Friday, February 27, 2009

Registering Is Fun

Last weekend I went to Crate & Barrel with my fiancee for this exclusive event where we (and several other couples) had the whole store to ourselves to go around and register for wedding gifts. To quote one of the Corey's at some point during the 80's, "It was totally rad." There was free Starbucks frappaccinos, bottled water, coffee, biscotti, and other breakfast treats, and I spent a fair amount of time getting to know them all a little bit better. My favorite part was us coining the phrase, "We can always go and change the amount on the website." 8 place settings? Nah let's go with 12, we can always change it later. Do we need two of those sweet oven mitts? We might as well, we can always change it later. I think by the end of the morning, we had registered for 40 different items (of varying quantities), and we still have two more places to register. I am looking forward to taking the little pricing gun around Target and registering for some awesome stuff. I am talking about items like these:

- A small trimmer for beards, sideburns, necks, mustaches, and etc.
- Candy
- A Skip-It (if they still make those)
- Legos
- "Total Recall"
- Good barbecue sauce
- A Nintendo Wii
- Your mom

I would be extremely excited to receive any of those items, but I should probably run them by the future Mrs first. Whatever dude said that wedding planning is only for chicks really didn't know how to have a good time. There is plenty of room for ridiculousness and tomfoolery.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

I Totally Called It

The win that is. But let's not go patting me on the back too many times... I was wrong about Diakite having a good game and Greenberg opted to play Terrell Bell for only seven minutes despite the fact that he picked up 3 rebounds during that time, played awesome defense, and helped neutralize Trevor Booker in the second half. Bell's minutes should be flipped with Dorenzo Hudson, particularly because Hudson is adept at making one or two shots, then going extremely cold after that. Luckily for the Hokies, Hudson only attempted two shots and made them both, but he put up zero rebounds and zero assists in 13 minutes, and that isn't really what you want out of a guy who isn't a scorer. But I will lay off of Hudson because he did not do anything to blow the game, and this win was truly a team effort.

Malcolm Delaney was your high scorer for the evening as Virginia Tech knocked off Clemson on the Tigers' home court 80-77. This was a fast-paced, exciting game with a whole bunch of lead changes. It was exactly what you are used to seeing in a game between these two opponents, but for the first time in the last 5 match ups, the Hokies came out victorious. Delaney had 26 points to lead all scorers. Terrance Oglesby had 22 and Trevor Booker had 21 for Clemson. AD Vassallo also had 21 points to go along with 5 rebounds, 2 assists, a block, and 2 steals. Delaney also put up 4 rebounds, 6 assists (versus only 1 turnover), a block, and a steal. He also got reamed on a blown call where he blocked Oglesby's 3-pointer and got called for a foul, giving Clemson 3 free points since Oglesby is automatic from the line. Come to think of it, there were plenty of bad calls to go around in this game, but I felt like the referees dished them out pretty evenly, so no complaints here. Jeff Allen really struggled shooting the ball last night, hitting only 2 of 11 shots, but he did manage to pull down 5 offensive and 3 defensive rebounds to help the Hokies even up the offensive boards as Clemson only had 2 more offensive rebounds than the Hokies compared to 8 in the January match up.

This team doesn't win without the efforts of Delaney, Vassallo, and Allen, so it's easy to overlook those guys and try to find other players who contributed. Well, that's what I'm going to do because I've already talked about the Big 3. The Hokies got some really inspired play from freshman Victor Davila last night, who scrapped for 5 rebounds, made things happen on offense, and really played tough on defense. That's actually what impressed me most since Davila is known for his offensive post moves, but not at all for his defense. Davila did a great job help-defending on screens, and he did exactly what a player needs to do when matched up with a dominating big man (aka Booker)... when he's close to the basket, you front him so he can't receive an entry pass, and when he's far away from the basket, you get between him and the basket so they can't lob over your head. It's that easy, but for some reason Jeff Allen and Cheick Diakite really struggle with this concept.

This game was intense, with several moments that required me to go back on my DVR and watch again. I'm going to say that the craziest moment of the game was late in the first half when the Hokies stripped the Tigers, JT Thompson ran the court trying to get a layup over a defender but bricked it, Clemson grabbed the rebound and started pushing the ball up court, but Tanner Smith's ultra-fancy behind-the-back pass hit Delaney's foot, and all of a sudden Thompson was open for another run at the basket, but this time he double-clutched and jammed it home. It was pretty wild. In addition to that play, Jeff Allen had a monster dunk on a lob pass and Hank Thorns abused Clemson's lack of defense on him for the quietest 10 points I can remember. Yeah, Little Hank!

One of the key differences between this game against Clemson and our last game was that Clemson never stopped their full court trap this time around. They used it every time the Hokies had to inbound from the Tigers' end of the court. Tech did not blow apart the trap the same way they did in January, but they were successful enough that I thought Oliver Purnell should have scrapped it in the second half. He never did and the Hokies were able to take the lead. Clemson had plenty of time to get off a 3-pointer before the end of the second half, but the Hokies finally played some suffocating defense in the waning minutes of a close game, and the Tigers were unable to get a good shot off.

This was a key win for Tech as they now sit at 7-6 in ACC play with 3 games left before the ACC tournament. A win against Duke or UNC might be enough to be on the bubble come Selection Sunday, even if we lose to FSU in the final game and lose our first round ACC tourney game, but I think the Hokies would be safer winning at least 1 of the next 3 games and winning their first round game in the ACC tournament. The mountain feels a little smaller right now, but it's still a mountain. It just went from Mt. Everest to Mt. McKinley. Virginia Tech plays Duke at home in the Cassell at 3:30PM on Saturday. I'll be at home watching it. Come on over and bring some delicious beer.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

That's it... it's go time!

The VT men's basketball team is in action again tonight in a do-or-die game against Clemson at Littlejohn Coliseum in Clemson, SC. I suppose I am being a little melodramatic here, but it's just so much more fun to follow your team in the NCAA tournament rather than the NIT (which is where we are likely headed). This Virginia Tech team is good enough to beat anybody in the ACC on any given night, but will they pick themselves up off of the mat after 3 straight losses and play with the winning attitude you need to make an upset possible? I predict that we will. I'm going to go ahead and call this upset... the Hokies can do it, especially if we abuse the Clemson full court trap the same we did in the first quarter of our game in January. The Hokies lost that game after giving up an 18-0 run in the second half. I'm betting something like that won't happen again, although I also believe Clemson will shoot better as a team at home. Terrance Oglesby, Clemson's best sharpshooter, was not good against the Hokies in Blacksburg, but at the same time KC Rivers had what was probably his best game of the season. I don't think Rivers and Trevor Booker will be quite as hot in this game, but I also don't think Oglesby and Demontez Stitt will be quite as cold. Clemson abandoned that full court trap in favor of a regular half-court defense in the second half, and the Hokies looked entirely unprepared to play Clemson in the half-court... I think that will be different this time around.

I liked the intensity that Malcolm Delaney and Hank Thorns played with in our last game against FSU, but will that continue tonight? Why the heck not. The Clemson guards aren't likely to make or break this game... it's going to be how well we can defend KC Rivers and it's going to be how well we can defend Trevor Booker. Diakite, Allen, Witcher, and Davila need to keep Booker and Raymond Sykes off of the offensive glass. Clemson grabbed 20 offensive rebounds against the Hokies in our last match up, which is absolutely pitiful. Tech managed just 12. The Tigers have a low-post beast in Booker, but Jeff Allen is every bit as good as Booker, and he needs to play with that attitude. They are very similar in size and ability and should really cancel each other out, but Booker played better in their last game.

The question tonight... who else will step up for the Hokies? You can bet that the Big 3 will be in full effect tonight, but somebody else has to have a good game to help out VT. If Clemson doubles Allen, it could very well be Diakite who gets in the double-digits. He has shown a reliable jumper from about 12-15 feet out. He also is doing a better job of getting himself into position for easy slams when Allen gets doubled. Now if only his hands weren't like blocks of ice. I would like to see Seth Greenberg start Terrell Bell in this game in place of Dorenzo Hudson, and give Bell some serious minutes. Bell is an excellent rebounder and should help us keep Booker from killing us down there. JT Thompson has really regressed this season for whatever reason, and I'm wondering if it's not because he is more suited in playing as an undersized power forward rather than as a wing player. He doesn't seem to get involved in rebounding the basketball when he's playing on the wing, and that's unfortunate considering the prowess he showed last year in following up shots for easy put-backs. His tentativeness might be due, in part, to the fact that the referees are being extremely tight with him this year. He gets called for more touch fouls that anyone else in the ACC, and I am sure of this. I have no stats at all to back it up, you're just going to have to trust me. I've developed a saying along the same lines of "Germans love David Hasselhoff," and it's "Refs hate JT Thompson." I say it at least once per game after Thompson gets called for a ticky-tacky foul. I'm pretty sure there is a conspiracy among the referees to be really tough on Thompson this season.

If the Hokies lose tonight, I don't think I will be too upset... my goals for this team have been lowered quite a bit over the past week and a half, but if they manage to steal a win on the road, I will probably still be reserved since we need more than just one win... we need 2 more after that to get from the NIT tourney to the NCAA tourney. I think two ACC wins and an ACC tourney win gets us onto the bubble. Another ACC tourney win gets us into the Big Dance. Winning 3 of the next 4 regular season games would also get us into the Big Dance, but that's almost unthinkable. Go Hokies! You can do it! Weeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee.

Hockey, eh?

Well, with the basketball team throwing up all over themselves over the last week and a half, let's look to another Virginia Tech team that is making a name for themselves. Yes, that would be the Virginia Tech hockey team! They took on the Duke Blue Devils and defeated them 5-2 to win the Atlantic Coast Collegiate Hockey League title. VT has a good ice hockey team? Who knew?

Senior captain Jimmy Pope collected the MVP award for the championship game, not mention Offensive Player of the Year for the ACCHL. The Hokies finished the season with a record of 18-6-1, taking home not only the tournament championship, but they registered as the regular season champions as well.

It's good to hear of success for the maroon and orange... nice work my Hokies.

Monday, February 23, 2009


I'm having a tough time writing this blog post. Mostly because I'm still bitter about the loss on Saturday and I'm nervous for what this means for VT's NCAA tournament chances. I guess we can pretty much kiss them goodbye because we either need to win 3 of the next 4 games: @Clemson, Duke, UNC, and @FSU, or else we need to win 2 of the next 4 and then win a couple in the ACC tournament. I think that our chances of making the NCAA field would have been around 50% with a win against FSU on Saturday, but with the loss at home, we drop to about 5%. The one good thing that I learned from Saturday's game is that we are definitely capable of beating FSU. Derwin Kitchen had to put up 19 points in the game of his life for FSU to beat us. He hit 3-3 from the 3-point arc, once falling backwards with a hand in his face, despite the fact that he'd only made 7 3-point shots this season coming into the game. What kind of a stupid name is Derwin Kitchen anyway? His parents should be ashamed of themselves. In what prooved to be an extremely tight matchup, the difference in this game was turnovers. The Hokies had four more than the Seminoles, and that (along with some other factors) led to 9 more field goal attempts for the Seminoles. VT was often careless with the ball, especially Jeff Allen and Hank Thorns who both had solid games if it weren't for 7 combined turnovers.

Seth Greenberg switched things up for this game, going with Terrell Bell as the starter over Dorenzo Hudson. The move didn't particularly help either player, though, as Bell only played 6 minutes and managed to collect zero rebounds (his best attribute is as a defender/rebounder). Hudson responded to getting benched by hitting 2 of 7 shots, 1 of 3 from downtown, and 3 rebounds. Hudson played 20 minutes, so those numbers aren't exactly staggering. Hank Thorns played very well against Toney Douglas going 2-4 with 1-2 from the 3-point line and also dishing out 6 assists. It was good to see Hank put together a decent performance, even though he did get too excited on a few occassions and made a bad pass to the other team. Cheick Diakite stepped it up with 8 rebounds in this game, which despite his size, usually isn't his forte. Jeff Allen had a double-double with 12 points and 11 rebounds. AD Vassallo had a decent game with 15 points and 3 blocks. Malcolm Delaney finally came back to form in a devastating way (for FSU), hitting 5-8 shots from three, collecting 5 rebounds and 4 assists to go along with 8 of 9 shooting from the foul line. JT Thompson played only 3 minutes in this game, for reasons unknown to me. I guess Greenberg is upset with him? Victor Davila played well in 7 minutes on the floor collecting a block and a rebound and playing suprisingly good defense. That's it for the VT players... Lewis Witcher did not play in this game.

I was pretty pissed off when the Hokies let FSU build a significant lead in the first half, being down 25-11 at one point midway through the first half, but Tech climbed back into the game on some hot shooting from Delaney which continued into the second half. Seth Greenberg showed himself to be correct... this team is incapable of getting stops when they need to. Toney Douglas wandered unfettered through our defense on FSU's last shot of the game. There was still plenty of time for the Hokies to score and AD Vassallo got a fantastic look from the top of the 3 point line, but he bricked the shot. I was hoping for a little redemption for all those last-second losses this season, but I got a mouth full of bull crap instead. Tasty. Thanks Hokies... it's exhausting being a fan of your team.

Even though our chances at the NCAA tournament are pretty much shot, I am still going to watch the remaining games and support VT for the simple reason that I love basketball, but let's get one thing straight... it's going to take a real live miracle for the Hokies to make the Big Dance now. Get your NIT gear ready. F! (SU)

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Hoo Knew?

Was anyone else expecting Virginia Tech to roll over for UVA in last night's basketball game? I knew it would be a much harder game to win without Jeff Allen, but I never would have guessed that we would be down 19 points late in the second half to a team that has only won 2 other ACC games this season. The Hokies fell to the Hoos in Charlottesville last night 75-61, and I was there to watch them fall apart. First off, let me start by saying that the John Paul Jones arena was LOUD! I really did not expect that... I figured UVA fans were more inclined to golf clap rather than chant and make noise, but those fans were definitely into the game. Maybe VT/UVA is becoming a rivalry once again? I sure hope so. The UVA fans picked up where every other ACC fan base has left off, chanting "Dr. Pepper" every time Vassallo was at the free throw line*. As for the UVA players, they certainly outperformed the Tech players and they deserved that win. With our leading rebounder and third leading scorer sitting in street clothes on the bench, UVA just shot the ball better than VT hitting 44% of their shots from the field compared to 37% for the good guys. Another telling statistic was the Cavaliers' 3-point shooting, which was 39% compared to just 21% for the Hokies. UVA's stellar freshman, Sylven Landesberg, was all over the Hokies going for a rather easy 19 points and 9 rebounds (including 5 offensive rebounds).

Malcolm Delaney and Dorenzo Hudson were bad last night. Very bad. 6-22 from the field bad. 1-10 from the 3-point line bad. 6 combined turnovers bad. What is worse is that they were missing wide open shots with no defenders anywhere near them. Hank Thorns was also bad, going 0-3 from the field. He continues to contribute absolutely nothing on offense and remarkably Seth Greenberg kept him in the game for 15 minutes last night when his minutes would have more effectively gone to Terrell Bell, who again played pretty well in his short stint on the floor (only 10 minutes). In fact, when Bell came in for Thorns in the second half is when Tech started to make a run at UVA. Victor Davila played surprisingly well in his 9 minutes on the floor. He didn't make either of his shots and probably should have passed out on both occasions since he was triple-teamed, but he showed a real willingness to fight for rebounds and his hands are just so much better than Cheick Diakite's. Cheick would be an awesome rebounder if he managed to pull down every ball that he was the first to touch, but he allows other players to tip and wrestle the ball away. Lewis Witcher was invisible when he was in the game and remains a total mystery to Tech fans. Against Maryland, he looked absolutely dominant at times, but against UVA I wouldn't even trust him to tie his own shoes. Who are you Lewis Witcher? You may want to seek help for your schizophrenia.

So once again, it is time to ask, "Where does this leave the Hokies?" We are 6-5 in the ACC with 5 games left in ACC play. We need to get to 9 wins to make sure that we get into the NCAA tournament. Going 3-2 over the next five games seems pretty reasonable considering we have 3 home games, but then you also have to consider who we play in those games... Florida State, UNC, and Duke. Did your heart just sink? Well it should have... all 3 of those teams are definites for the NCAA tournament. Florida State at home is certainly a winable game. I would even go so far as to say that VT could upset either Duke or UNC at home in the Cassell, but it would take a Christmas miracle to win all 3. Let me just go ahead and let you know that we probably won't be winning either away game (Clemson and FSU again at the end of the schedule). Tech has really regressed as a road team and has lost 3 straight on the road. But wait... we are talking about the Virginia Tech Hokies here, aren't we? Isn't this the team that loves to make a late push? Isn't this the team that never quits? I would certainly like to think so. There are still other ways to get into the NCAA tournament... if we were to win only 2 of the next 5, but then go on to win 2 ACC tournament games, that would put us right back on the bubble. Anything is possible and I am not yet willing to give up on our boys, even though that UVA loss was far from palatable. The team will really need their fans behind them as they return to the Cassell this Saturday to take on Florida State. Make some noise and keep hope alive!

*If you hadn't heard, Vassallo, along with team assistant Chris Tucker, got in trouble this year for stealing a case of Dr. Pepper from one of the food courts on campus. How dumb are our players?

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Allen Suspended for Tomorrow Night's Game

Yep, that's right... Greenberg decided to play it safe with the University and the media, so he dished out a one-game suspension for Jeff Allen. Allen was seen flicking off the crowd at the Maryland game after he had fouled out late in the game. Once again, the immaturity of Jeff Allen injures this team, as not only is he good at scoring the basketball, but he's easily our best rebounder. Be prepared for Mike Scott to have a big game, especially on the boards, as he'll be guarded most of the game by the smaller JT Thompson. We will not win the rebounding margin in this game, so the Hokies will need to shoot well and cause turnovers to get a win. Also, someone will have to step it up in the scoring department... my best guess is that JT Thompson will help out in that area, assuming that he doesn't get some quick fouls tossed at him by the refs early in each half. Refs hate JT Thompson. Go Tech! Beat the Hoos!

Monday, February 16, 2009

Talk Amongst Yourselves: Hokie Football

Let me give you a topic: Who would you like to see work their way into the starting lineup for Virginia Tech in the Fall?

Momentum Successfully Killed

Virginia Tech lost to Maryland on Saturday in the Comcast Center by a final score of 83-73. VT never really challenged in this game as it felt like they were usually down by at least 6 points. They got within 3 points of the Terrapins in the 2nd half, but that lead was immediately blown back up to 10 points. The difference in this game came down to free throw shooting as Maryland hit 24 of 26 from the line, whereas Tech only hit 13 of 21. The Hokies committed 24 personal fouls as opposed to just 16 for Maryland, and although the officiating was pretty lousy, you can blame this loss on a lackluster defensive effort from VT. The Terps were getting open looks from everywhere on the floor, and it didn't matter what defensive alignment Seth Greenberg tried out. Some might argue that the Hokies had "success" when they switched to the 1-3-1 zone, but I would argue that Maryland just went cold during that spell since they were still getting wide open looks from the 3-point arc. Greivis Vasquez usually has a tough time against the Hokies, but he spurned that tradition on Saturday going 7-13 from the field and 3-5 on his 3-point shots. The guy that hurt the Hokies the most was Landon Milbourne, who seemed to do whatever he wanted last night. He hit 8 of 11 shots, he grabbed 6 rebounds (2 offensive), he hit 6 of 6 free throws, he had a steal, and he even hit his only 3-point attempt.

The only Hokie to play with any sense of urgency was Lewis Witcher, who hadn't seen much time from Seth Greenberg in recent games, but might be becoming more of a contributor over Victor Davila, who has some offensive skill but doesn't seem ready for the ACC on the defense end of the floor. Witcher took advantage of his opportunity, going 4-5 from the floor and displaying some excellent post moves and solid defense. He does need to get on the glass more though, as he only picked up one rebound in 20 minutes of play. Terrell Bell also had a good game off of the bench and continues to show Seth Greenberg that he can be a trusted member of the rotation. Terrell hit 2 of 3 shots, going 1-2 on three point attempts, and even better than that... he pulled down 6 rebounds in 11 minutes of play. 4 of those rebounds were on the offensive end allowing VT to get second-chance points. The Big 3 were extremely quiet last night as Maryland really seemed to clamp down on them defensively.

This loss was a big disappointment as Virginia Tech is clearly a more talented team than Maryland. VT has better size, better athleticism, and better fans, but none of that mattered last night. There had been a lot of buzz around the University of Maryland about Gary Williams being fired, and ultimately I think that is what inspired the Terps to this victory. They were playing hard for their coach, who has shown he was capable of winning a national championship in the past. The Hokies needed to come into that game with the same fire and drive that the Maryland players were showing, but that did not happen. Not even close. And once again, Jeff Allen showed that he is extremely immature in spite of his advanced age (the guy is 21 years old as a sophomore). Allen flicked off the Maryland crowd after he fouled out of the game late in the second half. He will most likely receive some sort of punishment from Seth Greenberg since it was caught on camera... possibly suspension for a full game, but most likely he will receive a punishment similar to the one Vassallo got for openly yelling at the coach. This means Allen won't start against UVA on Wednesday and probably won't come into the game until around 12 minute mark. Jeff's mantra this week should be, "I guess I've got some growing up to do."

This nauseating loss to Maryland now turns our game against UVA into a must-win. We can ill-afford a loss to a team with an RPI as poor as UVA's, and we need the win simply because this is the easiest game for the Hokies in their remaining schedule. A win on Wednesday night means the Hokies go to 7-4 in ACC play and only need to find two more wins against a lineup including FSU (twice), Clemson, Duke, and UNC. If Virginia Tech loses to UVA, they have basically stamped their ticket for the NIT barring some sort of miracle where VT beats both Duke and UNC. I would rather take the easier road, which means that Virginia Tech needs to come out firing against the Hoos of Hooville Wednesday night. I will be there, dressed in my Hokie maroon and cheering louder than the Cavalier "faithful". Will you?

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Little Hank

Hank Thorns has become a bit of a fan favorite in Blacksburg because of his diminutive size, only 5'9" on a good day, his tenacity, and his spunk. Plus the girls think he is cuter than most puppies. But Little Hank has only been good for one thing with the Hokies during his ACC career: Ball-handling. Okay, get your minds out of the gutter, you know exactly what I'm talking about. The guy can handle the rock and is currently averaging 4.3 assists per turnover, good for tops in the ACC. However, every other part of his game is lacking for an ACC player. He can't shoot worth crap. He's too small to guard most players in the league. He obviously can't rebound. And to top it all off, he's a poor free throw shooter as well. For a while, I was thinking that he could really elevate his play and contribute to the team. I wanted him to be the next Muggsy Bogues. Okay, Muggsy was only 5'3", so his success story is insurmountable, but let's go with Nate Robinson (formerly of the Washington Huskies and currently playing for the NY Knicks). Robinson is a 5'9" guard who can finish on the break and can hit the open three pointer. He doesn't let anyone push him around on defense. That's what we need Hank Thorns to be, but that's exactly what Thorns isn't. Robinson never let his size dictate the way he played, but for Thorns it is too obvious that the tall defenders in the ACC make him nervous and cause him to overcompensate on his shot. The sad truth is that you need to play much harder and practice much harder than every other player on the team when you are only 5'9"... that's just the tough truth, and I'm not sure Hank has shown the ability to step up to that challenge yet.

So the question now becomes, what to do with Hank Thorns next season? Seth Greenberg recruited two high school seniors to help out at the point and allow Malcolm Delaney to eventually shift over to his more natural shooting guard position. Those recruits are Erick Green of Paul VI high school (DC vicinity) and Lamont "MoMo" Jones of Oak Hill (middle of nowhere in Mouth of Wilson, VA, but a very prominent high school for b-ball). Erick's size is extremely similar to that of Malcolm Delaney, but he is a more natural point guard. MoMo is only 6'0" tall, but he still has 3 inches on Thorns and has a much more "robust" physique (he's beefy... reminds me A LOT of Pitt's Levance Fields). Those two recruits were both actively recruited by a number of good schools and certainly have the size and shooting ability to play in the ACC, so what would you do if you were Greenberg? Do you keep Thorns as a backup PG? Do you start Delaney next year or move him to SG and allow either MoMo or Erick to run the point? Do you let Thorns walk away from VT and play with a smaller mid-major school where he would have the chance to start? Personally, I can't decide what I would do. For right now, I think I would tell Little Hank that the only way he can keep his position as backup point guard is if he continues to work on his shooting and shows the ability to hit the open three. Otherwise, I would let him know that he'll be riding the pine as a junior and senior. It's a difficult call to make, and one that I don't envy for Seth Greenberg, but the bottom line is that Hank can't continue to eat up minutes and be a complete non-factor on both offense and defense. At this point, he needs to show more than just a willingness to improve; he needs to actually improve.

The Real "Tech"

After last night's battle of the Techs, Virginia Tech proved once again that we own Georgia Tech and have every right to the nickname "Tech". Choke on that, Yellow Jackets! The game was on ESPNU, which real people don't have access to, so I went down to Home Team Grill in the Fan (of Richmond... Virginia... USA) to watch it. Actually, it was a pretty sweet night to be in a sports bar because there was a World Cup qualifying soccer game, USA v. Mexico, that was on at the same time, and the Duke-UNC game was on right afterward. There was a lot of back and forth as Hokie fans would cheer a big dunk by Jeff Allen, then USA fans would cheer for a goal by Michael Bradley, then there was the halftime buzzer-beating layup by Malcolm Delaney, then there was another goal by Bradley, then there was the winning free throws by Delaney, etc, etc, etc. Home Team remains my favorite place to watch a game. This one ended up being tougher than I thought it would be at halftime due to a four minute scoreless drought in the second half by the Hokies that allowed GT to go on a 10-0 run. It was close throughout the first half with VT holding a slim lead for most of it, but in the last 2 minutes or so, the Hokies managed to pull away and had a nice 10 point lead at the half, with Delaney's buzzer-beater sending the Cassell crowd into a frenzy. The Hokies came out firing in the second half and managed to build a 50-37 lead, only to then go cold from the field and allow the Yel-Jacks (my new nickname for the too-long-to-type-or-say Yellow Jackets) back within 3 points. VT's struggles to contain the other teams' big men continued as Gani Lawal and Alade Aminu combined for 36 points. Those guys were all over the boards, sucking up rebounds and getting themselves so low in the paint that they basically just had to turn and put the ball in the hoop. Seth Greenberg will have to take some time this offseason to teach Jeff Allen, Lewis Witcher, and Victor Davila how to front a big man to keep him from receiving the ball when he's almost under the basket.

Some notes from last night:
- AD Vassallo was excellent last night, and it seemed like every time the Yel-Jacks were about to climb back into the game, Vassallo would hit a big three or a pull-up jumper. He was 4-7 from the arc, had 18 points, six rebounds, and a steal, and he wore his man-pants tonight.
- Jeff Allen had a quiet night and all I really noticed from him was his big put-back dunk, but by the end of the game he'd racked up 15 points, his usual 1-2 from the 3-point line, 9 rebounds, a steal, and his usual poor free throw shooting as he hit 4-8 from the charity stripe.
- Delaney had a rough night shooting the ball and made most of his points from the free throw line, where he was 14 of 15. He was only 4-12 from the field and 1-5 from the 3-point line, making it his second poor shooting performance in a row. He did have 6 rebounds, 5 assists, a steal, and only 2 turnovers to help make up for the poor shooting from the field, and honestly he probably could have gone to the line 2 or 3 more times when he was fouled near the basket and the refs swallowed their whistles.
- Referees hate JT Thompson. They know this before they even arrive in Blacksburg. I'm not sure why this is, but Thompson seems to pick up the cheapest fouls of anyone on the Tech roster, and I'm at a loss to explain why it's always him. Early in the second half, Thompson was called for lightly brushing a GT player, which makes sense because basketball isn't supposed to be a contact sport... HA, sorry I couldn't say that with a straight face. JT couldn't throw a beach ball into the ocean the way he was shooting last night, but he was active on the floor and caused some turnovers.
- Hank Thorns came into the game last night with an 8.7 assist-to-turnover ratio, which was by far the highest in the ACC. The next highest was Ty Lawson at 2.9. I didn't know that until I read the preview for this game on, so it only made sense that Hank would proceed to dish out 0 assists and give up 3 turnovers in only 8 minutes of play. I guess everybody has to come back down to earth. Kudos to Little Hank for hitting 2 clutch free throws at the end of the game (particularly because he'd missed both of his attempts from earlier).
- Cheick Diakite stepped up to be the 4th scoring option in this game, hitting his patented yet awkward jump shot from the foul line and throwing down some monster jams. He had 10 points, 7 rebounds (which is a high number for Cheick), and was the only Hokie to record a block (he had 3 of them). It should also be noted that at one point, Delaney tried to lob a pass into Cheick while he was on the run, and the ball went right off of his fingertips out of bounds. That's our Cheick!
- The big difference in this game? Offensive rebounding, and don't ask me how, but the Hokies managed to pull down 16 offensive boards... 5 more than the Yel-Jacks. Those extra opportunities won't show up in the field goal attempts, where VT had one less than GT, but they do show up in the free throw attempts, where Tech had 16 more attempts than the other Tech.
- Gani Lawal is fantastic and I covet him.
- Victor Davila showed off his jump shot, which looked so horrible that my eyes started to bleed. Let's stick with the post moves Vic.
- The Hokie bench was 1-10 last night. Gross. Thank goodness our starters played so well.
- And finally, a note about the USA v. Mexico soccer game (because I love US Soccer); The US missed out on a couple of good opportunities, but I don't think Mexico ever really threatened in this game. Tim Howard had to make a nice save with his legs in the first half, but the shot was right at him. He also dove for another good save on a shot that didn't really have as much power as you would have expected from that range. Landon Donovan was really active for the entire match and was the key to the first goal. Michael Bradley did what he does best, which is clean up loose balls around the goal. That's how he scored 19 goals in the Dutch league last year and that's how the first goal of the game was scored. His second goal was of much better quality; a dipping shot from about 25-30 yards out that wasn't as close to the post as it should have been, but was good enough to beat the Mexican goalkeeper. This is one of the fiercest rivalries in sports, and the heated back-and-forth was fun to watch. USA wins 2-0 and is now 9-0-2 in their last 11 matches on US soil. I was born in the USA!

Monday, February 9, 2009

"Vengeance is Mine", sayeth the Hokies

Sidney Lowe wasn't wearing his infamous red jacket, and maybe that was the extra weight that tipped the scales in favor of Seth Greenberg. Virginia Tech rallied late in the second half to force overtime and eventually escaped with a 91-87 win over NC State. The Hokies got off to a fast start going up 8-2 in the first few minutes of the game, only to crap the bed for almost the entire first half. VT had no answer for Ben McCauley and Tracy Smith, who along with Brandon Costner and Courtney Fells, torched the Hokies for 49 first half points. The Wolfpack hit 58.6% of their shots from the field, and the game was beginning to feel like every other loss to NC State over the last couple of years where the Wolfpack seemed to hit every shot regardless of the defensive pressure put on them. For whatever reason, NC State's players really believe that they're better than us and it shows in the statistic columns. Luckily for Tech, those same beliefs are what forced the 'pack into some dumb turnovers. They had 22 in the game as opposed to just 14 for the Hokies. That ended up being the biggest reason for the Hokies' success, as it certainly wasn't due to their rebounding effort. State had 29 rebounds in the game as opposed to just 23 for Tech, and that was largely due to Ben McCauley who pulled down 15 boards all by himself. The guy is just this huge turd who somehow gets it done against VT every single time.

The officiating was horrendous, and I think both coaches were extremely upset about it. In the first half, Greenberg completely lit into one of the refs after an inexplicable foul against Malcolm Delaney after Brandon Costner had thrown him to the ground. That foul was preceded by an awful call against Victor Davila who managed to block an NC State player's shot by keeping his arms straight up, but still got whistled. Greenberg was visibly cussing out the refs from the sideline and received a technical foul for his trouble. I thought it was a necessary technical foul, and I do not fault Greenberg at all, although his choice of language could have been more family-friendly.

AD Vassallo was the game's MVP for the Hokies, even though Raycom decided to give that honor to Jeff Allen well before the second half ended. Allen had a nice game with 21 points, 8 rebounds, 3 blocks, and 2 steals, although he also contributed 4 turnovers. Vassallo put up 24 points, 7 boards, 2 blocks, and a steal. The difference I think is that Vassallo only had one turnover and was 4-4 from the free throw line to seal the win for the Hokies at the end of the game. Allen's free throws came earlier in the game, and he was only 4-8 from the charity stripe. I am really just nitpicking between two incredible performances though. Malcolm Delaney also had a pretty good game with 18 points, 4 assists, and a steal, although he also committed 5 turnovers and was a unimpressive 3-12 from the floor. However, you have to commend him on getting to the free throw line at important spots in the game, and converting all 11 chances. The Hokies finally received some good play from a player outside of "The Big 3", and that player was JT Thompson. Thompson was extremely active in this game, faking the 3-pointer on several occassions, only to drive to the basket and finish in the paint. JT was 5-10 from the field, good for 12 points, and he also pulled down 3 rebounds and corrupted the wolkpack offensive with 3 steals. His fastbreak throwdown where he simply passed the ball through the net was epic.

This game wasn't exactly a "must-win" for the Hokies, but if they had ended up losing, you really would have had to rethink the possibility of going to the NCAA tournament. NC State has an extremely mediocre RPI of 112 (which is even lower than North Dakota State... yuck). This win doesn't get us anything, but it prevents us from losing out in a big way. We are now sitting at 5-3 through the halfway point of the ACC schedule. We have 8 more games, with the last 5 being very difficult. If the Hokies can reel off 3 more wins before then, that would put us in great shape for that tough stretch, but in all likelihood, we will lose one of these games and win one of the tough 5. I think that in order for us to make the big dance, we're going to need to take a game that we aren't supposed to win... either @Clemson, home to Duke, or home to UNC. Good luck Hokies... that is a venti order (since tall isn't considered tall anymore).

Friday, February 6, 2009

Please No! Anything but the Wolfpack!

You might think I was kidding with the title of this post, but I am 100% "on the real". Virginia Tech has been absolutely awful against NC State in basketball since we joined the ACC. We are 1-6, with a losing streak of six games in a row. Our average loss is by 13 points, and our one win came by just one point. VT has a better record against both Duke and UNC since we came into the ACC, and that's really pathetic considering the talented players on both of those teams compared to the underachieving players on NC State (we are 2-5 against Duke and 2-4 against UNC since joining the ACC). Well, you may have thought that I was just going to drone on about how we're going to lose again this year, but you'd be sorely mistaken. On the contrary, I think this season we are going to turn our luck around against the Wolfpack, and my biggest reason for thinking that is how well we match up against NC State defensively.

State's best player is #33 Brandon Costner. He plays power forward for the 'pack and puts up a decent 15 points and and 6.4 rebounds per game. He's also gathered more assists per game than NC State's point guard, which means he is fairly adept at finding the open man if he doesn't have a shot. But in actuality, the Wolfpack's center, #34 Ben McCauley, is more widely known for being State's best passing big man. The whole offense runs through McCauley, who will either work for a shot down low, or he'll kick it out to an open shooter if VT tries to double-team him. He is also pretty dangerous both offensively and on the boards, averaging 12.9 points and 7.7 rebounds per game. State's most dangerous guard is #4 Courtney Fells, who is as much of a hot/cold player as anyone in the country. If he's shooting lights out in Blacksburg, this is a game the Hokies won't win unless Vassallo can match him shot-for-shot. He averages 11.8 points and is State's deadliest 3-point shooter hitting them at a 41.1% clip. The rest of NC State's squad is fairly mediocre. Tracy Smith has been playing well during the ACC slate and whoever is guarding him will have to out-hustle him to keep him from having a good game. He is basically a poor man's Al-Farouq Aminu in that he won't even attempt a 3-point shot, but is really active down low and cutting to the basket. Actually, if I had to pick a player who I think will hurt the Hokies on Sunday, I think it's going to be Smith. VT seems to do an excellent job of shutting down the best players of opposing teams only to let other players rise to the occassion (see Miami/Asbury, Wisconsin/Leuer, UVA/Farrakhan, etc). But like I said before, I think VT matches up very well defensively against NC State. Jeff Allen can handle Brandon Costner, Cheick Diakite will give McCauley some serious problems, and I think the combination of JT Thompson and Terrell Bell can bottle up Courtney Fells. The only question is, will Vassallo be able to contain Tracy Smith and Trevor Ferguson? I sure hope so. I have no doubt that Malcolm Delaney and Hank Thorns will have a field day against Farnold Degand and Julius Mays. I am betting on at least 4 steals from those two Hokies. However, both Degand and Mays are pretty tall for point guards (6'3" and 6'2"), so we might not see much of Hank Thorns in this game. He would be more likely to come in to play when Javier Gonzalez is on the floor, except that Gonzalez's minutes are being eaten up by Mays these days (go rhyming!). Also helping the Hokies' chances at a win is the fact that I don't think NC State has anyone who can guard Malcolm Delaney. I expect Delaney to score around 25 points in the game, with Vassallo not far behind. Points are going to be hard to come by for Jeff Allen because McCauley and Costner are both solid defenders, but the rebounding opportunities will certainly be there. State turns the ball over a lot, which is by far the biggest reason that they aren't winning games, so VT needs to win the turnover margin to have a shot at winning this game. In our lone matchup against the 'pack last year, the Hokies were done in by some extremely hot shooting from NC State. I remember the game pretty well actually... at least 3 different players hit ridiculous turn-around jumpers (Costner and Fells from 3, and McCauley with a long fall-away 2 if memory serves me right) that they will never hit again in their life. We were hurt a lot by J.J. Hickson, who has moved on to play with the Cleveland Cavaliers in the NBA. We were also bothered by Gavin Grant, who always seemed to play his best games against VT while he was playing for NC State, but Grant has graduated and is no longer playing with the Wolfpack. This is our year, Hokie fans! It's time to put an end to this two-game losing streak and pick up a win that we are EXPECTED to get, and what better place to do it than at home in the Cassell? Someone other than the Big 3 really needs to step up in this game because it's time to get this wolf-monkey off of our back. As of right now, I don't think this game is on TV in Richmond (because I couldn't find it on the schedule), but if possible everyone should watch this game! I guarantee it'll be a harder win than it's supposed to be, but I think the "W" will happen. 1:30pm on Sunday, be there. And root hard against coach Sidney Lowe and his ridiculous red jacket (which seems to own only Seth Greenberg and no one else). Go Hokies!

Thursday, February 5, 2009

National Signing Day

How about a Hokie football article? Yes please! has a list up of 20 players who Virginia Tech signed yesterday for the 2009 season, and there look to be at least a couple of gems in there. The most notable players are obviously the four-star recruits, including RB David Wilson from GW-Danville, WR/TE Logan Thomas from Lynchburg, and CB Jayron Hosley from Delray Beach, FL. Wilson is a bit on the small side at 5'11" and 195 lbs, but he's lightning quick and has been clocked at 4.4 seconds in the 40 yard dash. Wilson shows good vision and seems to find the seams in the opponent's defense. Thomas has impressive size, but probably not enough speed to play wide receiver for VT. He is 6'6" and 230 lbs, but his 40 yard dash is an average 4.6 seconds. Tech will likely beef him up a little bit and put him at h-back/tight end. Thomas could possibly get a look at safety or linebacker on the defensive side of the ball as well. Hosley was a recruit that VT fans weren't planning on getting... he had all but signed with South Florida when Beamer & Co. snatched him away at the last second. He has typical cornerback size at 5'11, 180 lbs. However he is shifty with the ball in his hands and was able to score 5 special teams touchdowns in high school, which means Hosley could eventually get a look at punt return for the Hokies. I have no doubt that coach Bud Foster and coach Torrian Gray can mold him into an All-ACC talent. I think he will have to wait a year or two behind Stephan Virgil though... that guy is slated to be the next big-time cornerback for Tech. Coach Beamer also pulled some excellent 3-star recruits who could pan out for us, but I think there are too many for us to go into today. Things are looking up for the Hokies in 2009, and this draft class has been as solid as any in the years past. Spring practice starts up soon, and likewise the Spring game will be here before long! I don't know about you guys, but I'm excited to have Brandon Dillard back. We missed you B-Dilly (for the record, I have no idea if anyone actually calls him that). Keep reaching for the stars, Hokies!

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Vibeology? No. Bracketology.

ESPN has a "bracketologist" on staff named Joe Lunardi (in case you hadn't heard). His sole job function is to create proposed NCAA tournament brackets and speculate as to which teams will be in and which teams will be out based on their current performance. Right now he has Virginia Tech sitting as a 10-seed in the Midwest bracket, despite our recent stomach-punch performances against Clemson and Boston College. You might be thinking, "Hey, a 10 seed isn't that bad! He must be pretty high on VT," however you would be wrong. There are only two teams included on his brackets, Georgetown and Tennessee, with a worse overall record than Tech when you take out all of the mid-major teams that he's projecting will win their conferences. Baylor's record is the same as Tech's. The other non-mid-major/at-large teams with a better record than VT who he placed as lower/equivalent seeds are South Carolina, Penn State, Utah, LSU, and St. Mary's. The projected mid-major conference winners are in capitalized letters, in case you were wondering which of those teams I was talking about that we are taking out of our (fun?) little study. All of a sudden, VT is battling a much smaller number of teams to stay in the tournament, and many of them have comparable (if not superior) resumes compared to us. Georgetown has a bunch of losses, but they are all to good teams. The same can not be said of VT, who lost to Georgia (a team that couldn't shoot a basketball through a hula hoop) and Seton Hall (a team that is 2-6 in their conference). This bracket might seem like a good thing at first glance, but all it really tells us is that the Hokies have their work cut out for them if they want to show up on this bracket come selection Sunday!

Monday, February 2, 2009

Hokie Hokie Hokie Low

I'm not sure I even have the strength to talk about that Boston College loss on Saturday. If the Hokies lose one more game on a last-second play, I might have to start watching HGTV and the Food Network just to take some of the drama out of my life. I can handle watching a cake deflate. Watching the Hokie basketball team deflate is much more devastating. Maybe you disagree, but I am still reeling from that Rakim Sanders put-back with .4 seconds left on the clock. How could nobody box him out? How did nobody have position to grab that rebound when it looked like we had the inside track? It was an ugly game all around and the only Hokie who brought his game face for the entire 40 minutes was Jeff Allen. Allen had a double-double with 20 points and 11 rebounds, not to mention a sick-nasty dunk in the second half where he followed up a missed Malcolm Delaney layup with a monstrous jam. Poor shooting plagued the Hokies, particularly in the first half where they only hit 27% of their shots from the field. That's absurd for an ACC team to shoot that poorly. Luckily, the Hokies were playing good defense and the Eagles were missing shots as well, so Tech went into halftime down just two points. The second half would look entirely different, with neither team playing inspired defense, the Hokies shot 52% from the field. The Eagles, however, shot just as well from the field, so Virginia Tech did not gain an advantage from the hot shooting. On paper, this was an even game with the Hokies committing 3 fewer turnovers than the Eagles, but BC had 2 more offensive rebounds than VT and shot 8% better on their free throws. The officiating was awful, but it went both ways so I will not complain about that. I guess it really did come down to that tip on the final play being the difference.

AD Vassallo had a terrible first half where he wasn't even remotely involved in the offense, only to follow it up with a stellar second half where he scored all of his 21 points. He also grabbed 5 boards. Malcolm Delaney was fairly consistent, putting up 18 points and dishing out 5 assists, although he did turn the ball over 4 times. The real problem (yet again) was that none of the other Hokies outside of the big 3 showed up. Allen, Vassallo, and Delaney combined for 62 of VT's 66 points. UNBELIEVABLE! You have to be kidding me, right? Our other lousy players only put up 4 points total? Yep, that's right. Hank Thorns had 1 point on a free throw. The other three points came from Dorenzo Hudson, who hit the first shot of the game for the Hokies fooling me into thinking that he might have a breakout game. Ha! That's laughable. He ended up going 1-5, and he missed some shots that your dead dog might have made. I'm giving Dorenzo Hudson until the end of this season to get his game up to snuff, or else I'm going to lobby for the incoming freshmen to take all of his minutes next season. Bring on Erick Green and MoMo Jones! Yes, you read that correctly... Lamont Jones goes by the nickname "MoMo". My brother used to go by the nickname "Mikey" when he was little, but he grew out of it... take a hint, MoMo.

And finally, let's touch upon where this putrid loss leaves us considering our NCAA options. They are slowly getting flushed down the toilet, much like the fresh steamer you dropped after eating all that Superbowl cuisine. Virginia Tech is now 4-3 in the ACC with 9 games left before the ACC tournament. We need, at the absolute minimum, 5 more wins. Now, you pick those 5 wins out of this lineup: NC State, GA Tech, @Maryland, @UVA, FSU, @Clemson, Duke, UNC, @FSU. The future isn't looking so bright anymore, is it? You might want to put those shades away. We "lucked" into a really tough ACC slate this year and it looks like the Hokies will have to steal a win or two that they weren't expected to win in order to get into the Big Dance this year. I am still keeping the faith... this team is certainly good enough to make it, but the supporting cast needs to step up a lot more than they did at Boston College on Saturday, where they more closely resembled a festering pile of cat poop. Even at his lowest point, I don't think Ron Burgundy would have eaten them.