Monday, December 20, 2010

Hokies Neuter Bulldogs

The Mississippi State Bulldogs were relieved of their man parts on Saturday in a 88-57 loss to Virginia Tech. It was a dominant performance by the Hokies in every aspect of the game. The Hokies shot 50% from the field, 36% from the 3-point line, and 83% from the free throw line compared to 45%, 32%, and 54% respectively from the Bulldogs. VT outrebounded MSU by 15 total boards and by 8 when talking about offensive rebounds. MSU committed 16 turnovers versus 10 by VT. Tech dished out 17 assists compared to 10 for MSU. The list just keeps on going and going like that. It was the most extreme butt-whooping that our basketball team has put on a high-major opponent since... honestly I can't remember.

The only thing missing was THE GAME BEING ON TV! I don't know how it's even possible that a game with this much clout (the addition of high school All-American Renardo Sidney to the MSU lineup after having to sit out a season and a half for taking improper benefits during his high school recruiting) wasn't picked up by SOMEBODY. So when I was hanging out at a friend's family's river house this past weekend with a bunch of Hokie alumni, we had to settle for watching Cop Out rather than watching our basketball team smoke Mississippi State. Don't get me wrong, Cop Out was fairly hilarious, particularly after several Tom Collinseses's (how do you make that plural?), but what I really wanted was to watch the game.

Since I didn't see the game and didn't listen on the radio, the points I want to make have to be taken with a grain of salt and a shot of tequila and a lime wedge. It seems, and let's knock on wood here, that Seth Greenberg may have found his rotation for the rest of the season. Greenberg needed an energetic player to come off the bench and be a leader on the floor when the rest of the young bench was out there playing. Dorenzo Hudson showed that he can play that role extremely well. Zo came off the bench to play 23 minutes in this game, putting up 17 points. Starting in his place was Erick Green, who had a fanastic game. If you read my last post, you know that I really like how our team plays when Green is in there. He played 38 minutes in this one, putting up 11 points, 6 assists, 3 rebounds, and 3 steals to go along with ZERO turnovers. Erick is really taking care of the ball when he's in the game, and I love that. From what I can tell there was only about 7 minutes where Green and Malcolm Delaney weren't in the game, which means that Hudson played a lot at the small forward position, giving VT a 3-guard lineup. I like this look and I think we need to see it against a few more quality opponents. However, I don't like it for our first ACC opponent, Florida State. FSU's best player is 6'9" Chris Singleton, who plays small forward and gets more minutes than any other FSU player. I would want Terrell Bell to be the one guarding Singleton for the vast majority of his time on the floor.

It might be a little disrespectful to look past our next three opponents, St Bonaventure, USC-Upstate, and Mount St. Mary's, but in all honesty I'm mostly doing that because I know next to nothing about those teams. Only a small part of me is looking past them because they suck... because, let's face it, none of us would be terribly surprised to see VT play down to any of these teams and come away with a loss. We have too much experience with that to not see it coming. I wish just one of those 3 games could be on TV so we wouldn't have to wait another 3 weeks to see a VT basketball game. I guess I could drive down to VT for the Mount St. Mary's game... anyone want to do that on the 2nd? Phone me. Or if you tricked me into having a few too many Sam Adams Winter Lagers, then nudge me. HA... that's hilarious, nice one P@.

So to wrap up, what I'm looking for from the Hokies:
  1. Consistency. Let's keep Erick Green in the starting lineup and keep Zo as the first one off the bench and see what happens. I'd also love to see Malcolm Delaney continue what he has been doing on the court. Quietly, he's doing much better this year in just about every aspect of his game (other than turnovers, but that seems to be resolving itself), and he needs to keep it going through January, February, and March.
  2. Improvement from Cadarian Raines. He seems to be about as healthy as he's going to be with that crazy foot of his, and I think Seth Greenberg needs to get him a good amount of playing time in the next three games to help get him ready for ACC play. Against MSU, Raines had 3 fouls in 3 minutes with zero points, zero rebounds, and zero blocks. Raines was recruited to protect the rim and grab rebounds... he needs to show that he can do that not only in practice, but in games too.
  3. More time in general for the young guys. The starters need to build up enough of a lead in the next three games against inferior opponents in order for some of the younger players, namely Raines, Jarell Eddie, Manny Atkins, and Tyrone Garland, to get a good amount of playing time. Eddie won't kick his shooting slump in practice... he needs to see it happen in a game. Garland won't see the kind of pressure on the point in practice that he does during a game. Atkins and Raines need game experience to help defend the post when they come in. But it's up to the starters to play with intensity and build the lead for that to happen.

And so on and so forth.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

PSU and Turnovers

Virginia Tech won a game on Sunday and the losing streak ends! They defeated Penn State 79-69 in what was a pretty good effort for the Hokies. The Nittany Lions aren't going to scare anyone and are probably going to finish the season as the worst team in the Big Ten (or at least close to the worst). The post players for PSU aren't great, so Seth Greenberg was able to keep Cadarian Raines out of this one, giving his foot some more time to heal. The thing that pleased me most about this game, other than the Hokies actually shooting the ball well, was the limited number of turnovers. VT only had 10 turnovers for the game, which continues a nice progression lately.

In the first 6 games of the season, VT was giving up far too many turnovers, and it looks like Coach Greenberg has put an emphasis on taking care of the basketball since then. Since VT's poor performance against UNLV, the Hokies reduced their turnovers to 13 v Perdue, 11 v UVA, and 10 v Penn State. That range is definitely more reasonable, and the biggest contributor to that improvement has been Erick Green. Green saw 21 minutes against Purdue, 16 minutes against UVA, and 27 minutes against Penn State... committing zero turnovers during that span in spite of the fact that he was primarily playing point guard. Point guards tend to have the ball in their hands more often than the other players on the floor, so their turnover rates are usually higher. That's not true for Green... he has the best turnover rate of any Hokie averaging a turnover every 39.33 minutes. Surprisingly Victor Davila has the best turnover rate of the starters with a turnover every 28.90 minutes. Malcolm Delaney is the worst with a turnover every 7.84 minutes and Dorenzo Hudson is the second worst with a turnover every 11.08 minutes.

As you all have probably figured out, I've become a fan of Erick Green this season. Last season he was skinny and mistake-prone, in addition to unreliable as a shooter. Green still hasn't found his shooting stroke with consistency (it is better, but still not good), but in every other aspect he's an excellent player. He's our best perimeter defender, our most efficient passer, and a guy who will fight for loose balls. I'd like to see him get more playing time, and if that's at the expense of Zo Hudson, then so be it. Zo looks like he's been playing injured as he has lost a step trying to lose defenders around screens and he's been a poor finisher near the basket. That's not the Dorenzo Hudson that we saw on a consistent basis after the Seton Hall game last year. Something has got to be wrong, and until it's not wrong anymore, I would like to see Green get more playing time.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Jay Bilas Makes a Bad Point

I'm going to pick apart this article by Jay Bilas on because this is exactly the kind of garbage you can expect to see from the national media with regards to the Virginia Tech men's basketball team this season. I'm not saying it's entirely Bilas' fault... it's really hard to make general assumptions about a team that you haven't really seen play very much, but it still kind of bugs me.

In the article, Bilas makes the statement, "(Malcolm) Delaney's first instinct is to score, and the best thing that the Hokies can do is get him off the ball and allow him to concentrate on scoring. But to whom does Seth Greenberg give the ball? Five Hokies are averaging more than 31 minutes per game. Greenberg is not hiding a point guard on his bench." Therin lies the rub... Bilas seems to either have completely forgotten about Erick Green, or else figured he didn't make sense to include as a legit point guard off the bench. Either way, he made a mistake as Green has done a nice job at the point so far this season.

In reality, Delaney plays off the ball quite a bit. In the last game against UVA, Delaney played all 40 minutes, 16 of which happened while Erick Green was in the game playing point guard. That's 16 minutes where Delaney is technically playing off the ball. In reality though, I don't think he does anything different when he's playing point guard as opposed to shooting guard once the offense gets set up in the half court. He passes the ball off to a teammate, who then looks for another pass, and sometimes Delaney runs around a set of screens to get free for a shot and sometimes he doesn't. The same is true if he's playing shooting guard.

The other thing that Bilas doesn't consider is that Delaney came back for another year of college to show that he can play point guard in the NBA. He isn't big enough to play shooting guard in the NBA, so he needs to show that he can play the point. The only other player I can think of who regularly plays 2-guard in the NBA at the same size and weight would be Steph Curry, and Curry is a MUCH better shooter than Delaney (an ideal trait for a shooting guard). If Seth Greenberg comes to Delaney and tells him that he's going to play primarily at the 2, that screws over two players, Delaney and Dorenzo Hudson, which almost certainly would kill the team's chemistry.

Delaney is actually the best ballhandler on the team, so he IS the guy you want breaking backcourt pressure and setting up the half court offense. That's not where Malcolm's turnovers are happening. Delaney's turnovers are mostly from bad passes, which right now is the reason he's averaging over 5 turnovers per game. He's the first one to get the ball on a fast break, and he's been exceedingly poor once that happens. All three of his turnovers against UVA came right after a defensive rebound by the Hokies where Delaney tried to push the ball quickly and made a bad pass. If he cleans up this part of his game and stops going for the home run pass, he can show the NBA scouts that he is capable of being an NBA point guard. There's still plenty of time this season, as Bilas even points out himself at the end of the article.

I've been known to be critical of Malcolm Delaney because I know exactly what his faults are, and I know what he needs to do to improve on them. I've also said before that if Delaney can find a way to clean up those areas, he is undoubtedly an NBA talent. It just bugs me to see him get picked apart by people who don't know what they're talking about because they have only seen one or two games this season. To that end, I will pooh-pooh Mr. Bilas.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

A Little Bit of This and That

I just wanted to throw out some Tech-related things that are on my mind today.
  • Fantastic win for the football team against Florida State. I thought the Hokies thoroughly dominated the Seminoles in every aspect of the game.
  • It seemed like Danny Coale would just teleport himself to any spot on the field where the defenders were missing and just wait for a pass from Tyrod. That's how it seemed when watching at home because you couldn't see Danny running his drag route. It was a great play call, and I feel weird saying that about Stiney... he may be progressing with his play calls.
  • Similarly, the wheel route that David Wilson ran in order to get wide open for a streaking TD down the sideline was a thing of beauty, ran to perfection.
  • The defense gave up their opening drive score like usual, but this time it was only a field goal. That's progress!
  • FSU has a good/athletic defense, and we torched them for 37 points (I'm not counting Gouveia-Winslow's pick six). You have to like that and feel excited about what our offense could possibly do against Stanford's PAC-10 defense.
  • I definitely like the Stanford/VT matchup in the Orange Bowl, although I think it's going to be tough for Tech. Our defense was actually the less reliable side of the ball this season, and Stanford has arguably the best quarterback in the college ranks... or at least the one rated highest by the NFL scouts. Logic says this will be a high-scoring game, but logic rarely wins out in bowl games when teams have a month to prepare for each other.
  • The basketball team stunk out loud in their last two games. Losing to Purdue at home and then losing to an extremely young UVA team at home with our talent and experience is almost unforgiveable. There's still a lot of basketball to be played this season, but my hopes for an NCAA tournament berth are officially dashed. If this team can't win with Malcolm Delaney putting up 26 points on 67% shooting from the field, then I don't know any scenario where they get another win. That's drastic, I know, but man what a waste of a great performance.
  • I know it's only 8 games, but I love that overall Delaney is shooting the ball better this season. He's not looking for fouls *quite* as much, with the exception of the Purdue game where he shot 2-18 from the field. Overall, Delaney is hitting 45% of his shots, including 44% from the 3-point line. I don't know if he can keep that pace up during the ACC slate, but it's a significant improvement over last season and is the main area other than point guard skills where Delaney needed the show the most improvement for the NBA scouts. Unfortunately, Delaney's assist/turnover ratio is brutal right now and completely prevents any NBA GM from considering bringing him onto their team.
  • I like the improvement out of Victor Davila so far this season. After laying an egg against Campbell in the opening game, Davila has played soundly. He doesn't have good hands, his free throw shooting is abysmal, and his passing is fairly poor, but he's improved as far as boxing out & grabbing rebounds, blocking shots, and finishing his post moves on offense. I think he's playing with a lot more confidence this season, and it shows. In other words, he's starting to look like the player that Seth Greenberg thought he was getting when he recruited Davila. And one tiny thing that I love... Davila almost always grabs the opening tip off. He's 8-8 in winning the opening tip this season.
  • Ben Boggs is transferring after finals, although I'm not sure where he's going yet. He wants more playing time, and I can't say I blame him. On a VT team where Dorenzo Hudson isn't giving us much at the shooting guard position, I am honestly a little surprised that Boggs hasn't gotten a look. This move certainly hurts Virginia Tech's depth this season, but it's probably a good thing going forward. Seth Greenberg wants to bring in another recruit for next season, a shot-blocking & rebounding center of some kind, and that's definitely something VT could use with Allan Chaney's future up in the air and Cadarian Raines looking like he will have a chronic foot problem for his entire college career. Center prospect Adjehi Baru is off the table as he has recently committed to the College of Charleston (extremely shady considering this player's projected talent). Baru's legal guardian has a son who plays basketball for the same high school team as Baru. Guess where his son is going to college?
  • ESPN only shows two possible centers on Virginia Tech's radar right now, and neither are rated very highly. Ryan Rhoomes is a 2-star 6'8" power forward from a prep school in New Jersey and Blaise Mbargorba is a 2-star 6'11 center from a different prep school in New Jersey. Personally, I think Greenberg might offer Mbargorba. He's definitely a project, but there's a lot of upside there. This guy is still learning the game of basketball, but his raw athleticism in combination with his height makes him desirable. There's a reason Georgetown, Boston College, and Providence are also hovering around this guy. He feels like a taller Cheick Diakite to me, and that's not a bad player to have.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Touchdown Tech!

I hope to be hearing that phrase a lot this weekend. This Saturday, Virginia Tech will meet up with Florida State in the ACC Championship for the 2nd time. The last time was during the 2005-2006 season where Bobby Bowden and the Seminoles threw their weight around and beat Frank Beamer and the Hokies 27-22. I was at that game in Jacksonville, and was pretty crushed by the defeat. The Hokies were ranked #5 in the nation and only had one loss against Miami... at the time they still had an outside shot at the National Championship (even with noted headcase Marcus Vick manning the QB position). That all came crumbling down by the end of the 3rd quarter when FSU was up 27-3. The Hokies fought back with three touchdowns, but it wasn't enough.

I'm hoping this year will be extremely different. After the Hokies give up a touchdown on FSU's opening drive (which I think we should all just prepare for since it seems to happen every game), VT's offense needs to control the clock with the running game. I'm not saying we should go run-run-pass every 1st thru 3rd down, but we need to put the ball into the hands of our best players, and that's our RB corps. You could argue that Tech has had better running backs than Ryan Williams, Darren Evans, and David Wilson, but we've certainly never had three running backs in one season who are this good. I have a lot of confidence in our offense, but right now it's the defense that seems to be a little bit volatile.

VT's defense has plenty of talent, and plenty of players who make up the All-ACC team, but cohesion has been a problem this season. Have you ever seen the movie "Necessary Roughness" with Scott Bakula? Of course you have. Well I often find myself thinking of the scene early in the movie where the Texas State Armadillos are on defense, and everybody is trying to make the defensive call, and they're all just running around yelling, "Double wing! Double wing!" As it turns out, nobody ends up being in the right spot and they get picked apart. That's how I feel about the Hokie defense sometimes this season. The players are very talented, but they often make mistakes with regards to their assignments, which leads me to use far more profanity than I like to use.

The talent of Virginia Tech's individual players also makes them very dangerous, though. Tech is 2nd in the nation in forcing interceptions with 20 on the season (Alabama leads with 21). Jayron Hosley leads the nation with 8 picks. FSU's quarterback Christian Ponder is in no way a free-wheeling gunslinger like Brett Favre, but he is prone to the interception from time to time. For the season, Ponder has tossed 20 touchdowns and 8 interceptions. He has more touchdowns than last season, but when you look at the stats he's actually been less effective this year. He's been over 6% worse on his pass completions, and his passer rating is down 10 points. Ponder is not a threat to run unless FSU is at the goal line, where he's been pretty effective poking the ball throug... okay people this is not the time for "that's what she said" jokes. In comparison, Tyrod Taylor has just as many touchdowns with half the picks and a much higher QB rating. Not to mention TT is a dangerous runner when he doesn't see a good pass to make. I'll take Tyrod any day.

The ACC Championship game will be held in Charlotte for the first time ever. All I can say to that is "Thank God". With the vast majority of the ACC schools being nowhere near Jacksonville, FL, it made absolutely no sense to hold our conference championship game there. Not to mention, Jacksonville sucks. Seriously, it's really boring. It's not far enough south to go to the beach during December, and there's virtually no night life. Charlotte, on the other hand, is an up-and-coming city with plenty of money and a robust night life. Oh, and it's basically smack dab in the middle of all of the ACC schools, geographically speaking. Common sense finally prevails!

Look, I've taken some hard hits the past couple of days. First, the VT basketball game chokes away a 2nd half lead only to lose a game that would have significantly helped their chances at an NCAA tournament berth. Then my beloved Cleveland Cavaliers laid a smelly dump on the floor of Quicken Loans Arena with the hated LeBron James in town after getting some amazing support from their fans. I'm not sure I can handle VT laying an egg against Florida State this weekend. I need the Hokies to come out strong and confident. As the over-acting performer in the Virginia Lottery Redskins Scratcher commercial says, "Let's win this game!"

And to finish it off... the top 10 coaching rants courtesy of ESPN. Pure gold.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

My Thoughts On LeBron Returning to the Cleve

LeBron James is bringing his talents to Cleveland tonight, much to the masochistic joy of Cavalier fans. Their joy is also my joy. I can't wait to see that egotistical maniac squirm as the people who used to love him throw down insults and group chants in his general direction. I really enjoyed this article by Jason Whitlock of Fox Sports about the return of LeBron. My favorite quote:

Spoelstra has committed the felonious crime of yelling at LeBron in front of his teammates. Spoelstra won’t let LeBron be LeBron the way a parent won’t let a child be an unbathed child day after day.

I absolutely love that quote because it's so true. Even LeBron's coach is not allowed to tell him what to do, and his public relations team (that's kind of a joke because it's just his friends from high school) leaked the story because they somehow thought that the public would be sympathetic to James. LBJ is so sheltered and protected by his group of yes-man friends that he's convinced that most everyone loves him, and that he's incapable of doing wrong. When in fact, most everyone thinks he did a crummy thing during his "Decision" and handled it poorly afterwards by never apologizing to Cleveland fans.

He really hurt the Cavs franchise and fans. I'm not talking about sappy, "We loved you, but apparently you didn't love us" BS. I'm talking about how he never informed the franchise that he was going to be leaving, so they could never move on any of the big free agents. I'm talking about how he failed to live up to an actual promise that he made to the city to bring them their first NBA championship and that he would be there until he did it. Let's face it, the Cavs are a mediocre team at best without him. Before this season began, I wanted to believe that one player couldn't make that much of a difference, but if the team believes it, then in actuality it's going to be true... and I sincerely believe this team thinks they can't compete without James.

Tonight will be the culmination of a lot of feelings for some hardcore Cavaliers fans. I am hoping they don't do anything stupid. In fact, I'll be praying for it. I just want some furious scorn and some catchy chants... and I don't think that's too much to ask for the one intriguing game during this entire NBA season for the city of Cleveland.

Who's up for a rousing "Delonte Did Your Mom" chant?

The Opposite of Clutch

Well, I think we all know what happened yesterday, but for anyone who was stuck in a well, Virginia Tech lost in overtime to Purdue 58-55. The game was extremely close, with a lot of back and forth in the second half. This was an extremely disappointing loss for the Hokie fan base as a win would have strongly helped their bid to the NCAA tournament at the end of the season. Frankly, I'm having a tough time keeping this post from being too negative. Let's just get a few of the many negatives out of the way first.
  • Malcolm Delaney really struggled, going a career-worst 2-18 from the floor. Look, he had a bad game. That happens. Does it usually happen to this sort of dramatic degree? No. But it happens and I'm not going to pin this loss on Delaney. The biggest reason VT lost this game is they missed way too many easy put-backs, layups, and free throws. It just seemed like our team was cursed. This is definitely an area where having JT Thompson would have helped, but that's the breaks. A smaller reason for losing the game, and I can't believe I'm saying this because I love the guy, was Seth Greenberg's coaching. He apparently didn't call timeout to call up a play on our last possession of regulation time. The play he drew up for overtime seemed to have one option, Jeff Allen, and when he wasn't open the next option was for Delaney to dribble around and try to find a shot. In a game where Delaney is 2-18, I really don't want the guy taking this final shot. He has never proven to be a clutch player in his entire career, nor has any other player on this team. Instead, this team is the opposite of clutch. They always choke on the pressure of a big game.
  • I see our team having trouble with skilled big men all season. We don't have good depth, and at this point none of our bigs are good on-ball defenders. JaJuan Johnson is a nice player, but we made him look like the surefire Player Of the Year. Maybe Cadarian Raines can be our lock-down post defender by the time the ACC slate rolls around, but right now there's nobody.
  • Although 'Zo Hudson played better than in the UNLV game, he still is not back to his old self. To me, it feels like he is struggling with confidence issues again. Where is Seton Hall again when you need them?
  • VT hasn't exactly murdered their chances to get into the NCAA tournament, but they definitely took a large baseball bat and gave their chances a savage beating. The only high profile game left on the schedule is Duke, and they look like world-beaters right now. However, the possibility of a win against the Blue Devils is still there and would assure us of an NCAA tournament berth if the Hokies can win a decent number of conference games. It would be very unVT to miss out on the bubble fun during the NCAA tournament Selection Sunday... I'd hate for that to happen.

Okay, let's move on to the good... let's try to keep a glass-half-full mentality going here, people.

  • Victor Davila had his best game as a Hokie. It's hard to explain how well he played because his stats weren't THAT impressive. He was 6-8 from the field for 12 points, and he added 6 rebounds and 3 blocks. The reason that I was so impressed is because he did this against JuJuan Johnson, who is an excellent post defender and shot blocker. Victor really scrapped and fought for rebounds, and although you sometimes longed for him to have the same hands as Jeff Allen, if Davila did catch the ball he looked very dangerous with it. He played with a lot more confidence than I've ever seen from him. Hopefully this will be his "light switch" game going forward where he realizes he's good enough to compete with the other big guys in the ACC.
  • I really liked what Tech got out of Erick Green. He didn't shoot as well as you would hope, and you can probably attribute some of that to the calf injury he's still getting over. What I liked about him was that he was a reliable ball handler against defenders who were really hounding our guards, he defended exceptionally well, and he definitely caused several turnovers for Purdue with smart play. He had a couple drives to the basket that yielded good results... one was a wrap-around pass to Raines for an easy layup, and the other was a drive that got cut off, so he went up with a short floater that dropped in. He also got himself to the free throw line 3 times in 21 minutes, and hit all 3 shots. He's rounding into form nicely.
  • Jeff Allen was on the floor for 41 minutes! And it's all because he kept his fouls in check. He played very well, but I'd love for him to can the 3-point attempts... unless the shot clock is about to go off and he has no other play.
  • Terrell Bell grabbed 11 rebounds and was hustling all over. He's still not an offensive threat of any kind, but he's a player who is necessary to have to be successful. He was a big reason why E'Twaun Moore only had 9 shot attempts. Honestly, at this point I think he's the only senior that I'm going to truly miss next season.

Hey, I'm trying hard to still keep the faith for this season. I have definitely learned that this group of seniors, even if they make the NCAA tournament, doesn't have a chance to make the Final Four, let alone the Elite Eight. What they do still have is a chance to improve. They still have a chance to compete for the ACC regular season title. They have a chance to win the ACC tournament. They have a chance to get into the Big Dance. All of those dreams are still alive, and if I abandoned all hope now... well, I just wouldn't last very long as a fan of Virginia Tech and all Cleveland sports teams.

Suck it LeBron... you're going down tonight.