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TechHoops.com issues press release regarding its future

Blacksburg, VA — Despite three straight cellar-dweller seasons in Blacksburg, dwindling attendance, several marriages, the births of multiple children, the firing of two coaches, and the transfer and de-commitment of countless high profile recruits, we here at TechHoops.com have continued to provide die-hard, although somewhat masochistic, Virginia Tech basketball fans with indepth coverage of the worst team in the ACC. Even our colleagues at TSL noted our dedication:

TSL Tweet from Feb. 6, 2014

@TechHoops is meticulously detailing a very painful season. They have way more of an appetite for it than we here at TSL do.

What most TechHoops fans didn’t know was that coming into the 2013-14 season, there was talk of shutting down TechHoops.com for good. After starting with six writers, all alums, we were down to just two; Niemo and Cope. These guys have families and jobs and other obligations. But they didn’t let spouses, children, and responsibilities get in the way of providing VT basketball fans every horrible detail of every demoralizing loss (and there were 58 of them) for the last three seasons. But they came close.

Now, with the program in a low not seen in near 14 years, there is a new hope dawning in the Cassell. JJ is out, and Buzz Williams is in. Why he left a high profile job at Marquette for the worst team in the ACC is still somewhat of a mystery, but he’s here now. Thus, to avoid any rumors and speculation, we want to announce that senior writer Niemo, formerly the Weekend Warrior, will return for an eighth straight season.

“I’m more committed than ever to righting this ship,” Niemo said via conference call following the ACC tournament. “I take full responsibility for the last three seasons, as well as the seven straight years of declining attendance. I have come to realize that the lack of BRRRRAAAHHHHHH-laden highlight videos is the sole reason for the decline in Virginia Tech’s basketball program.”

Niemo got married in 2013 and has since had his first child, but he doesn’t use those two events as excuses for his decline in productivity. He would only say that the correlation between his lack of effort at TechHoops and the lack of effort and results on the court cannot be easily dismissed.

“Look, I get it. I let this team down. I let the fans down. But I’ve rededicated myself to rebuilding this team, one arm curl and BRRRRAAAHHHHHH highlight at a time,” said Niemo between nap times. “I can’t promise victories, because we all know I’m pretty bad at that… God, remember that time I had to make a donation to some ‘Save the Eagles’ campaign? …anyhow, I can’t promise victories, but I can promise effort.”

It will be an uphill battle for Niemo, TechHoops.com, and of course, Buzz Williams and what’s left of the team. After announcing his hiring, recruit T.J. Lang asked for and received a release from his NLOI. Warren Craft, a 2015 verbal commit, decommitted because he never heard back from Coach Buzz. And then there’s Trevor Thompson, who was one of the few bright spots in a historically bad season. He transferred to Ohio State.

On the plus side, Buzz and the Hokies did pick up two big recruits in Ahmed Hill, a 6-4 shooting guard, and Satchel Pierce, a 6-10, 250-pound center. Both verbally committed to the Hokies.

Despite the odds, Niemo will be back next season. To celebrate, TechHoops.com has hired a graphic designer to redo its logo. T-shirts will be forthcoming. Stay tuned.

In other news…
Cope will be back next season, too, keeping things running smoothly behind the scenes and writing the occasional recap and commentary. “Like anyone cares about the guy behind the scenes,” Cope said. “Whatever. Screw you guys, I’m going to get a drink.”

Posted in Cope's Corner, Featured Columns, Home7 Comments

Virginia Tech fires James Johnson after two seasons

It’s official. James Johnson has been fired as the men’s head basketball coach at Virginia Tech. His tenure lasted just two seasons and less than two full calendar years. It got off to inauspicious start and never got on track. JJ finishes his VT tenure with a 22-41 (35%) record (6-30 in ACC regular season games and 0-2 in the ACC Tournament). That percentage is third worst of Tech’s 23 basketball coaches, and the worst that any Hokie coach has had in the last 80 years. (For reference, ricky “program bomb” stokes won 40% of his games aided largely by a year in A-10.)

I’m both surprised and not surprised. I’m surprised that Virginia Tech is going to eat three years of a contract, especially after former athletics director Jim Weaver gave JJ his blessing for another year.

Also, Tech has a history of underpaying coaches. In fact, Johnson was the lowest paid men’s basketball coach in the ACC and the Hokies got what they paid for; a team that finished dead last in each of JJ’s two seasons at the helm.

At the same time, I am not surprised that new Athletics Director Whit Babcock, who has been on the job for exactly one month, decided to make a change. His hiring made headlines, especially given his salary. To come in and do nothing with a program that has finished last three straight seasons, and seen declining attendance for seven straight years, likely would not have gone over well with the dwindling fan base.

As most rational fans would agree, JJ was in over his head from the beginning. No one begrudges him for taking the job. If you want to be a head basketball coach and an ACC team offers you a job, you take it. The fault of JJ’s failed tenure lies squarely at the feet of former AD Jim Weaver. Instead of conducting a national search after botching the Seth Greenberg firing, he chose the easy way and hired an assistant coach with no previous head coaching experience. JJ was the only ACC coach who had zero head coaching experience before taking over at an ACC program. And his teams performed about as well as you’d expect.

So, here we are, for the second time in two years, looking for a new head coach. Babcock’s shown he’s not afraid to drop the ax, but what he does next will determine the future success or failure of not only the basketball program, but also his tenure as AD.

Below is the official release from HokieSports.com:

Virginia Tech Director of Athletics Whit Babcock announced today that James Johnson has been relieved of his duties as head men’s basketball coach. In making the announcement, Babcock said a national search for Johnson’s replacement will begin immediately.

“I want to thank Coach Johnson for his dedication and hard work for our university and our basketball program over the past seven years,” Babcock said. “A change of this significance affects many people and is never taken lightly, but I felt a change and a new direction was necessary for the long term, best interest of our department.”

Johnson just completed his second season as head coach of the Hokies. He spent the previous five seasons on the Tech staff, serving as an assistant from 2007-2011 before being promoted to associate head coach prior to the 2012-13 season. He had accepted an assistant coaching position at Clemson on April 13, 2012, but returned to Blacksburg soon thereafter to take the head coaching position previously held by Seth Greenberg.

Babcock will meet with the media at 9:30 am on Tuesday in the Shott Media Center. The media session will be streamed live on hokiesports.com.

This will be Babcock’s only media availability until the announcement of the new coach.

Posted in 2013-14 Season, Around The ACC, Cope's Corner15 Comments

The season that was a trainwreck

Well? How’s everyone feeling this morning? Relieved? Anxious? Ready for a change? Whatever may be going through your minds this morning, we here at TechHoops want to take a moment to thank you, the fans, for supporting this site by reading our articles, sharing them, commenting on them, and spreading the word on Facebook and Twitter.

According to Google Analytics, more than 20,500 of you visited our site this season and racked up more than a quarter million pageviews. In seven years, we have had 250,000 unique visitors to our site. A quarter million people. Just, wow. We’re honestly humbled. So, thank you!

Last season, we ditched paid advertising and went to a simple donation system that appealed directly to the fans. NPR style, if you will, only, we’re not a nonprofit, so any donation to the site is based purely on your love and/or appreciation of TechHoops and our efforts.

Below are the donors who have contributed to this site over the last two seasons. We are so grateful for their support. And we’re brainstorming ideas on how to take this Wild Hokie Club to the next level. If you have any ideas, we’re all ears!

2013-2014

2012-2013

  • Daniel K.
  • Chris D.
  • Patrick L.
  • Matt D.
  • Andrea T.
  • Steven S.
  • Jon K.
  • Patrick C.
  • Jon P.
  • Ryan L.
  • Lucian L.
  • Scott B.
  • Matthew W. (x2)
  • Brandon S.
  • Andrew M.
  • Ryan W.
  • James B.
  • Tushar P.
  • Bryan S.
  • Ben F.
  • Dan R.
  • Timothy B.
  • James S.

This season, we didn’t put the donation form up until late in the season, hence why that list is a bit smaller than the previous year. We weren’t sure how much content we could contribute coming into this season, so we were hesitant to accept donations. Niemo and his lovely bride had their first baby, plus Niemo’s coaching these days. And me, I’m working on another degree in addition to coaching and scout leading, and etc. However, as it turns out, we were able to keep up with the season, and thus decided to put the appeal back up with zero mention of it, and people noticed.

When this site started, there were about six contributors, but, unlike Wick, the other Jay, StreetBallaRob, and davey “I love Stiney” woods, who all bailed, Niemo and I have stuck around. Our hope is to make it to at least 10 years. And we hope you guys will be right there with us.

Posted in 2013-14 Season, Cope's Corner, Featured Columns9 Comments

With latest Bear Fight loss, Hokies tie a dubious record

The 1972 Miami Dolphins are the only NFL team in history to win a Super Bowl with a perfect record. And each year, when the last undefeated team finally loses, some of the surviving members of the Dolphins crack open bottles of champagne to celebrate their place in history for another year.

And then there’s the 1953-54 Virginia Tech men’s basketball team, which holds the school record for most losses in a single season with 24 (the team finished 3-24 with a 2-13 conference record). That team was beyond bad. In fact, it’s safe to say they were the worst team in program history, although their 15 game losing streak is just the 2nd worst in school history — the following year the 1954-55 team lost 18 straight on their way to a 7-20 season (both under Coach G.F. Laird, who was mercifully re-assigned after the 1954-55 season).  This year’s team could match that record losing streak of 18 if they lose out and lose their ACC Tournament opener.

That being said, we wonder if the surviving members of that team are preparing champagne bottles of their own as this year’s Virginia Tech team is on the verge of breaking a record that has stood for 60 years.

Should the Hokies lose by 20 or more points on the road to No. 25 ranked pittsburgh on Saturday, they would be the first Virginia Tech team to lose five consecutive games in reverse Bear Fight* fashion, breaking the record currently shared by this year’s team and the ’53-’54 team.

We combed the record books looking for four-game losing streaks for the past 70 years and that’s about where we stopped. Why? Because when we got to the 40s and 30s, we started seeing opponents with names like “Kroger Blue Devils,” “Roanoke YMCA,” “Langley AFB,” “House of David,” “NC Preflight School,” and “Woodrow Wilson Hospital.” So, we decided to stick with the last 60 years for the purposes of our research.

Oh, and in case you were wondering, we lost to nc preflight school 29-60 in 1944.

Back to business. You see, the ’53-’54 team suffered two four-game losing streaks in which every loss was by 20 or more points (told ya they were terrible):

Jan. 5, 1954 – Lost 62-91 to No. 20 nc state (29 pts)
Jan. 6, 1954 – Lost 45-82 to No. 8 duke (37 pts)
Jan. 9, 1954 – Lost 40-73 to george washington (33 pts)
Jan. 12, 1954 – Lost 73-95 to virginia (22 pts)
(VT lost the next game by 18 points and the one after that by 24 so they narrowly avoided 6 straight Bear Fight losses)

And again…

Feb. 13, 1954 – Lost 53-107 to #15 duke (54 pts)
Feb. 15, 1954 – Lost 61-83 to richmond (22 pts)
Feb. 17, 1954 – Lost 51-96 to nc state (45 pts)
Feb. 20, 1954 – Lost 67-101 to wvu (34 pts)

In the 2013-14 season, the Hokies have lost their last four games by a combined 84 points.

Jan. 25 – 45-65 at virginia (20 pts)
Jan. 29 – 52-76 at boston college (24 pts)
Feb. 1 – 60-80 vs. maryland (20 pts)
Feb. 5 – 50-70 at florida state (20 pts)

The panthers are 19-4 this season with losses to duke, virginia, syracuse, and cincinnati. They’re 12th in the nation in points allowed, giving up just 60 per game, while scoring an average of about 74. However, they did need overtime to beat miami last night, so they are capable of playing down to their competition.

On the other hand, they’ve doled out seven Bear Fights this season, including a massive beatdown of clemson. So, there is potential for the game to get real ugly on Saturday.

Whether this year’s team sets a new record for consecutive Bear Fight losses or not, it’s been a hell of depressing season for fans, coaches, and players alike.

* Note: A “Bear Fight” is a VT victory or loss by 20 or more points. A loss is a “Reverse Bear Fight”. The moniker is named for a brutal sequence of shots: a Car Bomb and Jager Bomb back-to-back. The idea is we either got beat so bad we should do a Bear Fight to forget about it, or we won by so much we should do a Bear Fight to celebrate. However, we don’t actually do these any more for health reasons, nor do we encourage or condone binge drinking. However, the labeling of big wins or losses seems to have stuck.

* Editor’s Note: The original version of this article identified the ’53-’54 team as holding the record for longest losing streak (18), however, it was the ’54-’55 team that actually holds that ugsome record. The ’53-’54 team does hold the record for most losses in a season (24).

Posted in 2013-14 Season, Featured Columns9 Comments

BREAKING NEWS: Hokies get early start on 2031 recruiting class

Tech Hoops fans, please welcome the newest member of the family, Lil Niemo; all 9 pounds, 1 ounce of him! Dad, mom and the Hokies’ first commit for the 2031 recruiting class are happy, healthy and doing well. Also, Niemo wanted me to let know that he wrote the previews for the next two games in the labor and delivery wing.

Niemo, Mrs. Niemo, and little Niemo

Posted in 2012-13 Season, On The Road, Site News, The Weekend Warrior13 Comments

The Weekend Warrior: ACC Tournament Crasher, Year 2

The Weekend Warrior: ACC Tournament Crasher, Year 2

Day 1:

The Weekend Warrior’s first day of the ACC Tournament featured a urologist, a gentlemen’s club, a Waffle House, and even some hoops mixed in. Seriously, how many people go to a urologist and a gentlemen’s club in the same day? This guy! My life be like. That’s two extremes to get your downstairs checked out. Let’s break down the day.

Morning: I’ll leave out the urology details (you’re welcome).

Afternoon: I own Alamo rental car company! Once again I scored satellite radio for free by renting a cheap end car, then taking advantage of their stringent car selection procedures. Me: “Which car is mine?” Alamo: “Take any of the cars on the row.” Me: “Oooook.” Then just grab the nicest car you can find, well out of the class you were supposed to get.

By 1:30 we were on the road to Greensberg-o. We caught the tail end of the uva upset of bc and then listened stunned as miami absolutely laid the lumber to wake. Well, looks like it is Hokies/canes for the third year in a row.

Evening: By 6:00 we were rolling into town. My first thought is, “The Big East has New York City and MSG. We have Greensboro. Yeah. Contrast and compare.” Still not sure what there is to this town other than a randomly huge arena that they must never use.

Next we are checking into our hotel (Days Inn). First thing I noticed is the towel rack had been ripped off the wall. Then that the fridge didn’t work. Then that the AC didn’t work. Then that the ice machine was broken. You get the idea. At least the internet service I’m using now is free, and the permanent cloud of fart smell in the room I can’t blame on them.

By 7 we are rolling over to the Coliseum. We find a gentlemen’s club on the way but notice it is empty. It says they don’t open until 11. That seems odd to us. We are parking right next to said club and walking over to scalp tickets. We decide $40 is our max ($72 is face). We walk up to a scalper and he asks how much we are willing to spend. We tell him $40. He hands us his umbrella (it is pouring) and goes running off like he just won the lottery. About 12 seconds later he is back with two tickets. Apparently we started a little high. 2-for-1 sounded good to us.

The Games: The arena was about 80-90% full last night. Having two locals like unc and nc state playing certainly helped. I learned that nc state fans actually want Sidney Lowe back next year. Amazing for a coach that has lost at least 10 conference games in all four of his seasons. Apparently their huge recruiting class coming in next year helps.

Things I learned at the games:

  • It shouldn’t be called North Cackalacka, it should be called North Khaki-lacka. The #1 fan look is team shirt tucked into khaki pants. We had a name for people that wore that when I was in school… NERDS!
  • The clemson dance team is outrageously hot. I wish we had found the club they were at last night. And they only have one male cheerleader, have to respect their lack of men on the baselines.
  • maryland fans wear underarmour, the Pepsi of athletic gear, like their life depended on it. I saw a father and his son wearing a combined five pieces of underarmour. Seriously, the kid had three underarmour shirts on. I know the company was started by a terp, but Mountain Dew was invented by a Hokie and you don’t see me rinsing my mouth after I brush my teeth with it. Moderation, people!

Ok, georgia tech beats unc and clemson gets bounced by an 11 or 12 seed for the second year in a row… now off for the clubs!

Late Night: Two blocks later we are rolling into the gentlemen’s club by our car. Here’s what I learned there:

  • Always ask to peek inside before you pay the cover. After dropping $15, we go inside and realize it is a dozen strippers (and nc a&t strippers at that), and us. No one else is there. It was like in Animal House when they roll into that bar off campus.
  • Guys have an expression called “stripper’s body”. As in, she has a… Well, these girls did not. They looked like the girls from a Weight Watchers “Before” photo shoot.
  • NC is no ATL.

Late Late Night: Off to Waffle House! Always a festive place to be at 2-3 AM. Always a good sign when a security guard is camped outside. Here’s what I learned there:

  • Your chances of getting stabbed, shot, or beaten to death go up 1,000% as soon as you get within 100 feet of a Waffle House.
  • If you like places that have prostitutes (actual ones), a guy that swallowed half a bottle of Ecstasy, and 20 drunks, then Waffle House is the place for you!
  • You can get your hashbrowns peppered, chilied, onioned, cheesed, and almost anything else, but you cannot get them until the next day. Seriously, you could time your service at a Waffle House with a sundial, except no one has ever actually been at a Waffle House during daylight.

Well, that’s it for Day 1. Let’s see what Day 2 holds for the Weekend Warrior (at least it won’t include a urologist… I hope).

Posted in ACC Tournament, The Weekend Warrior4 Comments

The Balla Report 3/10/10

• The 57th annual Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament gets under way tomorrow from Greensboro, its natural home I feel. With no truly dominant team in the conference, this season’s tournament figures to be a wide open affair, with many teams – including the Virginia Tech Hokies – figuring they have a legitimate shot at taking home the banner and the trophy. Here’s how the Balla thinks things will shake down –

1st Round – bc over uva, miami over wake, gt over unc, clemson over n.c. state

Quarterfinals – duke over bc, VT over miami, maryland over gt, clemson over fsu.

Semis – duke over VT, maryland over clemson

Final – duke over maryland

• Congratulations go out to Malcolm Delaney for being a unanimous selection to the All ACC first team. For the record, the Balla’s All ACC selections for 2009-10 would be as follows –

First team – Greivis Vasquez – maryland, Malcolm Delaney – VT, Jon Scheyer – duke, Al-Farouq Aminu – wake, Kyle Singler – duke

2nd team – Trevor Booker – clemson, Gani Lawal – ga tech, Nolan Smith – duke, Ish Smith – wake, Dorenzo Hudson – VT

3rd team – Tracy Smith – n.c. state, Sylvan Landesberg – uva, Joe Tripani – bc, Chris Singleton – fsu, Deon Thompson – unc.

Vasquez – the player everyone outside of College Park loves to hate – takes home Player of the Year honors, edging out Malcolm Delaney who should be pre season selection for 2010-11 ACC P.O.Y.

Gary Williams gets the nod for Coach of theYear, beating out Seth Greenberg and Coach K.

ga tech’s Derrick Favors is the Freshman of the Year. Hokie fans may have gotten their only look at Favors last Saturday as he likely will be one and done for the jackets.

Posted in 2009-10 Season, The Balla Report0 Comments

The Balla Report 3/5/10

• There has been a lot of talk recently about expanding the NCAA Tournament from 65 teams to a field of 96. Expect to hear a lot more talk about this subject over the next few weeks as we prepare for this year’s version of the Big Dance. To put this as plainly as possible, a 96 team NCAA Tourney is a bad, bad, bad idea. The folks who favor this expansion cite giving more teams a shot at the title as the biggest benefit of this plan, but we all know this is being driven by the almighty dollar. More teams in the field means more games on television for advertisers to spend beau coups of money on. More games also means the possibility of bringing in more networks – like ESPN – into the mix so they can get a piece of the pie. Also, keep in mind that many coaches who support expanding the field have bonus clauses in their contracts for making the NCAA Tournament.

For the third season in a row the Virginia Tech Hokies find themselves squarely on the bubble of making the NCAA field. The last two seasons the Hokies were unquestionably one of the last teams to be left out, or one of the infamous “first four out”. They certainly would have been included in an expanded 96 team field. But to what benefit? 31 additional teams will without question water down what has become one of the biggest events in all of sports.

Look at the college football bowl season where new bowls are added each and every year which now allow for every mediocre and sometimes downright bad 6-6 team to make the post season. Do you watch the Eagle Bank, International, Papa John’s or GMAC Bowls? Is this what we want to happen in college basketball? We already have an event – and a pretty good one at that – that allows teams that weren’t quite good enough or didn’t quite win enough games to make the NCAA field to participate in the post season. It’s called the NIT.

Proponents of the expanded field also cite giving each and every team – from maryland – baltimore county to kansas – a shot at the national championship. Well hello…every conference with the exception of the Ivy League has a conference tournament with the winner getting an automatic bid to the Big Dance. Thus, every team has the opportunity – no matter how remote the chances are – of making the NCAA Tournament and winning the national championship. Certainly not every sport can say that every team does in fact have a chance to win it all.

Don’t get me wrong, I want nothing more than the Hokies to get an NCAA bid. But I want it to be an earned reward for a great season, not just a ho-hum reward for a mediocre season. To me, part of the excitement and anticipation of these late season games – like tomorrow’s 4:00 showdown against georgia tech – is seeing if the Hokies can knock off one more quality opponent in order to impress the selection committee and earn their way into the field. These games sometimes become elimination games – just like the tournament.

If there must be expansion, then how about expanding from 65 to 68 teams, with the eight lowest seeds playing in the infamous “play-in” games for the right to get slaughtered by the #1 seed a couple of nights later? This would allow three more teams who would currently be snubbed and who may have quite a case for making the tournament – like the Hokies in each of the past two seasons – a chance to play under the big lights.

Finally, and maybe most importantly, could someone please explain to me how you would fit 96 teams onto one pool sheet? Enough said!

Posted in 2009-10 Season, The Balla Report2 Comments

The Balla Report 2/19/10

• Seth Greenberg has preached for the past several weeks about the Hokies needing to “define the way” they win ballgames. Simply put, do the little things. Some examples: 1) Dorenzo Hudson made all the Sports Center highlights with his spectacular fast break jam over two wake players, but it wouldn’t have been possible if freshman Cadarian Raines hadn’t blocked David Weaver’s layup attempt at the other end which led to the fast break. 2) Midway through the second half with Tech trailing by five and the shot clock running down, JT Thompson kept alive a key Hokie possession with a nice save of an errant pass from Malcolm Delaney just as the ball was headed out of bounds. JT somehow got the ball to Zo who drove the middle of the lane and connected on a scoop shot which cut the wake lead to 63-60. 3) Terrell Bell atoned for turning the ball over by chasing down wake’s C.J. Harris to swat away his transition shot. This led to Malcolm’s twisting and-one at the other end, which cut the wake lead to one and eliminated deac big man Chas McFarland in the process with his fifth foul.

• How did the Hokies outrebound the much larger deacons, who go 7-0, 6-11, 6-11 and 6-9 along their frontline, 47-38 you wonder? Greenberg knew Tech’s big men – Allen, Thompson, Davila and Raines – would have to get a body on each wake tree and hope that the guards and wings could get some boards. I’d say they succeeded as Delaney grabbed 9, matching his career high, to go along with his sensational 31 points, Hudson had 7 rebounds from his guard position, and Bell was simply huge with his 14 rebounds which included 7 on the offensive end alone.

• Speaking of T Bell, the Hokies new rebounding machine as of late with his 14 boards against wake which followed recent 9 and 11 rebound efforts versus uva and unc respectively. With his length on defense and nose for the ball off the rim, does Bell remind anyone of a young Dennis Rodman, just without the bleached do, piercings and tattoos (to this point)?

• The key moment of this season could very well turn out to be the opening minutes of the December 30 game against longwood. This is where the season took a dramatic turn for Dorenzo Hudson as Delaney left the game with a sprained ankle. Zo finished the longwood game with 11 points but then took his game to a whole new level with 41 against seton hall three nights later with Malcolm unable to go. Hudson hasn’t looked back since and has become the second go to scorer the Hokies desperately needed, now averaging 14 ppg and 16.6 in ACC play. Would Zo have had the break through season he’s had if he weren’t forced into the scorer role with Delaney out of the lineup? Who knows. But I do know this – you can go ahead and start engraving Dorenzo’s name on the trophy for the ACC’s most improved player.

• Jeff Allen and JT Thompson played much of the second half against wake forest with four fouls and Malcolm Delaney actually fouled out of a game for the first time since his freshman season. JT’s defense on wake future lottery pick Al-Farouq Aminu, even after being saddled with his fourth foul, was vital to the Hokies comeback. Experience playing effectively while in foul trouble could be huge going into Cameron Indoor, where as we all know, duke tends to get the nod from the refs on anything resembling a close call. How the Hokies react when certain call don’t go their way, which inevitably they all won’t, could be a key factor in this Sunday night’s battle for first place in the ACC.

Posted in 2009-10 Season, The Balla Report3 Comments

Brick Of The Game | Same Name Game

Can’t wait to dunk on North Carolina Can’t wait to get out of North Carolina
ADVANTAGE: J. T.
2009 NIT 2nd Round 2009 National Championship
ADVANTAGE: DEON
Leads team in a headband Leads team in scoring
ADVANTAGE: DEON
Only 2.7 fouls per game Refs won’t call fouls on him
ADVANTAGE: J. T.
Mother named him “JT” Mother named him “Deon”
ADVANTAGE: J. T.

Posted in Brick of the Game0 Comments

The Balla Report 2/3/10

• For those of you who haven’t gotten around to flipping over your calendar yet, it is now February. And as any fan of college basketball knows, it is now crunch time, time to put up or shut up. And for the Virginia Tech Hokies, what better way to tip off this all important month than a home date with the defending, yet recently downtrodden, national champion north carolina tar heels? Furthermore what better way to start the key stretch of this season with four of the next five games in the friendly confines of Cassell Coliseum? A win over unc certainly gets the ball rolling on the final push of the Hokies ’09-10 campaign to end up on the right side of the bubble line. It also gives them great confidence going into Saturday’s next big game against clemson.

One slight problem, coming off last Sunday’s 75-60 home loss to the uva cavaliers, the struggling but still very talented tar heels will be looking at this game as a “must win game in order to salvage their season”. With the tar heels sitting at 2-4 in the ACC with a trip to maryland looming Sunday before returning home to face duke next Wednesday, unc could be staring straight at an almost unheard of 2-7 conference start as well as dwindling chances of even making the big dance, unless they can pull out a win in Blacksburg. They’ll be circling the wagons for sure.

Recent history shows the Hokies do not fare well when facing teams in this situation. The most recent example of this came last Sunday as Tech dropped an 82-75 contest to a miami team that had been reeling with four straight losses, and had to have a home win over the Hokies to have any chance of making any kind of noise this season. Knowing this full well going in, Virginia Tech still came out lacking the sense of urgency needed to win any road game in the ACC much less to win a road game against a desperate team like the canes.

Hopefully an inspired and raucous crowd in the Cassell can help the Hokies get off to the fast start they will need in order to make an early statement in this game and not let carolina gain any confidence and remind them that they were just blown out at home by uva. This will be extremely important because if Tech comes out slow and unable to knock down shots, the tar heel team that blew past n.c. state last week in Raleigh or knocked off #5 michigan state in December could make an unwanted appearance.

Virginia Tech can make great strides to a NCAA bid by winning four out of five over this next stretch, and a win over the defending national champions does nothing but strengthen your resume.

• I’ve heard a lot of talk recently that Virginia Tech’s biggest rival was becoming more and more the miami hurricanes and less and less the uva cavaliers. This talk is stirred on mostly because of the struggles of the wahoo football team and the fact that the Hokies dominated the series over the last 10 years with many of those games blow outs. Now don’t get me wrong, I love a win over “the u” as much as the next guy, but a win over the arrogant and elitist wahoos in any sport still has that extra oompth and still gives me great sense of pride as an alumni.

While the football rivalry between the Hokies and canes may have been much more competitive over recent years, I firmly believe that any school’s main rival should encompass all sports, whether that sport be football, basketball, debating or bass fishing. That being said, take a look back at last week when the Hokies hoops team faced back to back road contests against uva and miami. Ask any Hokie fan if they would trade Tech’s gritty come from behind overtime win over uva for a win at miami, and I think you would get a resounding NO across the board. Therein lies the answer to who the Hokies main rival is. And as for me, I can’t wait to knock off those hated wahoos again in the Cassell come February 13.

Posted in 2009-10 Season, Home, The Balla Report0 Comments

The Weekend Warrior Walks a Mile in the Shoes of the hoos

Alright, ladies, it is time for the annual roundball game in ch’ville with our be-hated rivals, the wahoos.  And I can’t help but think that being a uva fan right now is very similar to how many Americans felt exactly one year when President Obama took office.  Both the Head Basketball Coach, Obama-stunt-double Dave Leitao, and Head Football Coach, Al Groh, have had their “terms end” in the last year with some very tough approval ratings.  In comes the new regime, full of hope and promise.

So let me slip on some boat shoes, grab a diagonal tie, sip some white zin, nibble on some brie, and live the life of a wahoo sports fan for a few minutes…

State of the university:

I’m not sure who you would say was in a worse relative position – America a year ago or uva sports as of the time Groh was fired (I know what my vote would be – uva sports).  The cavs in over 50 years as a part of the ACC have never won an outright ACC football title.  They have tied for it twice in 1989 and 1995, but never won it outright.  The Hokies have three, plus a division title, in six years in the league and the league has four more teams than it did until fsu took over the conference in 1992.  Heck, the league only had nine teams until 2004 and uva still couldn’t win it outright.

Their newly-former coach, Al Groh needs no introduction.  Groh won ACC Coach of the Year (twice!) in 2002 and 2007.  But he was just 59-53 in nine seasons at uva and just 36-36 in conference play, never winning a division or ACC title.  uva missed making a bowl his last two seasons.  Of course, the biggest dagger for him was his 1-8 record against the Hokies and watching VT win three outright ACC titles and another division title in six years.  And to think he is now georgia tech’s Defensive Coordinator!  Wow, who’d have thought he’d be our savior in terms of ruining the jackets.

In basketball, it isn’t that much better.  The hoos have just one ACC Basketball Tournament title, in 1976, but have won or shared the regular season title five times, the last in 2006-07.  They have 16 NCAA Tournament appearances (VT has eight) and two Final Four trips in ’81 and ’84.  You’d definitely say this was the stronger of those two sports.  But with just two NCAA Tournament appearances since 1997, the program has definitely been in a decline.

Recently fired Dave Leitao was the 2006-07 ACC Coach of the Year and led the hoos to their only NCAA Tournament appearance since 2001.  But Leitao finished just 63-60 in four years at the helm and was a miserable 9-23 in ACC play.  He also was unable to break uva’s glass ceiling – the hoos have not made it past the ACC Quarterfinals in 14 years!  They have been eliminated in the ACC First Round or Quarterfinals every year since 1995 (Tech’s made the semi-finals twice).

I’ve often thought to myself as I’m walking out of Lane or Scott Stadium after yet another Hokie win over the hoos, “It really cannot get any better than this.  uva sports (the ones that really matter) are as low as they can possibly be, and Hokie sports are doing fantastic.”  The scary thing is, history tells us this will all change at some point.  At some point uva may be #1 in the nation in football again as they were back in 1990.  Of course, that lead to uva losing four straight to finish the season and spawned my favorite t-shirt of all time: “uva football: #1 in the country [crossed out], the ACC [crossed out], Virginia [crossed out], charlottesville”.  At some point uva basketball may make another Final Four, or even make the semi-finals of the ACC Tournament!  Gasp!   And who knows if we can continue to be the dominant football program in the ACC after Beamer, or stay around .500 in basketball every year.

So Hokies really need to enjoy these glory days.  Not only is VT riding the gravy train on biscuit wheels, but uva is about as irrelevant in both sports as you can be.  I guarantee they bring out their national champion soccer team during the basketball game this Thursday and I guarantee I will stand up and yell, “Nobody cares!  You’d trade that title in a minute to have our football program!”  (the real football, not futbol – sorry Davey)

All this brings us to…

Hope and Change!

“Yes we can,” the hoos shout!  They believe their new basketball coach, Tony Bennett, and new football coach, Mike London, can revive their programs from obscurity back to those glory days when they were in the “Others Receiving Votes” category!  They can brag once again to Hokie fans about their athletic teams, and recapture the Commonwealth Cup instead of talking about the Directors’ Cup (formerly the Sears Cup that no one really cares about).

But can they?  If Obama’s first year is any indication, it won’t be easy.  The unemployment rate has risen from 7% to over 10%.  The US still had more than 100,000 troops in Iraq as of November 2009 and had sent close to 50,000 to Afghanistan.  He still hadn’t passed even an initial health care reform bill.  But Politifact.com did a study and found that of his 502 campaign promises, more than half were “still in the works” and 91 had been fulfilled.  That breaks down to about a 20% winning percentage after one year in terms of fulfillment, or 50% in terms of being in progress.  Using the latter, that means going 8-8 in conference in basketball or 4-4 in football.

The basketball team, after struggling out of conference, did win their first three ACC games to sit alone in first.  This prompted one of my uva buddies to text me talking trash.  I pointed out to him this was the first time he had texted me to talk trash about uva sports since the last Winter Olympics.  uva promptly nearly lost to a crappy unc-wilmington team at home, and they got smoked at wake forest.  So the cavs certainly aren’t back yet in basketball, but they will surely surpass Leitao’s 4-12 mark of last year.  Things seem to be looking up, at least a tad.

In football, their current situation reminds me of our old mountain home.  In the cupboards up there, we had a 15 year old can of Dinty Moore beef stew.  For some reason, it never got thrown out.  And the running joke was if we ever got snowed in, we’d have to eat it.  Well, uva’s football talent right now is about as well stocked as our old cupboard.  They have nothing, other than maybe a lot of Dinty Moore beef stew.  And they have a fairly weak recruiting class coming in next year.  As bad as this season was for uva football, it could be worse next year.  But obviously the hoos realize it will take a while for London, who won a I-AA title at richmond, time to turn things around.  And the scary thing for Hokies is if he can turn things around in terms of recruiting, namely in Virginia, it will have an adverse effect on Tech.  But pardon me if I’m not worried yet.  Even Groh had a dominant year in the state in recruiting his first full year and we saw what that led to.

Final Thoughts:

After a few moments as a hoo fan, I think I’ll keep my burnt orange and Chicago maroon clothing all the same.  It cannot possibly get any worse for the hoos, but it will also be a long road to prominence, or even meaningfullness, for them.  But if the Hokies win Thursday night in ch’ville for just the second time since 1968, I’ll think to myself, “This really is the greatest era to be a Hokie: we’re on top and firmly sitting on their faces.”  Now I have to go hit the shower and wash all this wahoo stink off me.

Posted in The Weekend Warrior1 Comment

The Balla Report 1/22/10

• The Swing Game – Every season there are one or two games on the schedule that go a long, long way towards determining a team’s post season fate and in general how it will be remembered in the future. Saturday’s 1:30 contest in the Cassell against the boston college eagles is one such game for the Virginia Tech Hokies. Not that a win over bc will lock up any sort of post season bid by any means, or impress anyone in the national media, but a loss could be devastating.

A loss to the eagles, who come in at 11-8 and 2-3 in the ACC, would have the Hokies staring straight down the barrel of a 1-5 start in conference, with road games looming next week at first place uva and a miami team that will be looking to avenge the beat down they took in Blacksburg last week. And that’s before starting a two game home stand with unc and clemson, certainly no pushovers. This is a good Hokie basketball team who’s off to its best start in over 10 years, but that could be a hole they just couldn’t dig their way out of.

Anyone who looks at the bc game as a blow off guaranteed win should look no further than last Tuesday when the eagles came from behind to beat miami 79-75 in Coral Gables, FL. Reggie Jackson scored 15 of his 17 points in the second half to lead the comeback and Seth Greenberg has warned that he’s the kind of player who’s capable of taking over a game by himself. Hopefully a well rested Hokie team will come out, inspired by the home crowd, and take it to bc much like they did to the canes. A win will brighten Virginia Tech’s prospects come March, or definitely keep the light burning.

• With their 72-30 mauling of north carolina central on Monday night, the Hokies closed their non conference portion of the regular season at 13-1. While none of these wins would be anything close to a stop the presses or lead story on Sports Center type of win, none were the type head scratching and down right humiliating losses that have plagued Hokie fans in past seasons. Before Greenberg took the reigns for the 2003-04 season, the Hokies would routinely and out of nowhere drop games to supposedly overmatched teams like radford, VMI, liberty, east tennessee state, and william & mary to name a few.

Even with Seth at the helm there have been some dubious out of conference misadventures. Recall losses to east carolina and old dominion in 03-04, VMI and western michigan in 04-05, bowling green and odu again in 05-06. Heck, even the Hokies last NCAA Tournament season of 06-07 included stunning losses to those pesky western michiganers and even the thundering herd of marshall. With “bad” losses like that on the resume, the talking heads on ESPN always seemed to follow up commentary of wins over the likes of unc or duke with “yeah, but remember this team lost to marshall or VMI”. That won’t be an issue this season.

This season the Hokies have also managed to avoid the types of heart breaking and gut wrenching losses early on that plagued last season’s squad. There have been none of half court miracles (xavier) or games that came down to the last half second either to see the opposition sink a buzzer beater (wisconsin) or the Hokies unable to convert when they had the opportunity to do so (georgia). Those kinds of losses can make you feel snake bitten and haunt the team to the point that they have a “what can go wrong now” attitude whenever there is a close game down the stretch, like pretty much every ACC game.

So, hopefully in upcoming seasons, the Hokies can score some bigger name out of conference wins, and Seth is committed to continuing to upgrade the schedule, but for now 13-1 o.o.c. looks pretty good all things considered, have allowed guys like Dorenzo Hudson and Terrell Bell to really develop their games further, and have put the Hokies in a position for success the rest of this season.

Posted in 2009-10 Season, Home, The Balla Report0 Comments

The Opposing View | Fly Like an eagle (bc)

The Hokies host their second eagles of the week on Saturday, facing their ACC rivals from boston college. I interviewed Brian from BC Interruption – a site for the eagles and by the eagles – with a 12-pack of questions.

Also, here is the interview I did with Brian at BC Interruption: Niemo Crashes Bean Town (Note: he capitalized the other schools in my quotes, you know I didn’t)

BASKETBALL QUESTIONS:

Q1: Tell me about this year’s bc team…

Brian: It’s been a strange year for BC. Early season suspensions, injuries, strong victories over Providence, Michigan and Miami, soul-crushing, embarrassing losses to mid-major programs like Harvard and Maine, and recently three listless efforts against ACC foes. I don’t know what to make of this team.

This team has all the talent to compete in the ACC this year, but they have come out flat and played up or down to their level of competition thus far this year. Vermont transfer Joe Trapani leads the way for the Eagles, averaging 15.2 per game and 6.8 rebounds per game. On any given night, BC will also get solid performances from Reggie Jackson (13.6 ppg), Corey Raji (11.8 ppg), and Rakim Sanders (10.4). The Eagles run a very tight flex offense. The one weakness this year has been post play, as the BC lineup doesn’t really showcase a dominant center.

Q2: How much do the eagles miss All-ACC Second Teamer, Tyrese Rice?

Brian: We certainly miss Rice’s production, especially with guys like Sanders and Corey Raji struggling to score since ACC play started. However, Rice never struck me as a true leader of the team. That’s something the Eagles’ desperately need this year. We thought that person would be Rakim Sanders but he is going through a serious funk on the court this year. To be honest, I’m really not sure what the cause of his funk is. Increasingly this team is looking to a player like sophomore Reggie Jackson to lead this team and be the vocal leader on the court.

Q3: bc has the third most wins in ACC play (behind unc and duke) since joining the league in 2005.  What do you attribute that to?

Brian: Coming out of the gate strong …

Jared Dudley is one big reason the Eagles have had so much success in the ACC. Dudley only played in the ACC two seasons but was a big reason the Eagles won 11 ACC games in 2005-2006 and came within a bucket of winning the whole thing against Duke in the ACC Championship. In his senior year when he was named ACC Player of the Year, Dudley got the Eagles to 10-6 with an additional win in the ACC Tournament before bowing out to North Carolina. Craig Smith’s contribution to the 2005-2006 also helped.

After a fairly awful 2007-2008 campaign in which the Eagles won only 4 ACC games, last year’s success was one part Tyrese Rice stepping up and one part benefitting from the unbalanced ACC schedule (although BC did beat both North Carolina and Duke).

Al Skinner has had a knack for finding what we like to call “diamonds in the rough” on the recruiting trail. Guys like Dudley, Smith, and Rice get a shot to play at BC when they may have gotten overlooked by their local area programs. I think that puts a bit of a chip on their shoulder when they play for the Eagles. I also think that BC brought to the ACC a very different, more Big East-like style of play that the rest of the ACC might not have been accustomed to facing on a daily or weekly basis.

Regardless, and unfortunately, I think you’ll find BC come back down to earth in terms of total number of ACC wins since 2005 over the next few seasons as programs like Clemson, Florida State and Wake Forest enjoy basketball resurgence.

Q4: BC recruiting has not been particularly strong since joining the league.  According to Rivals.com, bc has not signed a single recruit over 3-stars since joining the league.  Why the struggles?  Is it hard to recruit in Big East territory?

Brian: This is slightly misleading given that BC didn’t bring in a recruit this season. Al Skinner likes to bank scholarships for future seasons. He’ll need those scholarships so that he can reload over the next two seasons. BC will lose 1 player this season to graduation (Tyler Roche) and then have to replace 7 players (and all 5 starters) in 2011-2012.

FOX Sports’ Jeff Goodman has hinted that the coaching staff turnover has contributed to the apparent downfall of BC basketball recruiting. Assistants Bill Coen (Northeastern) and Ed Cooley (Fairfield) have since gone on to head coaching gigs. I’m not sure I completely buy this argument though. Skinner’s teams have rarely recruited well in New England, instead scouring the country for those “diamonds in the rough.”

All hope is not lost though, as the Eagles bring in two 3-star recruits and one 4-star, 6’8” power forward Kevin Noreen out of Minneapolis, MN.

Q5: Speaking of the Big East, do you think the Big East or ACC is the better basketball conference?

Brian: This year, I think the Big East is better. I can’t make heads or tails of what is going on this year in ACC basketball. Duke looks dominant and then NC State shoots lights out and topples them last night. UNC is in a serious funk. Georgia Tech, Clemson and Florida State go in and out of being contenders. At 1-4, I think we are finding that Miami isn’t for real.

I think the Big East has the better programs at the top (Syracuse, West Virginia, Georgetown, Villanova, Pittsburgh, Louisville) but have more deadweight at the bottom (DePaul, Rutgers, South Florida, Seton Hall, St. John’s). The ACC seems a bit better top-to-bottom. That’s the only reason I could maybe be persuaded that the ACC is a better basketball conference this year. However, if you were only comparing the top 12 teams in each conference, hands down the Big East is better this season.

Q6: Is Head Coach Al Skinner’s job in any jeopardy?

Brian: I don’t think so. At least not this year. Much like Paul Hewitt used the promise of a good recruiting class (read: Derrick Favors) to weather the storm that was a 2-14 season a year ago at Georgia Tech, I think you’ll see the same thing at BC with Skinner. Skinner will bring in the aforementioned Noreen as well as Papa Samba Ndao and Brady Heslip (who has already joined the team) next year. As far as BC recruiting classes go, that’s a pretty decent class. I think the AD and the school want to see what the next year or so will bring in terms of success on the court before making a move.

When Skinner’s back has been against the wall, he’s pushed the right buttons to get this team back on track. If anything, I guess he deserves the school’s patience with all the success he has brought to the program.

Q7: Prediction for the game?

Brian: I think the Eagles will put forth a solid effort but I’m not convinced that they will have enough to beat Virginia Tech. I’m interested to see what the Hokies bring because like I asked you guys, VT doesn’t have that marquee win on the early season just yet. I think this game will be close with the Hokies winning by 3. Although I wouldn’t be surprised if the Eagles can pull out the W.

FUN QUESTIONS

Q8: bc is VT’s cross-division rival in football and we play twice every year in basketball.  Do you think there is a real rivalry between the schools or is that just because of the Big East ties?

Brian: I think there is a nice rivalry forming between the two schools. Back in the Big East, Virginia Tech used to dominate the Eagles in football, while BC returned the favor in basketball. Now the tables have turned a bit. Virginia Tech has now won 4 of the last 5 against the Eagles in basketball, while the Hokies have probably struggled to put away BC the most of any team in football the last few years (at least in the regular season). I’d like to think that BC has gotten under the skin of Hokie fans just a little bit. Whether it be the 2007 Matt Ryan-to-Andre Callender game (denying VT a shot at the National Championship), or the 2006 regular season game where Tech failed to score a touchdown for the first time in I don’t know how many games. At least I rationalize a rivalry in my head.

Q9: What do bc fans/alums think of Virginia Tech in general?

Brian: Outstanding football program. Average basketball. A general respect for the athletics program. I like to say that without BC and Virginia Tech these past 5 years, ACC football looks more like the MAC than it does a BCS conference. So I think the conference and the other ACC programs should give both schools a little more credit than they currently are.

Q10: How much did those two losses in the ACC Football Championship sting?

Brian: As an attendee of both the 2007 and 2008 ACC Championships, yes, they sting quite a bit.

Q11: What schools in the ACC, and in general, do eagle fans really hate and why?

Brian: Not sure I hate them, but I am generally annoyed at the Tobacco Road ACC purists who want to give BC and Miami the boot and return to a 10 team league where they can play a balanced schedule. I think BC, in particular, has done more in the league than most of those other schools, and we have earned some respect. There’s also the NC State-Tom O’Brien tie, but State hasn’t beat BC in football since TOB left for greener pastures. So really, we just feel bad for TOB for making what in hindsight appears as a lateral move at best.

Outside of the ACC, I personally hate UConn, because they sued Boston College for conspiring to weaken the Big East and UConn football when we defected to the ACC. They then turn around and b*tch about how BC will never schedule them in football. “We were destined to be New England’s college football rivals!” Yeah, ok. Randy Edsall will be waiting for that call for a long time.

Q12: Through a small sampling of bc fans I know, I get the sense eagle football is #1, hockey #2, and basketball is #3.  Is that accurate?

Brian: I think it used to be, but the times, they are a’changin. I really think now its football #1, basketball #2, and hockey #3. With the move to the ACC, I’m assuming that opened up the geographic footprint of students from parts of the south and other areas underrepresented at BC. Given that a lot of kids in the south don’t grow up following hockey, I think hockey’s popularity has waned at the expense of basketball. When BC was a smaller, more New England school, hockey was definitely the #2 sport and maybe even #1 for stretches of time. But with BC taking on more and more students from all over the country, I think hockey has taken a back seat to basketball. That’s a shame because hockey has traditionally been BC’s most successful athletics program.

Bonus Shot: Is BC happy to be in the ACC, or missing the Big East?

Brian: We’re happy in the ACC. I think people have to remember that had Boston College stayed in the Big East, it still would have been forced to expand to programs like Cincinnati, Louisville, Marquette, South Florida and DePaul. Because of Miami and Virginia Tech bolting, the Big East would never be the same with or without BC. A lot of fans point to the lack of a regional rival or increased travel time and cost, but traveling from Boston-to-Milwaukee or Boston-to-Louisville is just as far and as expensive as traveling to North Carolina or Georgia.

The money is better. The bowl tie-ins are better. It’s easier not to get lost in the mix as you could in a 16-team mega conference in basketball. There’s nothing about the Big East that’s better, other than the Big East basketball tournament at MSG (but even that has changed) and the fact that had BC stayed in the Big East, we would have at least 3 BCS bowl appearances under our belt.

Thank you to Brian for participating in this Opposing View!

Brian is an Editor and Co-writer for BC Interruption, the SB Nation Boston College sports blog. Brian and Jeff created the blog in 2007 as a way of debating and discussing all sorts of topics about BC football, basketball and hockey. Brian is a 2004 graduate of Boston College. His favorite BC sporting experience is wondering why he drove 9 hours in the pouring rain to sit in the Lane Stadium stands for 57 minutes and 49 seconds and not see the Eagles score a single point … [ouch… a tasteless reference to bc’s comeback win in football in 2007 led by current Atlanta Falcons QB, Matty Ice.  Good death blow to finish.]

Posted in The Opposing View0 Comments

The Balla Report 1/15/10

• Protect This House!…During every season of Atlantic Coast Conference basketball it is paramount to win your home games and “hold serve” so to speak. This season it has never been more important to defend the home turf. With clemson’s 83-64 victory over unc Wednesday night every single team in the ACC has won at least one conference game. Eleven of the twelve teams have also lost at least one game. Surprisingly, the uva cavaliers sit atop the conference with a 2-0 record following their home win over georgia tech. (For any wahoo fan who may be getting a bit overconfident, remember back to football season when uva sat atop the ACC standings with a 2-0 mark)

The point here is that there is a lot of parity in the ACC this year. Unlike previous seasons there is no one or two truly great teams to dominate the league. carolina is rebuilding and still trying to find their identity. duke looks beatable especially away from Cameron. It’s not likely anyone will separate themselves from the pack. Conversely, there don’t seem to be any really awful teams either. With so many evenly matched teams, you can expect a lot of games to come down to the wire. As Seth Greenberg has described the ACC season, “16 root canals”. Road wins will be very hard to come by this season, as the heels and devils can already attest.

With parity like this, teams can ill afford to drop games at home. The team that defends its home court the best and can go out on the road and steal a couple of wins will be the team walking away with the regular season conference championship. This year it looks like everyone, and I mean everyone, has a shot. Should be an exciting race over the next two months!

• The Hokies did their part in defending the Cassell by whipping miami 81-66, showing no ill effects from the second half collapse at unc. Malcolm Delaney appears to be recovering well from his sprained ankle with another typically brilliant 28 point, 9 assist performance against the canes. The Hokies this time benefited from a much more balanced scoring attack. Jeff Allen had a double-double with 14 points and 10 boards. Terrell Bell played his best game since the iowa win with a 13 point performance on 5 of 6 shooting and a perfect 3 for 3 from long distance. Dorenzo Hudson chipped in with 11 and played with much more confidence than he displayed in Chapel Hill, which included a nice one handed dunk right down the lane. J.T. Thompson had a nice 8 and 8 effort and seems to be the poster child of Greenberg’s “junk yard dog” mentality.

With the canes outscoring Tech 43-31 in the second half, the Hokies still need to focus on playing a 40 minute game. Both halves, not just the first. Maybe the team can benefit from the second straight lackluster second half by focusing more on playing a complete game going into Tallahassee on Saturday to face fsu.

The balanced scoring attack the Hokies displayed at home Wednesday night would also go an awful long way towards helping Tech grab one of those elusive aforementioned road wins against the noles.

Posted in 2009-10 Season, Home, The Balla Report2 Comments

The Opposing View | It’s All About The ‘u’

With the Hokies taking on the canes on Wednesday in a big, early game for Tech, I figured I’d check in with our good buddy, Kartik Krishnaiyer. Kartik is Niemo’s favorite u of miami fan. Kartik is the publisher of canes Rising, a web site that is temporarily down but will be back up in February. It provides unique insight into miami football, basketball, and baseball.

Kartik has been attending miami football games since 1981 and miami basketball games since 1986. Despite graduating from the university of florida, he bleeds orange and green, and continues to hold season tickets for miami football and basketball. He is the Host of the English Premiere League Talk Podcast, Editor of MLS Talk and Host of the MLS Talk Podcast, Owner of the Kartik Report, and Manchester City Blog Chief Writer in addition to his work with canes Rising [Davey – you’d love this guy].

Here are the past articles from Kartik:

You can also check out The Opposing Taunt – Niemo Mocks Sebastian the Ibis

OK, let’s get to the questions.  Kartik’s answers are in italics.

BASKETBALL QUESTIONS:

Niemo: I wasn’t a believer in the canes and their soft schedule until I saw them beat wake.  They look solid.  What have been your impressions of the canes to date?

Kartik: The team is a mixed bag. James Dews has shown some flashes, but still has not demonstrated the leadership you would expect from a Senior. Dwayne Collins is hit or miss. We’ve seen this since his freshman year. When he’s on, Miami is tough to beat. DeQuan Jones continues to be a disappointment. Cyrus McGowan, also a senior who transferred from Arkansas three years ago is simply taking up space at this point.

The two new guards, Durand Scott and Malcolm Grant have been good. Beating South Carolina and Minnesota were good wins, but the BC loss was terrible and raised some questions that quite frankly may not be answered all season. The team is too inconsistent and the ball movement is often so stagnant on offense, it is impossible to be totally comfortable with the situation. But the two new guards are good enough to perhaps carry Miami to the NCAA bubble. Actually making the tournament is going to be tough. I sense we are going to be in “VT limbo” this year, with the selection committee once again, deciding they have some ratio of teams from the SEC and Big 12 they want to let into the dance instead of picking the best at-large teams.  I truthfully believe the Hokies were a tournament team the last two seasons, and if the selection committee had any common sense, they’d realize losing to UNC in the last seconds in the ACC Tournament both years is a sign of strength, not weakness.

Niemo: Malcolm Grant, the villanova transfer, looks like a real player.  Tell me about him and his game.  Seems to have similar range to Jack McClinton.

Kartik: He’s a good player, a bit rough around the edges though. He is a decent ball handler and defender which McClinton wasn’t and can penetrate. But sometimes, like McClinton, he falls in love with deep threes and unlike McClinton, does not work hard enough to get open looks. But when he does get open he is deadly. He also is a quite cocky player, which is good because some of our seniors seems to lack confidence or the flamboyance to positively affect the team when things go bad.

Niemo: Dwayne Collins had a monster game against wake.  Is he finally showing his promise or is he still terribly inconsistent?

Kartik: The latter as I talked about above. In Miami’s embarrassing loss to Boston College, DC did not even see the floor after the under 12 timeout in the second half because he was so poor and Miami was being out-rebounded about as badly as any D1 team can be. Miami came from 17 back to tie the game before losing by 1 after Collins was benched.

[Note: Collins had a monster game against VT in miami last year and the Hokies need to focus on limiting him in this game.]

Niemo: Are you ready to call DeQuan Jones (5-star recruit of two years ago) a bust?

Kartik: Yes. Another reason we cannot fall in love with recruiting rankings. I’d really like to see the kid turn it around, but he’s an athlete not a basketball player. That is the bottom line and now more than midway through his sophomore year he looks as lost as ever. Quite honestly he does not have the instincts or concentration level to play in the ACC. He belongs at a mid major program, where his athleticism will win him solid playing time and his obvious basketball deficiency can be masked better.

[Note: Sounds a lot like the perception of Dorenzo Hudson at this time last year… or even earlier this year.]

Niemo: Do you think this is a better team than the teams that had McClinton the last few years?

Kartik: Potentially yes. Actually, this team, thanks to Grant and Scott’s ability to handle the ball and defend on the perimeter could be much better. But the inconsistency of the upperclassmen, as described above is holding the Canes back. I expect this team, next year, to be very good.

Niemo: I still think the Hokies are a better team than the canes, even if the pollsters don’t agree (miami had 70 votes last week to just 20 for the Hokies).  Both have had cupcake schedules out of conference.  What do you think of the Hokies versus the canes?

Kartik: I think the Hokies are very good, but sometimes Jeff Allen gets lost in games. I liked what we saw down in Cancun last week, but had he played better in Chapel Hill, the Hokies could have stolen one. Hudson and Delaney are among the best guard combos in the league, and are perhaps the best.

Niemo: Where do you see the canes finishing in the ACC this year?  The Hokies?

Kartik: Both will finish between 5th and 9th in the league, Va Tech likely finishing higher. That puts both on the NCAA bubble again, in all likelihood.

Niemo: How do you see this game?

Kartik: The Hokies win in a relatively close, but sloppy game.

[Note: He ALWAYS picks the Hokies to win.  Reverse jinx!]

FUN QUESTIONS:

Niemo: That whooping VT put on the canes in September in football was my 100th straight Hokie football home game I’ve attended dating back to 1994.  What were your impressions of the game?  Different weather, different result?

Kartik: Miami was riding high and it got to their heads. Add to that the Hokies finally find their running game and the conditions and you had a rout. VT had struggled the previous week against Nebraska with Tyrod Taylor making an incredible play at the end of the game after a poor game. Virginia Tech has Miami’s number and was due for a good performance.

Niemo: Did you know VT has finished as the highest ranked ACC team in the AP Poll 5 of their 6 years in the league (the lone year they didn’t they were one spot behind wake)?

Kartik: I am surprised they haven’t been the top team all six seasons. If I recall, the first season both Miami and VT were in the ACC, VT, Miami and FSU were 10-11-12 in the final AP Poll.

Niemo: How do you see the two football teams next year?

Kartik: VT and Miami are both going to be looking up at Georgia Tech for the next few years if Paul Johnson hangs around. The option that GT runs is difficult to stop, and the Yellow Jackets are going to be able to recruit more and more players that actually fit that style rather than converting players that were recruited by Chan Gailey’s staff to play other positions. I think the Hokies should be challenging them, but haven’t exactly stopped the Jackets recently. The game two seasons ago in Blacksburg was timed well: beginning of the year just as GT was figuring out the offense. Yet, it was still close, 20-17 or something if I recall correctly. That was before the Jackets steamrolled FSU, Miami and Georgia, amassing a ridiculous amount of rushing yards in the process.

This having been said, VT is still “the program” in the ACC. The GT ascendancy could be a temporary situation. Like Wake did, they are going to ride the wave for a few years, but unlike Wake they have the recruiting base and facilities to sustain a high level program.

This season, Miami showed it can run the ball and control the clock while rediscovering the big play downfield. The defense, however is still a major concern with a below average secondary and linebackers that are injury prone.

Niemo: How much do you miss the Orange Bowl and do you think playing so far north will hurt the canes long term?

Kartik: I still cannot drive by the Orange Bowl site, I am so torn up by it. It’s not a matter of playing so far north, because South Florida is a huge metro area, but it’s losing the character and home field advantage of the Orange Bowl that hurts.

Niemo: Man I hate Paul Johnson’s BS offense.  I sure hope VT reviews what miami did to them last year.  Any chance we could work together and get him fired?  Maybe plant some drugs in his office or something?

Kartik: The problem here is the Paul Johnson has an original offense, annoying as it is, that is difficult to stop. What is more scary is Johnson is doing it with Chan Gailey’s recruits. So basically, he has pro set players running the option. Just wait until he recruits the right players.

Stopping it is very difficult. Miami did a great job, with John Lovett putting together a great scheme. Yet, the traditional offensive teams like Clemson and Wake threw and ran all over Miami.

[Note: My beef with the Johnson offense is you can have guys sprinting laterally at full speed, but not at the line of scrimmage (unless you are in the CFL or Arena League).  I know he is doing it legally but I believe it gives the offense an unfair advantage and should be changed.]

Niemo: How awesome was that 30 in 30 movie on ESPN about the ‘u’?  I think I’ve watched it five times.  I sure hope you guys mail that to every recruit.  The intro makes your hair stand up and yell, “c-a-n-e-s canes!”

Kartik: It was so good, I made several DVD copies of it. Great program, telling great stories about Canes history. I think it really told the story of how difficult it was to crack college football royalty in those days and the blowback that came to any outside that crashed the party. In today’s era of nonstop ESPN coverage of the sport, it is different and much more open, but in the early 1980s, the game was about a few elite programs that felt they had a birthright to remain on top indefinitely.

Niemo: Five years from now – who will be better in football – VT or miami?  In basketball?

Kartik: VT will be better in football. That’s not to say Miami won’t return to a high level status, but I think as long as Beamer/Foster are at VT, the Hokies are going to be the signature program in the ACC Football. I do expect Miami to be better than Florida State long term though, but that is a story for another time.

Basketball? It’s a year to year thing. The conference is so competitive and suffers from so many one and dones and early draft entries that nobody really knows. One thing is for sure – both programs have been much much better than the elites in the ACC who said Miami and VT would kill ACC Basketball had believed.

Posted in The Opposing View0 Comments

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2014-2015 Schedule/Results

November

11/14 - Hokies 71, md. eastern shore 46
11/19 - Hokies 73, liberty 63
11/22 - appalachian state 65, Hokies 63
**********
Cancun Classic
11/25 - n. iowa 73, Hokies 54
11/26 - Hokies 78, miami ohio 63
**********
11/30 - morgan state | 3pm, ESPN3

December

12/03 - @ penn state | 7:15pm, ESPNU
12/07 - vs. radford | 3pm, ESPN3
12/14 - vs. alabama a&m | 3pm, ESPN3
12/20 - vs. the citadel | 1pm, ESPN3
12/22 - vs. vmi | 7pm, ESPN3
12/27 - vs. presbyterian | 7pm, ESPN3
12/30 - @ west virginia | 2pm, ESPNU

January

01/03 - vs. syracuse | Noon, RSN
01/06 - @ fsu | 7pm, RSN
01/13 - @ louisville | 7pm, RSN
01/18 - @ unc | 6:30pm, ESPNU
01/22 - vs. notre dame | 7pm, RSN
01/25 - vs. uva | 1pm, ACCN
01/27 - vs. pittsburgh | 7pm, ESPNU
01/31 - @ wake forest | 2pm, RSN

February

02/03 - @ syracuse | 9pm, ESPNU
02/07 - vs. fsu | 3pm, ACCN
02/09 - vs. georgia tech | 9pm, ESPNU
02/14 - @ clemson | Noon, RSN
02/18 - @ miami | 7pm, RSN
02/21 - @ nc state | 6pm, ESPN2
02/25 - vs. duke | 9pm, ESPN2
02/28 - @ uva | 4pm, ACCN

March

03/02 - vs. boston college | 9pm, ESPNU
03/07 - vs. miami | Noon, RSN
**********
ACC Tournament
03/10 - 1st rd.
03/11 - 2nd rd.
03/12 - quarterfinals
03/13 - semifinals
03/14 - championship

Photos on flickr