Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Man Weekend

Why the long layoff? I mean, it's been almost a week since my last post. Don't worry everybody, the posts will not stop just because there is no Virginia Tech football or basketball being played... I was just at Man Weekend 2009 for four incredible days. What is "Man Weekend", you wonder? It is a glorious event where I get together with about 10-12 guys from college at our friend's uncle's river house and we drink delicious beer, watch the NCAA tournament, eat heart-destroying food, play video games, and even combat one another in a serious, no-holds-barred croquet contest. Real men play croquet... particularly the Eddie Bauer set that you can pick up for around $60 at Target. The weather this year was craptacular, but that didn't stop us from doing the things we were called to do, as men, since the beginning of time.

Let the record show that I suck at croquet. I participated in two games and subsequently got my ass kicked for my troubles. We set the game up on this turf that the nearby golf course uses to repair their greens, and I simply could not read that green. Every shot bent like Beckham... no not that one, I mean Terry Beckham at my office, he has a really bad back. Wordplay!

As for my brackets, they were shot to hell when Purdue and Pittsburgh lost. I had Purdue in the Elite 8 and Pittsburgh winning the whole darn thing. Shows what I know... I guess I thought that Pittsburgh was a better offensive team than they really are. DeJuan Blair is even fatter than I realized... I'd seen clips of the guy, but until you watch him for a whole game you really can't understand his fatness. The guy breathes hard after just jogging from the bench to scorer's table before he checks in. He's a monster when it comes to grabbing rebounds and putting in shots around the hoop, but he has to take a lot of breaks during the game and he's prone to foul trouble. And furthering the Pittsburgh fat trend is Levance Fields, their point guard who looks like he should be watching the game at home with a full rack and a half rack of ribs. Pitt's strength and conditioning coach should be fired as he's neglected the entire second half of his title.

The only thing that sucks about Man Weekend is when it's over and you have to go back to work. This office couldn't be more dead than it is right now. Maybe someone released some poisonous gas while I was in the bathroom? Maybe I released some poisonous gas while I was in the bathroom? Who knows, really.

VT B-Ball Recruiting Update

According to a recent post on TechHoops.com (sparked by a Roanoke Times article), the scholarship situation for next season has cleared up drastically. Terrance Vinson will not be playing basketball in the Fall, but will instead enroll in graduate school (not sure if that would be at VT or not) and pass up his redshirt senior year. With seniors AD Vassallo and Cheick Diakite graduating and the other unused scholarship from last season, that makes 4 scholarships for 4 recruits. Lamont "Momo" Jones has decommitted from Virginia Tech, and it doesn't look likely that he will recommit.

VT also missed out on Seth Curry who decided to transfer to Duke. He is likely to be a backup PG/SG at Duke, so I'm not sure why he chose to go there rather than a place where he can be in the starting lineup, but whatever. Curry has to sit out a year before he is allowed to play for Duke, and by that time Jon Scheyer will have graduated, meaning that Elliot Williams and Nolan Smith are the likely starters at guard, with Curry as the primary backup. He will have a chance to start by his junior year... whoop-de-do. How Seth Greenberg managed to whiff on Seth Curry after he obviously whiffed on Stephen Curry is a mystery to me. Greenberg watched Stephen Curry grow into his body and blossom as a player right in front of his eyes, so why wouldn't the same thing happen for Seth? Was Kendall Durant too good to pass up? I ask because Greenberg offered a scholarship to Durant, but not to Seth Curry. Or what about Gene Swindle for that matter? It just doesn't make sense to me.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Seth Curry to Transfer

An article came out yesterday about Seth Curry seeking to transfer from Liberty University to a college that plays in a more highly-touted conference. Hey wait a sec... Virginia Tech is a college that plays in a more highly-touted conference! Now it might be a little too early for us VT fans to get our hopes up. Seth's father Dell did play for Virginia Tech for four years before he left to play in the NBA, but that doesn't necessarily mean that we are a favorite to land Seth Curry. Seth Greenberg failed to make a scholarship offer to either Stephen Curry or Seth Curry as they were coming out of high school, and it's possible that this decision didn't sit well with Dell or his wife (who tends to get just as many television closeups as Stephen gets). We will just have to wait and see what happens. Oh and by the way, Seth Curry was the top-scoring freshman in the nation this year. Yowza!

Virginia Tech has commitments from 5 players (4 written, 1 verbal) and technically we only have 3 scholarships opening up next season. Two scholarships are from graduating seniors AD Vassallo and Cheick Diakite. One scholarship was unused this year. Another scholarship is expected to be gained from Terrance Vinson, who may graduate this summer as a redshirt junior. That's still only 4 scholarships for 5 players, so something would have to give for us to land Seth Curry.

One consideration is that verbal commitment Lamont "Momo" Jones may have reopened his recruitment (which he is allowed to do since he hasn't signed anything yet). It's considered a powerfully uncool move in the NCAA ranks, but it's allowable. Momo is a pure scorer and could be an excellent college basketball player, so this probably isn't the news we are hoping for nor is it a scholarship we want to lose. Another option is that one of the incoming freshman could play a year of prep school. I would think Manny Atkins would be the most likely to be asked to do that.

Yet another option is that Greenberg could tell Hank Thorns to peddle his wares elsewhere. Thorns is a lovable player and a fan favorite, but if we are being honest with one another, he is not an ACC Caliber player. He would be better off taking a scholarship from a smaller D-1 school (like a George Mason, University of Nevada, or Gardner-Webb), where he would get to be a starter and could really grow as a player.

No matter how the scholarship situation works out, I do believe that Greenberg would make it happen if Seth Curry were looking to transfer from Liberty to Virginia Tech, so let's keep our fingers crossed and pray for it to happen. Seth Greenberg can teach his players to play defense, protect the basketball, and position themselves correctly. What he can't do is teach them to score the ball, and that's what Curry would bring.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

What is Twitter?

I get that it is a social networking tool or whatever, but no seriously... WHAT IS IT? I don't understand what you do with it. I sound like my dad here, who has a caveman's understanding of everything electronic, but this one just doesn't make sense to me. It's my current Rubik's Cube. Apparently NBA player Charlie Villanueva got in trouble for using it during a game. These darn kids... somebody needs to sit them down, pump them full of Ritalin so they'll pay attention, and teach them some priorities.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Hudson shows late signs of life

For most of the season Dorenzo Hudson looked like a bust. He would hit his opening 3-point attempt or layup and then proceed to miss every other shot he took, so his better play late in the season might have crept right past you without notice. He still lacks a mid-range game, but he became noticeably better at hitting 3-pointers and drives to the basket in the past 2 weeks of the season in the ACC tournament and the NIT. Also of note is the fact that Hudson seemed to become more of a "stat stuffer"... in other words, a guy who not only can score a few points, but gets assists, rebounds, steals, and blocks. Those stat lines were severely lacking, particularly for a player who is known for his defense. It's only four games, but it gives Hokie fans some hope that he can continue to improve next season.

Hudson's stat line for the season:

Hudson's stat line in the last 4 games:

As you can see, although it is a small sample size, Hudson's statistics were dramatically better in the last four games. If he gives that kind of effort in every game, he is likely to be the one starting opposite of Malcolm Delaney at the other starting guard spot come November. Hopefully he will work on his pull-up jumper and other mid-range shots during the offseason, as they are still woeful, but I think Hudson could show a dramatic improvement next season, and he might become that shut-down defender that Seth Greenberg has been looking for. Party on, Zo.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

An Ugly End to an Ugly Season

Virginia Tech was humiliated at home in Cassel Coliseum today as the Hokies fell 84-66 to the Baylor Bears. Tech started out shooting 1-17 from the floor with the lone basket coming from a Jeff Allen dunk. The fact that VT was only down 22-5 at that point was a bit of a miracle in and of itself. Tech ended the half being down 20 points and was down by 26 points for a little while in the 2nd half. At that point, the Hokies started to put a run together and got within 12 points, but they never got closer than that. Once again, a cold start doomed the Hokies, which seemed to happen so many times this season and was only fitting in our last game. Terrell Bell had some nice minutes, but this was an utterly forgettable game for virtually ever other Virginia Tech player. I can't even fathom how the Hokies managed to play that poorly at home... it just boggles the mind. There are real mental problems on this team, and I'm nervous that they won't be corrected by next season. There are only two starter spots that are locked down for next season, and those belong to Malcolm Delaney and Jeff Allen. The other guys on the team, including our newcomers for next season, will have to practice hard and really improve during this offseason, or else any one of them could be relegated to the bench.

The pattern at Virginia Tech seems to continue, for both football and basketball, in seasons where our team is expected to succeed, we do not live up to expectations. However, in seasons where nothing much is expected, Tech becomes a dominant force. We are losing a senior who ranks 5th in VT scoring history (Vassallo) as well as an excellent defensive player (Diakite), so the pundits are likely to feel that VT will regress next year and finish at the bottom of the ACC. That's exactly the kind of motivation that Tech players historically feed off of, so I am not worried about next year. Even though there are a lot of questions as to who will fill what role, we can rest assured that someone will certainly step up next year. Another offseason will do our guys some good, and I think they will come back with a renewed vigor when Midnight Madness kicks off in November.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Double OT Thriller, Michael Jackson Style

AD Vassallo is one smooth criminal, although he wasn't quite as smooth when he was stealing Dr. Pepper on campus and got caught. This time, he stole the hearts of Hokie fans when he willed Virginia Tech to a win over Duquesne in the first round of the NIT. Vassallo had an inspired evening putting up a sick stat line of 33 points, 12 rebounds, 5 assists, 3 blocks, and only 1 turnover. Vassallo played like he was looking to impress NBA scouts, and I think that's just what he did, however if he really wants to be considered in the 2nd round of the NBA draft, he's going to have to keep it up and put together another great game against Baylor on Saturday morning at 11AM.

Aaron Jackson had a career night for the dukes going 15-25 from the floor, 8-9 from the free throw line, and 8-13 from the 3-point line, good for a total of 46 points. It felt like everything he put up in this game found its way into the basket. Jackson as a monster, and it didn't matter whether he was shooting the three or driving to the hoop. For Hokie fans, it felt like they were playing against a person who was "on fire" in NBA Jam and I kept waiting for the announcers to shout out, "He's on fire! Boom-shakalaka!" It never happened, but it happened in my head. It was a bittersweet night for the senior guard as he had a career night and made a great case for being an NBA draft pick, but his team lost in the end.

As for the game, the Hokies lead for the majority of the game in both regulation and overtime, but it seemed like they just couldn't hold off the hot-shooting Dukes. Everybody on the Dukes was getting into the action and they finished hitting 17-30 3-pointers, many with hands in their face or from several feet behind the 3-point arc. It would have been extremely easy for Tech to get discouraged and slump in their play, but they continued to do whatever they could to hold off and outlast Duquesne. Aaron Jackson finally cooled off in the 2nd overtime and the Dukes' Bill Clark fouled out, opening up the chance the Hokies needed to get some defensive stops. Tech had been getting easy buckets all night on the inside, leading to great games from Jeff Allen (23 pts) and JT Thompson (21 pts). Allen and Thompson combined to go a ridiculous 18-25 from the floor and the Tech team shot almost 60% for the game! I mean, that is just nuts. It's making me visibly ill just thinking about it.

Virginia Tech is in for an even tougher matchup on Saturday morning when they take on the Baylor Bears. Curtis Jerrells is every bit the phenomenal guard that Aaron Jackson was/is, so the Hokies will really have to defend him. The Bears took out an extremely talented, but slacking, Georgetown Hoya team last night, and did so with some easy alley-oops and clutch defense. The Hokies will really need to defend the paint on Saturday and make the Bears beat us with the jump shot. Jerrells is prone to the turnover, so I would like to see Greenberg do a little pressing/trapping in this game. This is certainly a game that VT can and should win if they don't take their foot off of the accelerator like they tend to do. Keep the train rolling, VT!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Brackets Ahoy!

I believe that I have given myself a sufficient amount of time to grieve over Virginia Tech's exclusion from the NCAA tournament, and so I have filled out my brackets and talked plenty of smack on the Yahoo messageboards. There are going to be plenty of punks getting pwned starting tomorrow, and I can't do anything to stop that.

I am really hoping that this will be the year that a #1 seed finally goes down to a #16. It's highly unlikely that it's finally going to happen, but of all the 16 seeds, I like Radford the best. They played UVA close at the beginning of the year, which doesn't mean much but it's better than any of the other 16 seeds, who were all not just beaten, but smoked by BCS-conference opponents. Plus, Seth Greenberg's brother Brad coaches at Radford, so you know that they can play some defense. Well, maybe. Even if Ty Lawson sits this game out, this should be a relatively easy romp through the garden for UNC.

My favorite "upset" of the first round is Arizona over Utah. I've been hearing a lot of the talking heads on ESPN saying things about Utah like, "You haven't seen this team play," or, "No one knows about this team." I have seen that team play, and they are horribly unimpressive. They have a gigantic Aussie center, Luke Nevill, who has a nice arsenal of post moves, but he's completely unathletic and will get dominated by Jordan Hill. The rest of Utah's team is comprised of 3-point shooters, and they're all pretty streaky. Neither team has a bench that is worth talking about. What also needs to be considered is that Utah hasn't shown that they can play away from home. They don't have a good or even respectable away win this entire season, and they'll be playing their first round game in Miami, FL. I don't even think Arizona is all that good, I just know that if they come to play, they will beat this Utah team easily.

This is going to be a fun tournament to watch, and I feel like we can expect a good amount of upsets in each and every round. Personally, I am pulling for North Dakota State over Kansas, but that has about a North Dakota snowball's chance in hell of happening. Let me just say this though... don't be the tool who picks maybe one upset in each of the first two rounds... upsets are fun and upsets are American and you should pick them as your heart desires. Forget about the percentages and statistics... go with your gut and you'll enjoy your March Madness experience at a much higher level.

Next weekend I will be taking both Thursday and Friday off to watch basketball and hang out at my friend's grandparents' river house. There will be good beer, good food, Bacardi Raz (what?), video games, croquet, bunk beds, and of course, foxy boxing. As usual, girls will not be permitted, so you can expect plenty of burping, farting, and ball-busting. That's just the way of things. Let ManFest 2009 begin!

Monday, March 16, 2009

NIT Bound

Virginia Tech was issued a 2-seed in the 2009 NIT Tournament. The Hokies will host Duquesne on Wednesday night, and if they win that game, will then host the winner of the Georgetown/Baylor matchup. Tech should be able to get by Duquesne with relative ease, but either Baylor or Georgetown are certainly capable of giving the Hokies all they can handle. That game will be a good test as to the quality of this Virginia Tech team here at the end of the season because both Baylor and G-town were fighting hard for NCAA bids this year, and both have at least one player that has NBA talent (Curtis Jerrells for the Bears and DaJuan Summers & Greg Monroe for the Hoyas).

Duquesne will not exactly be a pushover... they made it to the final game of the Atlantic 10 tournament and beat a good Dayton team along the way, so they are hot right now. Aaron Jackson is Duquesne's do-it-all senior guard... he can score, he can dish, and he can rebound. His stat line reads 18.5 pts, 5.5 rebounds, and 5.8 assists per game. The Dukes of Duquesne are a high-scoring team, but they aren't a particularly good defensive team. The Hokies will have a size advantage on the Dukes and they will need to really take advantage of that and pound the Dukes inside the paint. Oliver Lewinson is the tallest player for the Dukes at 6'9" and he only plays about 8 minutes per game. Their tallest starter is Damian Saunders, who is all of 6'7" and 210 lbs. I think it's likely that the Hokies will go small most of this game, with Jeff Allen at the 5. Allen should be able to dominate Saunders down there. Cheick Diakite will probably start the game though as Greenberg will want to see if he can keep up with the smaller Saunders and keep him from hurting the Hokies on the glass. Diakite is also our best option for the opening tip-off. Hank Thorns will most likely play a lot in this game as the Dukes will play 5'11" Eric Evans for a majority of the game.

Virginia Tech got placed in a pretty tough bracket in this year's NIT, so they will need to come out with something to prove. The Hokies will face 22-11 Auburn if they can make it through the early gauntlet. Auburn played in the weak SEC, so I'm not exactly sure how they got a #1 seed now that I think about it. I could see them getting bested by 4-seed Tulsa or 5-seed Northwestern, and I definitely think that whoever comes out on top among VT, Baylor, and G-town will go to the NIT Final Four. The Hokies have the advantage since their first two games will be at home, and possibly their 3rd game if Auburn gets beat. This is a good chance for the young Hokies to gain some experience, and it's a good chance for Vassallo to put together a resume worthy of the NBA draft, so I expect the Hokies to play well. Go TECH!

Friday, March 13, 2009

NCAA Tournament taken away, but not by UNC

Another close game ends in a loss for the Hokies, but this time it had nothing to do with the opposing team. Tyler Hansbrough was unstoppable in this one, but the "jump ball" that he supposedly earned at the end of the game was an obvious foul that was called incorrectly by the referee closest to the play. JT Thompson had the ball down low and was battling, Hansbrough reached from behind him and got his hand on Thompson's hand, which ended up being called a "jump ball", but Hansbrough got the iffy calls all game that have made him infamous with every fan who isn't pulling for UNC. The Hokies will be passed over by the Selection Committee on Sunday even though they showed they probably belong in the Big Dance. It's just so hard to get excited for the NIT, but that's where we are headed for the second straight year. This is a talented team that really underachieved this year. VT just didn't get any contributions from anyone but Vassallo, Allen, and Delaney until it was too late to matter.

I will keep tabs on the NIT tournament, but for right now, I'm just so disappointed that it's hard to write anything. 79-76 Tar Heels... Hokies get screwed yet again.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

New Blood

Where in the heck did that game come from? Virginia Tech blew out Miami in the opening game of the ACC tournament, 65-47 to give them a shot at UNC and a possible invite to the NCAA tournament. Don't get me wrong, beating Miami does absolutely nothing for the Hokies' resume at this point. Pretty much every talking head in the college basketball biz is saying that Tech needs to win against UNC in their game tomorrow at noon to have a shot at the NCAA tournament, but this win against Miami gives us that chance.

Virginia Tech looked like Michael J. Fox after he had turned into Teen Wolf. They seemed to be either stealing the basketball, skying for a rebound, or dropping a shot in someone's face on every possession. I half expected to see the camera pan to the audience where Boof would be sitting in the stands wishing that her best friend, the Virginia Tech Hokies, would notice her as a woman and ask her out. It was a crushing defeat for Miami, who is now destined for an entry to the NIT, and especially disheartening for senior Jack McClinton, who is leaving Miami with a sour taste in his mouth (not to mention some kick-ass eyeliner and mascara... I swear that dude looks like he's wearing makeup). McClinton was 4-11, 1-6 on 3-pointers, and had 7 turnovers. To add to his embarrassment, he was benched for the final 3+ minutes of the game (although that might have had more to do with the fact that he was nursing a sprained knee).

Malcolm Delaney is still in a massive shooting slump, but in this game he was able to get the referees to blow their whistles and got to the line for 15 foul shots, where he made 14. Delaney added a three-pointer, but missed his other 9 shots from the field. He needs to shoot better than that for VT to be able to hang with UNC. AD Vassallo had a nice game despite his 3-point shot deserting him. He had 14 points, 8 rebounds, 4 assists, and 2 steals. Vassallo continued to display that deadly runner in the lane, which looks like his best asset at this point. The surprise player of the game was JT Thompson, who had a monster effort. 12 points (on 5-5 shooting), 8 rebounds, and a block in just 23 minutes of play. Jeff Allen also had a nice game on 4-5 shooting good for 9 points, 6 boards, and 3 steals. He's got the fastest hands of any big man in the ACC... bar none. I'm sorry that I just said "bar none"... I really don't even know what it means, but the phrase seems to work there.

Tomorrow's game against UNC might end up being a little easier than our last game against UNC. The Tar Heels will almost certainly be without ACC Player of the Year, Ty Lawson, who is nursing a sore toe. Roy Williams won't want to risk playing Lawson in the ACC tournament where he could possibly aggravate his injury before the NCAA tournament. UNC has a #1 seed locked up no matter how they perform in the ACC tournament. Without Lawson, UNC is a little bit more mortal then they were the last time we saw them, and if the Hokies played with the intensity they showed today, we could be sitting pretty on Selection Sunday with a win over #1 North Carolina on our resume. The apple is just hanging from that low limb Hokies... now get over there and pick the crap out of it.

ACC Tourney: First Round Picks

#8 VT v. #9 Miami

Pick: VT

I picked VT, but this game is as close to a toss-up as any I can think of. Miami finished the year strong winning 3 of their last 4 games, but did so against inferior ACC opponents and even lost a game to Georgia Tech, who only had 2 ACC wins this year. I realize VT is slumping, but at this point last year is when Malcolm Delaney found a little something extra and started to dominate... hopefully he can do it again this year. And hopefully, AD Vassallo's arm won't be sore anymore from that new tattoo and he'll start hitting 3-pointers again.

#5 Clemson v. #12 Georgia Tech

Pick: Clemson

It's just not possible to pick Georgia Tech in this game. They only had 2 wins in conference this year, and didn't exactly light up opponents out of conference either. Clemson is better at every position except the 5, where the edge goes to Gani Lawal. The better bench also goes to Clemson, so they should walk away with a "fairly" easy win today. Look for KC Rivers to have a big game.

#7 Maryland v. #10 NC State

Pick: NC State

I know that Maryland has played well in some big games this season, but I like NC State's athleticism to win out over Maryland's team-oriented play. The key to me is whether or not Brandon Costner can guard Landon Milbourne on defense and whether Costner will post up and take advantage of his size on offense. If Costner settles for jump shots, Maryland will benefit huge. Courtney Fells is a good defender and should neutralize Greivis Vazquez. Ben McCauley should have a field day against Dave Neal... the rebounding edge will definitely go to NC State in this game.

#6 Boston College v. #11 UVA

Pick: BC

I am making this pick based on experience and overall talent, and I promise it is not because of my hatred for UVA. For this game, Tyrese Rice is the best player and the best leader on the court by a long shot, and the combination of Calvin Baker and Sammy Zeglinski won't be able to stop him. BC has athletic players like Rakim Sanders to match UVA's ultra-athletic freshman, Sylven Landesberg, and Joe Trapani is the best post player on either team. I like Mike Scott's energy, but he is just too inconsistent to rely on.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Johnny Be Good

A couple days ago, I decided to sit down and watch a movie within the comfort of my own home. The beauty of Comcast's "On Demand" feature is that you can scroll through around a hundred different movies and the majority of them won't cost you a thing. I guess it's kind of like paying for an all-inclusive resort and realizing that you don't have to pay for snorkeling or parasailing... you are already paying for Comcast service, and there are some nice extras included.

Anyway, so I am looking through the list of movies and I come across "Johnny Be Good". I'd never heard of it, but after reading the nugget of info they give you about the movie, I learned that it was a sports movie about a high school quarterback who is highly recruited and ends up getting bogged down by all of the perks and benefits of being a star in the college ranks. Sounds pretty sweet, right?

Then I realized that the star of the movie is Anthony Michael Hall! Anyone who really loves 80s movies as much as I do will recognize this guy as the nerd from 16 Candles, Weird Science, and The Breakfast club (and the nerd from several other movies that weren't quite as popular). However, in this movie we are supposed to buy that he is a powerful high school jock who the women love? Sorry, I just can't get on board with that. A.M. Hall will always be a dork in my mind, and that's the way I like it.

Secondly, Robert Downey Jr. plays Hall's uncoordinated, tag-along best friend. Now look, I am comfortable enough in my manhood to admit this; Downey is at least 10x hotter than Hall and has absolutely no business in that role. Whoever was in charge of casting that movie must've been fired shortly thereafter. I could only watch about 15 minutes of this movie before I had to turn it off... it's easily one of the most wonderfully conceived but poorly interpreted movies in the history of the silver screen. The plot of the movie writes itself, particularly because a movie like this really hadn't been successfully attempted yet, but what was crapped out onto the screen was this boring, Anthony-Michael-Hall-worshipping fiasco that was so disappointing that I decided not to watch any other movies after I had stopped vomiting.

I will say that the best part of the movie for me was when all of these college recruiters were over at Hall's house doing anything possible to get him to come to their university. In particular, the Alabama rep and the Penn State rep were going at it and giving each other noogies and stuff, and I couldn't help but think about my friend Lee who is going to leave Alabama's Political Science PhD program because he was wooed away by Penn State, and I was imagining the deans of each school giving each other noogies and fighting over having Lee research and teach at their institution. Another reason why movies are just like real life.

Oh, did I mention that the main character's name was "Johnny Walker"? That's right, just like the whiskey. Blah. Do they make mouthwash for your eyes?

Getting Ready for the ACC Tourney

Tomorrow at noon Virginia Tech will be taking on the Miami Hurricanes in what prooves to be a do-or-die game for both teams as far as their NCAA tournament hopes are concerned. The last time the Hokies played the 'Canes was on January 25th in Coral Gables, FL where Tech ended up winning in overtime, 88-83. That game was highlighted by some hot three-point shooting from the Hokies (hitting 9 of 21 shots) and some solid ballhandling (only 9 turnovers for Tech). Virginia Tech also put the clamp on Miami's superstar, Jack McClinton, who had a really rough game on that fateful Sunday. Malcolm Delaney, Dorenzo Hudson, and JT Thompson combined to really shut down one of the best shooters in the ACC. More of the same will be required for a Hokie win tomorrow.

I guess you could say the lowlight of that game in January was the fact that VT just could not stop Dwayne Collins in the paint and he seemed to get a bucket every time he was fed the ball down low. Brian Asbury also had a monster game going 9-13 from the field. Whoever is guarding Asbury in this game needs to do a much better job of containing him both inside and out as he showed that although he can't hit a 3-pointer against any other team, he is a 50% 3-point shooter against the Hokies. Why do the worst players always terrorize the Hokies? I have no idea, but I bet Derwin Kitchen, Jamil Tucker, and Jon Leuer know the answer.

Here are some keys to winning tomorrow:
- Keep Miami out of the paint and off the boards. VT's big men need to front Dwayne Collins, Jimmy Graham, and Cyrus McGowan forcing them out of the paint, and once they are out of the paint, force them to become jump shooters because they couldn't throw a basketball through a hoola hoop once you get them outside of the paint.
- Lock it up on Jack McClinton. McClinton has great quickness and can get off a shot just about any time he wants, so the Hokies will need to stick to him like glue. Industrial strength glue, not that crappy Elmer's stuff.
- Be selective and take good shots. VT, and particularly AD Vassallo, have been jacking up some terrible shots early in the shot-clock over the last couple of games. It's completely unnecessary... try to get the high-percentage shot and then work for a longer shot later in the clock.
- Don't let Dorenzo Hudson shoot anything but 3-pointers and layups... he is missing every other shot, and I don't mean just missing, I mean he is either shooting airballs or else slamming the ball off the backboard. Also, this includes dunks as he can't seem to hit those either (pretty embarrassing for a guy who is 6'5").
- Let Victor Davila play. Miami usually runs two legit post players, and whichever one Jeff Allen is guarding has an easier time getting open and getting their shot off. Allen will most likely get into foul trouble trying to guard those bigger players, so Seth Greenberg can't be afraid to run Diakite and Davila at the same time, if necessary. I don't think going small with Thompson at the power forward spot is a good idea for VT as Jimmy Graham is very mobile for a big man and will negate that advantage.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Same Story... Different Day

Virginia Tech lost another game that they really needed to win at Florida State on Sunday to drop to 7-9 in the ACC. Tech has lost 6 of their last 7 games and is heading into the ACC tournament as cold as any team in the nation. Tech lost 63-53 on a night where they turned the ball over 17 times and couldn't buy a basket against a stingy FSU defense.

The Big Three of Delaney, Vassallo, and Allen were monumentally disappointing in this game, combining to go 9-29 from the field... that's not going to win any games. The Hokies looked lackluster and lost all afternoon as Florida State repeatedly took advantage of the Hokies being out of position. The best example of this was on an inbounds play where Coach Greenberg was yelling at Vassallo to get down near the basket, and as Vassallo trotted back you could see Jordan DeMercy skying for an alley-oop dunk. It was an ugly loss and probably the second-worst game for VT (aside from our first loss to Duke), so I think I'm done talking about it. The supporting cast had an okay game, but nothing to write home about. Cheick Diakite did have a career-high 11 rebounds in this game, but that's kind of an embarrassing stat for a starting center. I believe it's called Schadenfreude.

Instead, let's talk about that tattoo on AD Vassallo's right arm. I've never noticed that before... was it new? Because if that idiot got a tattoo on his shooting arm DURING the season, I'm going to have to mail him threatening letters and poisoned muffins. Okay, not really, but that tattoo at least looked like it was freshened up a bit if it wasn't brand new, so I am going to go ahead and stay pissed off at AD for being a complete moron both on and off the court. Actually yep, I just verified that he didn't have that tattoo during the game at Clemson, so it's brand new. Nothing like having a sore shooting arm when you're trying to get your team into the NCAA tournament. Gotta love the stupidity.

Alright, I have decided that was enough bashing of the Hokies... although they certainly deserve to be hated on right now. The NIT tournament looks all but assured for us right now. We would have to win at least 2 ACC tournament games to get into the bubble talk for the NCAA tournament. A lot of Hokie fans are being pessimistic thinking that we need to win 3 games getting to the final game or even win the whole thing, but I don't agree with that. Since we play UNC in our second game, I think we only need to beat Miami then UNC to get an invite. It's time to temper our expectations though... UNC took one of our best efforts of the year at home in Blacksburg, and still beat us by 8 points and led us for the whole game. The Hokies would need more than a great game... they would need a ton of luck, and that is something that seems to be in short supply this season. The NIT will give Seth Greensberg a chance to see what he's got in some of his players who will need to contribute next year. I'm thinking specifically of Terrell Bell and Victor Davila.

Bell has a chance to vie for a lot of the minutes that will be opened up by the departure of AD Vassallo. I fully expect Victor Davila to eat up all of the minutes that will be opened up by the loss of Cheick Diakite, and I'm excited to see what he can do next year. Greenberg has really coached him up and he seems to have responded well. He's no longer just an offensive player... he's shown he can defend some of the better post players in the ACC when he is focused and determined. If Davila can work on hitting a 12-15 foot jump shot, he'll really be a weapon next year.

The ACC tournament starts this weekend and the Hokies will take on the Miami Hurricanes Thursday at noon. I will definitely be taking a long lunch on Thursday. VT beat Miami on the Canes' home court earlier this season, so we know a win on a neutral court is certainly possible. Miami fans do not travel well, so VT will probably have the larger portion of fans in a crowd that is mostly going to be fans of other ACC teams. Hopefully those fans will be rooting for Tech because, hey, nobody likes Miami.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Hokies Get Heeled at Home

Virginia Tech fought valiantly against the mighty Tar Heels of North Carolina last night in Blacksburg, but came up short in the end. VT lost 86-78 to UNC on Senior Night in Cassel Coliseum. The Hokies really needed this win to help shore up their resume for the NCAA tournament, but with this opportunity being flushed down the drain like so many goldfish and baby turtles, the Hokies have left themselves only one more chance to do something good before the ACC tournament begins. The game at Florida State on Sunday now becomes a must-win for the Hokies if they truly believe they are an NCAA-worthy team.

Let's talk a little bit about the loss yesterday before we look ahead to our final game of the regular season. I felt like the Hokies played very well against the Tar Heels for the vast majority of the game... it just seemed like they ran into a team that is far superior to them. That's a tough pill to swallow for VT fans, particularly those who hate UNC (like me), but that Tar Heel team should be blowing out every opponent they play with their all-star lineup. The only question coming into last night was, "Will UNC slack on defense like they did in their other losses?" The answer was a resounding "No they will not." UNC played extremely tight defense, particularly on Malcolm Delaney and Jeff Allen, who both had trouble getting off their shot. AD Vassallo struggled in the first half, but decided to open things up with some driving runners in the paint during the second half, and all of a sudden VT had climbed back into the game and tied things up. However, it seemed like every time the Hokies would tie or get close to tying, a light bulb would flash inside of the Tar Heels' heads and they would immediately go on a 6-0 or 7-0 run to get back into a comfortable lead. I said it at the beginning of the year, and I'll say it again... I think this UNC team rivals a bunch of talented UNC teams from the past, including the squad with Michael Jordan and Sam Perkins, and the squad with Vince Carter and Antawn Jamison. Tyler Hansbrough is simply an incredible college player because of his combination of effort and skill... if Vassallo played as hard as Hansbrough, he'd be a lottery pick in the NBA draft this year instead of an unlikely 2nd rounder (the NBA draft only has 2 rounds and Vassallo might not go in either round). Ty Lawson is the fastest and most destructive point guard in the game. Wayne Ellington is a gifted shooter, and Danny Green might be one of the most versatile players in the NCAA ranks.

Virginia Tech got good play from Victor Davila, who played some very impressive defense on Tyler Hansbrough, but his nervousness on offense seemed to be enough for Coach Greenberg to pull him and play Diakite and Witcher for the majority of the game. I thought that was a bad move because Cheick was really having problems corralling rebounds in that game and kept going for the steal on the entry pass, which allowed Hansbrough to side-step him for easy buckets. This was not a good game for Cheick. JT Thompson fouled out having played only 17 minutes, although he was somewhat effective going 2-4 from the field, getting 6 points, and collecting 4 rebounds. Jeff Allen played well despite some ill-advised shots late in the game. Malcolm Delaney did not shoot the ball very well at all going only 4-16 from the field and 1-7 on his 3-point shots. He did have 6 rebounds and 5 assists compared to only 1 turnover, and he was 10-10 from the free throw line, so he helped keep the Hokies in the game despite his poor shooting from the field. Vassallo led all scorers with 25 points and really seemed to be cooking with gas in the second half. It was nice to see him step up his game for Senior Night. Hank Thorns also added some stability to the offense, although his shot had abandoned him before he even started the game. Dorenzo Hudson had a decent game and Lewis Witcher was invisible while he was on the court to round out the players' performances for the Hokies. And as a change of pace, this loss could not even be partially blamed on the referees. They did an excellent job in that game and really called it fair. VT was just out-hustled and out-muscled for that win.

Now we move on to the game against FSU, which has turned into a critical matchup. It is a far more important win for the Hokies than it is for the Seminoles, who have already booked their ticket to the NCAA tournament, so let's hope the Hokies will play like they need this game (because they really do). I truly believe that VT and FSU are about an even matchup, so the win will come down to who wants it more. The only other time this year that the Hokies lost their first game at home against a team they play twice was Clemson, and Tech managed to win that game on the road in the 2nd matchup. Does that mean the Hokies are definitely going to beat FSU tomorrow? Definitely not, but it at least gives us some hope. Tech was unable to contain Toney Douglas at the end of the first game against FSU, and that proved to be the difference maker. FSU also got the game of Derwin Kitchen's life, and I hardly expect that to happen again tomorrow. However, Uche Echefu had an absolutely terrible game, so we can't really expect that to happen again either. Jeff Allen drowned out Echefu by following him everywhere on the court, and he will need to do that again. The Hokies will also need to keep FSU off of the free throw line, as they are excellent there (especially at home). Delaney needs to do what he does best... get in the lane to draw the foul and hit the open 3-pointer. This game gets a lot easier if we can get Toney Douglas in foul trouble, so that should be the game plan... drive the ball against him and bait him into offensive fouls. Luke Loucks is a much better alternative for Hokie fans. Also, Tech will need to do a better job about protecting the basketball as FSU had a +6 turnover margin in the last game. Toney Douglas is a thief, so know where he is at all times.

Is VT going to the Big Dance? We'll have a clear picture after Sunday. Right now it's like one of those hidden pictures where you have to relax your eyes to see it... maybe it's a sailboat, or maybe it's an alligator... who really knows? After Sunday, it'll be like a Rembrandt... but hopefully prettier than this one.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

I Spoke Too Soon

Yes, I will be watching intently as the Hokies take on the Tar Heels tonight, but I'll be doing so from the recording on my DVR. The fiancee and I are meeting with a travel agent tonight at 7pm to plan our honeymoon, so I won't be able to watch the game until that is over. What does that mean for you? DON'T CALL ME OR TEXT ME ABOUT THE GAME TONIGHT! I'd like to watch it without knowing the outcome, if that's at all possible, so please don't ruin my fun.

Some quick hits for the game tonight:
- UNC is the best shooting team in the ACC and VT's only chance to win is to keep their scoring down. Easier said than done.
- UNC's bench is somewhat human, unlike their starters. If Tech can get UNC into foul trouble, that will go a long way. Bobby Frasor is a much better matchup for us than Ty Lawson or Wayne Ellington.
- Keep Tyler Hansbrough, Deon Thompson, and Ed Davis off of the offensive boards. UNC doesn't need more opportunities than they already get to score the ball.
- Not one of UNC's players averages 2 or more turnovers per game. The Hokies have 3 players who average more than 2 turnovers per game. The Hokies need to beat that stat, force turnovers, and keep the ball when they have possession.
- So basically, UNC does everything better than VT... their stats are just better than ours, but that doesn't mean the Hokies can't overcome their averages for one game and force the Tar Heels to play much worse than their averages. This game comes down to determination and will.
- Tonight is Senior Night at Cassell Coliseum where AD Vassallo and Cheick Diakite may both play their last home game in a VT uniform. How will they respond to that? Last year Deron Washington and Marcus Travis responded very well, leading the Hokies to a blowout victory over Wake Forest. Travis had a slicing layup and a beautiful no-look pass that ended in a dunk to go along with 2 steals in just 12 minutes. Washington was the Player of the Game going 8-13 from the field, 2-3 from downtown, and 4-5 from the free throw line. He also collected 13 rebounds, 3 assists, and 2 blocks. Will Vassallo and Diakite elevate their games for Senior Night as well? They certainly need to for us to have a chance of winning.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

A little late, but...

You want a post about that craptacular Duke game? Okay, you got one. Sorry for the lateness (lateitude, laterocity, lateration... I don't know) of this post, but for one I couldn't get into a mood to write about a loss where we went down 20-5 right at the beginning of the game only to climb back in and subsequently crap the bed in the last few minutes, and secondly I have more-or-less been snowed in the last couple days. That doesn't ever happen in Richmond, VA... we are more known for intense, debilitating humidity than blizzards, but it snowed upwards of 10 inches two nights ago.

Now without further a-dudes (ahhahahahaha!), let's get to the game. This was an ugly one... the Hokies committed an absurd number of turnovers in the first half, which helped Duke get up to a 16 point lead at one point in the first half. Tech had 12 turnovers in the first half alone... that's more than enough for a whole game. I think that perhaps the players decided to play with a little Crisco rubbed all over their hands because apparently it wasn't hard enough playing against Duke. Also, it seems that any time you touch a Duke player when you have possession of the basketball, it's an offensive foul. By my count, there were 7 charging fouls called against the Hokies in that game, which sounds a little excessive to me. Do we really play that out-of-control? Not likely. Now, I could definitely go with a partial blame of this loss on the referees because they gave Duke the calls that Duke typically gets, but this game was lost by the Hokies inability to keep the basketball. You just can't hand the ball over time and time again to a team that shoots as well as Duke.

Tech finally got back into the game in the second half through some hot shooting, good defense, and offensive rebounding, and they even managed to tie the game at 58-58 with six minutes left in the game. However, the refs and Duke proved to be too much in the end, and Virginia Tech didn't help matters by getting a bunch of late fouls against one of the best foul-shooting teams in the ACC (which they really hadn't done at all during the game up until this point). Call it inexperience. Call it stupidity. Whatever it was, it contributed to a loss against a team that the Hokies really needed to beat. VT now has two chances to get a win and keep themselves in the NCAA tournament picture. Those games are this Wednesday against UNC at home, and Saturday against Florida State in Tallahassee. A win against UNC would go farther than a win against Florida State, but both teams are top-25 in the RPI right now, so either would look good on our resume. Wins against both will cement us as locks for March Madness. A single win will get us into the bubble talk, but we'd probably need at least one ACC tournament win to go along with that to feel safer. Strangely enough, if you read Joe Lunardi's Bracketology link on ESPN.com, you will see that the Hokies climbed up from the #11 position on Friday to a #10 seed on Monday, despite losing the game to Duke. Either the close fashion in which we lost the game (where we had a legit chance to tie at the end when Jon Scheyer traveled with the basketball, but it was never called), or else enough of the other bubble teams lost to keep us in a good position. I think one of the factors that is helping us stay on the bubble is the fact that 3 of our 4 best wins (Clemson, Wake, and Miami) were on the road, and similarly 2 of our 3 worst losses were on the road, and the 3rd loss was on a neutral court in Puerto Rico. We have no bad losses at home, and the committee likes to see that. Lunardi is extremely accurate when it comes to his bracket projections and rarely is off by more than one team when all is said and done on Selection Sunday, but even he admits that the Hokies probably need to beat UNC to stay in the field, so let's hop to it Hokie fans and support your boys on Wednesday! As far as predictions, I think that we're going to have a rough time with Hansbrough tonight because nobody on our team can defend him. I could also see someone like Danny Green putting up a large number of points because Vassallo won't do a good job of containing him. Honestly, Danny Green's game is very similar to Vassallo's and I think AD would get more looks from the NBA if he were playing for UNC and shooting as many open shots as Green gets, but alas, Vassallo probably won't get drafted. Malcolm Delaney is due to bounce back after shooting just 2-12 against Duke, especially if we get Hank Thorns back from illness for this game. Losing our only other ball handler was devastating for Tech and that game against Duke might have been very different with Thorns being in for most of the game. Then again, Elliot Williams and D-Bag Paulus (as our fans were heard chanting) might have combined for 30 points against the much smaller Hank Thorns. Who knows. All I know is this game tomorrow night is a big one, and I will be glued to the TV for the whole shebang*.

*I was extremely surprised to learn that the word "shebang" is present in blogspot's dictionary. You could also substitute the words "relieved" and "impressed" for "surprised".