseum.  Two of our games sold fewer than 4,000 seats and the maryland-eastern shore had an “announced” attendance of 4,100 with about 3,000 of them dressed as empty seats.  More on this below…
  • Coaching: The Hokies have the most inexperienced coach and lowest paid coach in the league, so at least we are getting what we paid for!  JJ is the only ACC head coach that didn’t have head coaching experience before coming to the ACC.  And since his 7-0 start a year ago that had all of us wondering if he could be the right man for the job, he’s since gone 14-24, including 9-9 in out of conference games.  When hired, he spoke of playing up-tempo, pressing basketball.  We never press and points per game in out of conference games dropped from 77 ppg to 74 ppg this year.  And with VT averaging just 66 ppg in ACC games last year, we are not getting the exciting basketball we longed for after the Greenberg defensively-focused years.
  • Recruiting: JJ has had two recruiting classes of his own now with 9 total players signed.  Of those 9, none were 4-star or above, or top 100 players.  Only two were rated top 150 by any service –  both by Rivals.com (Justin Bibbs at #146 in this year’s class and Donte Clark last year who we couldn’t admit and has since gone to umass).  While I definitely think the 2013 class was better than advertised (especially Ben Emelogu), I’d have to rank our recruiting 2nd-worst in the ACC over the last three years (ahead of just bc).

Attendance and the Impact on Revenue:

Home Game Average Attendance (Regular Season Out of Conference Games Only):
  • 2010-11: 9,840
  • 2011-12: 7,443
  • 2012-13: 6,378
  • 2013-14: 4,639
As you can see, our attendance (or at least seats sold) for out of conference games has dropped more than 50% from 3 years ago and is down 26% from last season.  And keep in mind that lost butts in the seats also reflect lost revenue via concession sales (a conservative estimate is $5 per person per game).
 
Here’s what this all means to the bottom line:
  • In the 2012-13 season, by my calculations of ticket revenue + concession revenue, VT made approximately $1 million less than during the 2011-12 season.
  • This year, even with an extra home game out of conference, the Hokies made approximately $315,000 less than last season just on their out of conference games.

We still have 9 ACC home games to go, but if you think that is going to salvage the budget, guess again.  Tech’s average attendance actually fell during ACC play last year compared to out of conference (6,045 for ACC games compared to 6,379 for the out of conference games).  I certainly would expect some spike in attendance over the 4,700 we are averaging now, but how much?  Our weekend games stink except for unc on March 1st.  The other weekend home games are bc, maryland, miami, and nc state.  uva, as seemingly always, is on a Tuesday night, which will hurt attendance.  syracuse is on a Tuesday.  And we don’t play duke or newcomer notre dame at home.

For the sake of argument, let’s say we average 5,400 for the ACC games, a 10% drop over last season but well less than the 26% drop we saw out of conference.  That would mean a $230,000 drop in ticket + concession revenue in ACC homes games this season over last season, and represent a revenue leak of almost $550,000 overall from last season.  If the ACC average attendance is closer to 5,000 then our decline from last year will be closer to $700,000 overall.  In just three years, VT’s ticket + concession revenue will have fallen $2 million (when comparing this year to the 2010-11 season).  Considering we made a reported profit of $3 million back in 2010-11, that profit must now be close to falling into the six digit mark and fading fast. But hey, at least we are saving on coaching costs with the lowest paid coach in the league.
 
JJ’s Coaching Future:
 
I think Weaver hired him because he knew he was going to have to retire in a few years and didn’t want a lot of money tied up in a big name coach.  Weaver basically was buying time until the new A.D. was in place, could get rid of the current coach if he wasn’t doing well, and hire his own guy.  I expect that JJ will be let go after the 2014-15 season and we’ll buy out the final two years of his contract.  Or, if we bring in a penny-pinching A.D. like Weaver, we’ll wait until after the 2015-16 season and buy JJ out with a year to go on his contract.  Either way, I doubt JJ makes it past four years at Tech.  But it isn’t going to happen after this season so we can all forget that (nor do I think it should, we owe it to JJ to give him at least 3 years).
 
RANKING OUR PROGRAM:
 
Based on the above info, I’d put us 14th in the ACC, ahead of only lowly boston college (who is off to a 4-10 start this year).  I’d say we are comparable to miami and clemson and could easily overtake them if we start investing in our program more.  georgia tech has also been struggling for a long time, but they have a few key advantages over us (recruiting and an upgraded arena, along with history).  With louisville coming in next year, 15th place seems very, very likely.

MIDSEASON REPORT CARD:

The Hokies, as mentioned, went 7-5 out of conference.  Add in the miami game VT won, and that leaves us with 17 ACC games to go in this season in which Tech was predicted to finish last in the ACC for the third straight season.  So this is a good “halfway” point (13 games into a 30 game regular season) to look at the team.

7-5 is a major disappointment to me for our out of conference record.  So is 150th in the RPI, our current ranking.  The Hokies went 0-2 against top 100 teams, but that was expected.  What disappoints me is Tech went just 3-2 against 101-200, and lost to a team ranked #245 (unc-g-spot). The win over #113 wvu was sweet for many reasons, but losing to #161 usc-upstate really took the wind out of fans’ sails right off the bat.  And just when there was some excitement after beating defending ACC champ miami (even though almost none of those guys are left), VT followed that up with a 30-point loss to vcu and that loss at home to unc-g.

The game that stings the most to me was losing to seton hall on a neutral floor.  They were picked to finish last in the Big East and have a similar RPI to VT (#121 now).  Tech had every opportunity to win but couldn’t.  So instead of 8-4 out of conference, which still would have been a disappointment given the two bad losses at home, we are barely above .500.  But this is who we seem to be now, where we can lose any game, but will occasionally surprise you with a decent (but not great) win.

Let me rank the guys:

  • Coaches: D… still figuring out who he (JJ) wants to be and how to handle it.  Pulling in below average ACC classes and managing the players very poorly (someone always seems to be in the doghouse and getting benched).
  • Upperclassmen: D
  • Eddie is still Eddie – hot as a pistol at times and just plain awful at others.  But 17.4 ppg and 47% on 3s is pretty darn good, along with 6.3 rebounds.
  • Cadarian has lived in the doghouse this year and has been riding pine since his career high in the opener.
  • C.J. Barksdale seems to be the straw that stirs the drink for VT – when he plays VT does much better, but he’s missed 3 games for suspension, 1 for injury, and missed parts of other games with injury.  Tech must have him healthy the rest of the way in order to not finish at the bottom of the ACC.
  • Johnston and Beyer have done their best when called upon, and done well considering they are walk-ons.  But you can’t live with walk-ons in ACC play.
  • Rankin left the team, best wishes to him.
  • Young Jakes: B/C… They are a C in terms of how they are producing but considering none of them were rated higher than 3-stars coming in, they are better than I expected and hence the B…
  • JvZ keeps getting better and has become a real shot-blocking force inside.  Needs to improve his low post moves but at least is forcing teams to think about driving.  Needs to improve rebounding, too (4.9 per game) which I think entails him needing to get stronger.
  • Marshall Wood has really improved his 3-point shooting from his awful % last year (he’s at 42% this year).  But he’s still too soft on defense and hasn’t shown flashes of the amazing dunker we saw in high school — I’d love to see him attack the tin more but he seems timid.  Softness is a common problem with this VT team, especially with Raines on the bench.
  • Adam Smith has looked solid with 13.1 ppg, but he’s missed 3 games with injury now and seems to put up his biggest numbers in garbage time.  I don’t see him as a consistent scorer in ACC play, if he gets healthy.  He’ll go from 3-23 points I bet.
  • Ben Emelogu – love him.  He’s got an ACC body already and while his 3-point shooting has tailed off, he’s still at 40% on the year and with 12.2 ppg.  Could be an ACC Third Teamer by his junior year.
  • Devin Wilson is a great passer (5.3 assists per game – he will shatter the VT assists record if he keeps that pace over 4 years) and is a good penetrator/finisher, but he has to improve at beating pressure (tries to dribble out of too much) and must learn how to shoot this offseason (just 2/8 on 3s… which is the same as Barksdale).  Watch for teams to back off him since he cannot shoot from the outside.
  • Trevor Thompson should be a good player if he bulks up this offseason.  He has the height but is too skinny to battle inside against the ACC bigs right now.
  • Maurice Kirby and Malik Mueller are not playing this season, so TBD.
  • Overall: D… A realistic goal for this team is just to not finish in last place in the ACC.  That seems like a real possibility with the win at miami (though they come to the Cassell later) and bc at 4-10.  Anything other than last place is a win for this team and a baby step in the right direction.  Yes, there will be bad losses like the one to unc-g, but this team has a shot to win some games, too, and be decent in a year or two if recruiting can pick up.  Just don’t expect the postseason this year.

This post was written by:

- who has written 1215 posts on Tech Hoops.

Niemo is a member of the VT Class of '98. While not a professional journalist by any stretch, Niemo analyzes and breaks down every minute of Hokie hoop action. He also researches topics of interest such as Hokie recruits, program revenue, statistical data on the team, previews VT opponents, and discusses his favorite bourbons/Scotches. In addition to his passion for Hokie hoops, Niemo has attended 126 straight VT football home games (every game since '94), eclipsing the 100 mark in September of '09 and recently attended his 20th consecutive VT/uva game. During the final home basketball game of his senior year, he was brought onto the court and was awarded 2 passes to the Atlantic 10 Basketball Tournament in Philly during a timeout for being a "Super Fan" during his time at VT. The Hokie Bird made the award on behalf of Athletic Director Jim Weaver. Niemo was known to be in the front row of every home game with his familiar red afro hairdo.

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  • Blue Collar Hokie

    winning cures all ills. niemo, who would you pick to replace johnson? of course we dont know how tight fisted the new a.d. will or wont be but who do you think we could snag who could turn this thing around?

    • Niemo

      I’ll have to see the type of A.D. we get first and who’s available in 1 to 2 years (cuz it ain’t gonna happen this year — not with 3 years left to buy out). What I think will happen is we’ll get a guy like Brownell (clemson) that has been successful at lower levels and won’t command a huge salary but still is at least a somewhat proven commodity. What I’d like us to get is someone like a Gottfried (nc state) or Pearl — someone who is a proven winner at the higher level but has a checkered past and is why they are at ESPN. Hey, this is the ACC and this is Blacksburg, we are only going to win if we have someone who isn’t afraid to bend a few rules.

  • King

    Can’t spell apathetic without pathetic. At least the new AD will have an opportunity to make an immediate impact on the basketball program.

    Saw an interesting post on the TechSideline message board where someone listed Tech’s last six basketball hires, following Moir’s resignation. Would be an interesting topic to explore in greater detail on TechHoops. We need a bold hire that reinvigorates the fan base and demonstrates a commitment to winning.

    • Niemo

      King – our dynamic has changed quite a bit over the last 6 coaches. We’ve been in 4 conferences over that span. So I’m not sure it is an apples to apples comparison. Even Greenberg was hired when we were a Big East team and before the ACC announcement, I believe. Our recent coaching search was our first hire as a member of the best conference in basketball, and we completely struck out. Sadly, the pressure of fixing that won’t be on the new AD, since it wasn’t his/her fault. And anyone will seem like a more qualified hire. But we shall see what happens, maybe JJ turns it around and surprises us all.

  • Will Stewart

    Niemo: Excellent as always. Just realized that we didn’t have TechHoops.com in our “Hokie News” RSS feeds. We have added you guys in there, so your stuff will now appear in our home page feed and on our “Hokie News” page.

  • Les

    They should’ve developed Raines into a back to the basket center in the time he was here. It looked like he was going to be on his way in the 2nd half of his sophomore season. Then the focus turned to Green and Finney-Smith creating offense on their own and everyone else playing off of them. We tried to make DFS into a Allen-type big man who could create his own offense, but his future is as a small forward in the pros. Until they get a PF/C who can post up as per Coleman Collins or create like Allen/DFS, the half-court offense is going to struggle.

    • Pat Leonard

      DFS isn’t gonna make the pros… at least not in this country :) I wouldn’t be surprised if he puts together a solid career in China or Turkey. He continues to have the same issues he had at VT… inefficient shooter from the field, 3-point line, and foul line, and he doesn’t really do anything that well. His best asset is as a rebounder, but as you alluded to, he doesn’t have the bulk to be a post player.

  • danram

    Sorry, Niemo, but I can’t agree with your evaluation of James Johnson. Not at all.

    IMHO, it’s way too early to be giving him a final grade. He inherited an absolute mess from Seth Greenberg and he got a very late start on his recruiting for last year. Frankly, I’m impressed that he was able to put together the recruiting class that he did. Then he unexpectedly lost Donte Clark to admissions and Malik Mueller to the NCAA.

    I also think that he did a very nice job with this year’s class, signing Jalen Hudson, Justin Bibbs, and T.J. Lang. So they’re not “Top 150″ kids? Big effing deal. How’d that 2011 class with the four “Top 150″ kids work out? Two of the best players to come through VT in the last 20 years, Jamon Gordon and Zabian Dowdell, weren’t rated in the national top 150 when they came out of high school.

    Personally, I think JJ will get at least two more seasons following this one, and I think that he should.

    • http://www.thegarycope.com/ Cope

      Approve—
      Sent from Mailbox for iPhone

    • Niemo

      Danram – I respect your thoughts. A lot of my bias is based on the fact I never thought we should have hired him, so I haven’t had an open mind about him. Same way I hated the Stiney promotion from day 1. Maybe JJ will prove me wrong but in this case I need to be shown he is the right guy. One thing that has irked me is JJ said what his style of play was going to be here, and hasn’t done any of it. He’s trying to figure it out, I’m sure, which only fuels my don’t let coaches learn on the job in the ACC argument. I don’t dislike him or blame him for taking the job, and I agree it was time for Seth to go, but I blame our athletic department for totally botching the timing of it and the selection.

      You don’t win in the ACC without top 150 guys. Dowdell and Gordon were truly special, but there were a once in a generation anomaly. bc is proving that now – they had classes similar to ours who are now in their 3rd year in the system and they aren’t getting any better. You can only find so many diamonds in the rough. Ben seems to be one, but we’ll see about the rest.

      And how did he get a late start on recruiting last year? Wasn’t he on the previous staff and therefore knew who we were recruiting? Maybe, maybe not, but that seems like a cop out when he was basically promoted to head coach.

      Oh, and that wasn’t a “final grade”. Simply my mid season grade for everyone. And keep in mind I said in the article I think he deserves another year. I think we’ll know after 100 games and 3 recruiting classes what we have.

  • Drew

    Thanks for the money breakdown. That’s one of the issues I remember ranting about when JJ was hired. I said at the time that sometimes you have to spend money to make money. Going cheapo on his salary is and has hurt revenue because the team isn’t any good and a lot of that is because JJ is literally learning on the job. That simply should never happen at a major conference school.

    IMO, JJ needs to be let go after this season. It’s not his fault he was put in a situation to fail but he just doesn’t have the tools to turn it around. If you watch the team’s games over the last 2 years, they struggle with even the most basic fundamentals. And as Niemo noted, what JJ says he wants done doesn’t match what is actually happening in games. That shows he either doesn’t know what he’s talking about or can’t effectively communicate or teach his style. It’s likely the latter because he’s never been a head coach. Cut your losses now. It’ll be years if he figures it out and that’s just not worth it for a variety of reasons. No ill will to JJ, its just business. What happens when your leadership (Weaver) gets lazy is sometimes you have to clean up the mess and it hurts other people.

    And to end on a positive note, Ben Emelogu has the potential to be a stud. All the more reason to get him proper coaching!

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