Saturday, November 12, 2011

The Doe-Doe Show

I'm not sure how many people watched the VT basketball game this afternoon... it was on instead of TV.  VT won 64-53 over East Tennessee State.  They're supposed to rival Belmont for the Atlantic Sun title this year... the same Belmont who almost beat Duke last night so ETSU is a pretty good team.  My thoughts:
  • Dorian Finney-Smith was just what was advertised.  He's not a dominant scorer (yet), but he seemed like he was everything else.  Put up a double-double with 10 points and 16 rebounds (yeah. 16!).  Blocked 4 shots.  Racked up 5 assists.  Only turned the ball over twice despite helping to bring it up the floor against the full-court press.  Wow... I'm a fan.  That's how you replace Jeff Allen, and then some.
  • Victor Davila is what we thought he is.  For people who thought he was going to step in and be the team's dominant rebounder and a consistent double-figure scorer, that was never going to happen.  He seemingly reached his max potential last season, but that's still a good player to have.  He had 7 points, 6 rebounds, and 2 blocks today... a standard game from Vic with very good post defense.
  • I think ETSU's 2-3 zone kept Zo Hudson from really getting off today.  He finished with a quiet 9 points, but he did a nice job defensively and even played some point guard to give Ty Garland a breather.  I think he's typically going to score more than today.
  • No Erick Green today... he is still nursing a sore achilles tendon.  With Marquis Rankin still recovering from a knee injury he suffered about a month ago, that left Ty Garland running the point.  Garland had a really sloppy game, particularly early on when he was trying to shake some jitters.  He did a nice job of cutting through the 2-3 zone, but too many times he would finish his drive with a low pass at the feet of a post player, and you just can't expect Davila, Raines, or Barksdale to catch a pass like that.  Heck, I don't really think anyone could have caught those passes.  They were just too ambitious.  7 turnovers and some bad shot choices will not help Garland to keep a spot in the rotation when Green and Rankin are back.  Two positives from Garland... he was aggressive at times defensively and was able to get some steals that way.  He also did a nice job of finishing on his shots in the lane.
  • CJ Barksdale = a taller JT Thompson.  He brought some fantastic energy off the bench and pulled down 7 rebounds.  Like Thompson, he doesn't seem to be a shooter at this point in his career and will need to work on that, but he had some nice moves closer to the basket.
  • You're going to love Robert Brown.  He makes good decisions with the ball, he plays some tenacious defense, and he can SHOOT IT.  He shot 7 times in the game, all three-pointers.  The first 3 in the first half were bricks, then he made his next 3 in the second half after calming down.  He's got a really nice stroke and supposedly can finish on the break as well, although we didn't get to see that today.  I see him leading the team in scoring next season after Hudson moves on, or at least giving Erick Green a run for his money.
  • Jarell Eddie had a solid game starting at the 4.  For those who were worried about VT's 3-point shooting now that Delaney is gone, I think that the answer will be Eddie + Brown.  Eddie was only 1-3 in the game from the arc, but his two misses both rattled around inside the rim before jumping out.  Make no mistake, this kid can shoot.
  • Cadarian Raines gave our team some much needed protection around the rim.  He only had 1 block in the game, but he altered a bunch of shots with his interior presence.  He also managed to grab 3 steals, leading the team today.  I think he's a guy who you will see improve a lot over the course of the season.  Because of two seasons of foot injuries, he doesn't have a lot of game experience and so he looked lost in the offense, but I can definitely see him improving there.  He's going to be a valuable player for VT.
  • We even got to see 2 minutes of Joey Van Zegeren today.  He came in and did a nice job, in my opinion. He bodied up ETSU's best player, PF Isiah Brown, and played him tough forcing a missed shot.  Brown managed to get the ball back kind of through a bit of luck rather than anything JVZ did, and then he fell for a double pump and fouled Brown, but it was nice to see that he's no pushover.
Overall, I am really encouraged by this game.  The Hokies got down by as much as 7 points with about 8 minutes left in the first half, but I am going to attribute most of that to early season jitters while shooting the ball and also to Garland's early turnovers.  It looks like things are back to normal this season with Greenberg's patented, suffocating, man-to-man defense and that should be a constant throughout the season.  It was also great to see the Hokies battle back to take the lead before the end of the half and then to keep ETSU from taking the lead again at any point in the second half.  ETSU made a late run to get back into the game, but the Hokies stomped it out.  This is what good teams do... they squash runs.  I am definitely excited about this season and I think that an NCAA tournament bid is more likely this year than it was last year.  Remember that.

Friday, October 28, 2011

ACC Predictions

With Virginia Tech's men's college basketball season starting up 2 weeks from tomorrow, I thought I would take a look all 12 ACC teams and rank them, since that's the hip thing to do.  So let's get right to it.
  1. UNC - Obviously.  Everyone in the media has the Tar Heels as the #1 team in the ACC if not the #1 team in the nation, and I am no different.  When North Carolina benched Larry Drew II last season in favor of Kendall Marshall at point guard, the whole team benefited.  Marshall shows real leadership and play-making abilities.  Add an emerging Harrison Barnes at SF, a defensive terror in PF John Henson, an all-around excellent C in Tyler Zeller, as well as a deep bench, and you have a team destined for greatness.  They are as close to a lock as there is for the Final Four.
  2. Duke - There is some room for argument having Duke as the #2 team in the ACC... but not much.  They just continue to add big-time recruits year after year.  Losing your top three scorers in Nolan Smith, Kyle Singler, and Kyrie Irving is tough, but the cupboard just got restocked.  Duke landed the #1 recruit in the nation in G Austin Rivers, as well as a third Plumlee brother (Marshall Plumlee, supposedly the most talented of the 3 massive Plumlees), PG Quinn Cook, and SF Michael Gbinije.  Miles Plumlee is the only senior on the team, but he's not a team leader.  The youth and inexperience of this team could be a problem, but the talent certainly is not.
  3. UVA - Yep, that's right... I'm not picking Florida State here.  Blasphemous, I know.  I'll explain why I'm down on FSU in their section, but I'll explain here why I'm high on UVA.  For one, I truly believe Tony Bennett is an excellent coach and his defensive tactics will make UVA one of the best defensive teams in the ACC.  UVA's star player, PF Mike Scott, only played ten games last season before being shut down with an injury.  They were also missing starting PG Sammy Zeglinski for the first 7 games of the season, and it really showed.  This team didn't lose much to graduation (underwhelming backup forward Will Sherrill, and streaky shooter Mustapha Farrakhan at guard), but they're adding two 4-star recruits in SG Malcolm Brogdon and SF Paul Jesperson.  Look for KT Harrell and Joe Harris to build on last year's success as freshmen.  If they can stay clear of injuries at their most talented positions, they can easily finish 3rd in the ACC.
  4. Virginia Tech - I know everyone is going to hate me putting UVA ahead of VT, but I am just going with my gut.  Erick Green is going to have a great year at PG.  Victor Davila will probably improve a touch this year, but for the most part he's a known factor.  The loss of Jeff Allen's rebounding does scare me... he was awesome on the boards.  However, I think Malcolm Delaney and Jeff Allen will be replaced by a committee of players including the returning Dorenzo Hudson and JT Thompson, as well as finally-healthy Cadarian Raines.  VT's squad is deeper than it has ever been, and you're going to see the absence of Delaney's negativity have a positive effect on certain members of the team.  Also, this is the best recruiting class that Coach Greenberg has ever had, and "Doe Doe" Finney-Smith is the best recruit Greenberg has ever landed.  Optimism abounds.
  5. Florida State - Yes, they are absolutely loaded in the frontcourt, and that's before adding ESPN top 100 SF Antwan Space into the mix.  They have solid shooting guards in Michael Snaer and Ian Miller.  But they don't have the most important piece of the pie... a good point guard.  It is very rare to see a team succeed in the ACC without a good point guard.  The loss of NBA-bound Chris Singleton is big, but FSU has players that can mostly replace what he brought to the table (by committee of course).  You can't say that about the loss of Derwin Kitchen at PG.  Luke Loucks was terrible as the backup PG last year and Arkansas transfer Jeff Peterson doesn't look to be any better.  Besides Kitchen, no player on FSU had an assist-to-turnover ratio over 1.375 last season.  That is lousy... this team is going to turn the ball over a lot, and that's going to lead to easy baskets in transition.
  6. Miami - I have no idea what to expect from the 'Canes.  They have two fantastic guards in Durand Scott and Malcolm Grant.  They have one of the best centers in the ACC in Reggie Johnson.  Miami didn't lose much from last season, just F Adrian Thomas.  They have solid wing players in Garrius Adams and DeQuan Jones.  However, they have a new coach in Jim Larranaga and only one recruit, 3-star SG Bishop Daniels.  Also Jones could be in big trouble for supposedly accepting a $10,000 bribe to play at Miami... just depends on how long the NCAA takes with this crazy Nevin Shapiro case.  The backcourt alone makes you want to put this team higher than 6th place though... I guess we'll see.
  7. Clemson - I could see this team being better than I'm predicting, but also worse so this spot seems about right.  The diminutive point guard Andre Young is an excellent shooter and ball-handler.  The frontcourt is imposing with Devin Booker, Milton Jennings, Bryan Narcisse, and 4-star recruit Bernard Sullivan.  G/F Tanner Smith is also a nice starting player.  The depth at guard and small forward is a real concern though.  Coach Brad Brownell brought in a bunch of 3-star recruits in a year where he has some serious minutes to dish out to freshmen... I can definitely see that being a problem if Young or Smith goes down with an injury.
  8. NC State - Sidney Lowe is finally gone, which is great for Wolfpack fans, but the coaching change also resulted in talented PG Ryan Harrow moving on to a new home in Kentucky, so this team is left without a lot of options at the point.  NC State has talented wing players in CJ Leslie, Scott Wood, Lorenzo Brown, and CJ Williams.  They have a decent frontcourt with Richard Howell, DeShawn Painter, and 4-star PF recruit Tyler Harris.  But the lack of overall depth and the severe questions at PG will probably doom this team.  Strange move by Harrow... he will go from a situation where he was possibly going to be the star of a decent team to a situation where he has to sit out a year and likely won't be the starting point guard when he comes back.  I wouldn't trust John Calipari not to bring in a big-time recruit at PG for 2012, and personally, I don't think it's a given that Marquis Teague will be good enough or have the body to go straight to the NBA after 1 year.
  9. Georgia Tech - Can I really put this team above Maryland?  You'll see why in their section.  As for Georgia Tech, this team lost a lot of their best contributors from last year.  Star point guard Iman Shumpert is gone to the NBA, backup point guard Mo Miller is also gone, and so is sharp-shooter Brian Oliver.  Backup forward Lance Storrs is gone too.  Coming in is only one recruit, but he's a good one in ESPN top 100 power forward Julian Royal.  Also, any coach other than Paul Hewitt can only be a good thing for this team.  They return a capable PG in Mfon Udofia, a blossoming G/F in Glen Rice Jr, and sophomore 2nd-year starters Daniel Miller and Kammeon Holsey in the post.  I imagine Jason Morris will round out the starting group, and he got good experience last year.  There isn't much depth to this team, but the starters are capable.
  10. Maryland - Another coaching change... this one was due to Gary Williams' retirement though.  Maryland boasts talented freshman SG Nick Faust and their star player is likely to be PG Terrell Stoglin who really came onto the scene strong in his first season.  Guard Pe'Shon Howard is also talented, but he's going to miss at least the first 2 months of the season with a broken foot.  Guard Adrian Bowie gave big minutes last year, but is now gone.  They still have senior G/F Sean Mosley (man, he seems like he's been around forever), who never seems to take that next step towards stardom.  The frontcourt is a bit of a mess with beastly center Jordan Williams leaving early for the NBA.  Also, forwards Dino Gregory and Cliff Tucker are gone.  James Padgett looks like he can handle the pressure, but who else will rebound the ball and guard the hoop?  This team is going through transition and might finish lower than 10th, but almost certainly no higher than 9th.
  11. Wake Forest - This team should be a good bit better than last season, but that's not saying much... they were one of the all-time worst ACC teams in the history of the conference last year, at least according to RPI.  Forward Travis McKie will be awesome this year, and Guard CJ Harris should perform very well, but the loss of guard JT Terrell (he was arrested and cut loose) and only a couple of 3-star recruits coming in basically spells doom for this team.  I can't imagine them beating too many teams in the ACC, but they should win a few more out-of-conference games.
  12. Boston College - A massive exodus of talent has left this team in shambles.  Electric guard Reggie Jackson is gone, as are PF Joe Trapani, SF Corey Raji, G Biko Paris, and C Josh Southern.  In other words, all five starters from last year are gone.  Hokie killer Dallas Elmore has also flown the coop.  Role players John Cahill and Cortney Dunn... also gone.  It's a major overhaul this season and Steve Donahue will be asking a LOT of two sophomores, G Gabriel Moton and G/F Danny Rubin, as well as 4-star freshman PF Ryan Anderson.  The rest of the team will be a bunch of 3-star and 2-star freshman recruits along with some less-than-notable transfer players.  This team could end up rivaling the terribleness of least year's Wake Forest team.  Syracuse and Pittsburgh, hurry up and give our conference some credibility again!

More Wood

A couple of videos for 2012 b-ball recruit Mashall Wood... the first is his highlight video and the second is an interview with him after the Pitt Hoop Group event.  Why did I include the second video?  This guy seems like a bright kid.  He says at the end that he is trying to model his game after former Dukie Kyle Singler, which is a great idea.  As much as I hated Singler for his a-hole attitude, he plays the game the right way and you'd love to have a guy who plays that way on your team.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

VT's 2012 B-ball Recruits

Virginia Tech added another commitment to their 2012 men's basketball team today.  Marshall Wood is a 6'8" 210lb forward from Rustburg, VA, just south of Lynchburg.  Seth Greenberg has four scholarships to work with for next year's recruiting class as Dorenzo Hudson, JT Thompson, and Victor Davila will all deplete their 4th year of eligibility this season, and Allan Chaney will not have a scholarship next season as he was not medically cleared to play basketball at Virginia Tech.

My first thought on this... Rustburg is a AA high school in a weak basketball area for the AA level, so Marshall has been playing against some awful opponents.  He is often guarded by players at least 6 inches shorter than him.  Marshall would have done himself a favor by going to a more competitive high school for his senior season to better prepare for the college level.

Now that we've got the negative stuff out of the way, here are the positives.  Wood got scholarship offers from several solid basketball schools including Vanderbilt, Michigan, Clemson, ODU, Richmond, and VCU.  He is young for his grade in school and is probably still growing... he might be 6'9" when all is said and done.  He has a 7'2" wingspan, rivaling that of Dorian Finney-Smith.  However, unlike Finney-Smith, he will probably not contribute much as a freshman.  He has the skill set of a SF/PF hybrid with a great mid-range game... my guess is that he's more of a face-up PF because he's not really a post-up guy and he doesn't have the ball-handling skills to play on the perimeter too much.  There's a small part of me that thinks that this guy might be a center for VT when all is said and done.  He likes to block shots, he grabs offensive rebounds, and he's got good athleticism, so frankly I'm guessing that even Greenberg doesn't know what his position on the team will be until he shows up in Blacksburg next year.

The other commitment for VT's 2012 recruiting class is 6'7" 215lb PF Montrezl Harrell.  Harrell is another big fish from a small pond as he went to high school in a small town in western NC.  However, this season he will be playing for Hargrave Military Academy, as current Hokie freshmen Marquis Rankin, Robert Brown, and CJ Barksdale did last year.  This is a good move for Harrell and will prepare him better for the next level.

The scoop on Harrell is that he has basically the same size and skill set as Jeff Allen when Allen joined Tech's team.  He's a monster on the boards grabbing both offensive and defensive rebounds.  He has good shooting range that probably doesn't extend out to the 3-point line, but just inside of it.  He works hard and loves a big dunk.  He probably doesn't have the quickness of hands or dribbling ability that Allen had, but he also doesn't come with the emotional baggage... sounds like a good trade-off to me.

Seth Greenberg and his staff continue to put us in a good position by grabbing solid recruits.  I would love it if we were able to draft a true center once in a while, though.  Hopefully we will grab one for the 2012 recruiting class when all is said and done.  As for now... nice work VT coaches!

Monday, October 24, 2011

David Wilson for Heisman?

It's been a long time since Virginia Tech has had a legitimate Heisman Trophy candidate.  The person I'm referencing here is obviously Michael Vick.  Ryan Williams did very well 2 seasons ago, but by the end of the season he wasn't anywhere close to the front-runners.  The truth is David Wilson has been every bit as impressive as fellow Heisman candidate Trent Richardson of Alabama, but there are two reasons why people are talking about Richardson and nobody is talking about Wilson.

The first reason is the most obvious... Richardson is sporting a robust 18 touchdowns at this point in the season.  Alabama has only played 8 games, so for you non-math types, that's over 2 touchdowns per game for Richardson.  David Wilson has only 8 touchdowns on the season at a rate of 1 per game.  VT had weak opponents in their first 4 games of the season, but with Logan Thomas needing until opponent #6 for his QB light to go on, Wilson probably missed a bunch of TD opportunities as the QB and offensive line both struggled.

The second reason why nobody is talking about David Wilson for Heisman... he is playing for Virginia Tech.  Now, I don't mean that comment in a way like, "The media hates Virginia Tech and nobody pays any attention to us."  That's not the least bit true in my opinion, the Hokies get plenty of coverage and love from ESPN.  However, VT is currently sitting at 12th in the BCS standings and doesn't really have a legit shot at the national title.  The media prefers their Heisman candidates to come from teams who are vying for the #1 spot, so they're not really looking at a player who is out of the running.  Sometimes there are guys like Robert Griffin III putting up astronomical numbers on a bad team that is supposedly in the running for the Heisman, but trust me... RGIII has zero chance to win the trophy.

I guess this post is more to inform than anything else.  Although David Wilson can do some sweet things like plant his head on the ground, spin around on it, and continue to run while the rest of his body never touches the ground, he hasn't really had the type of season that requires nationwide attention.  Not yet, at least.  Wilson is probably not going to come anywhere close to the TD totals that Richardson is producing, so he needs for two things to happen, one which is in his control and another outside of his control.  The thing that is within his control: Wilson needs to put up bigger yardage totals.  He needs a couple of games where he runs for over 200 yards while making defenders look silly.  The only way a Heisman committee can compare Wilson to Richardson is if his yardage totals are much more impressive than T-Rich and can counterbalance the lopsided TD numbers.  The thing outside of his control: Wilson needs the teams ranked above VT to lose, and lose more than just one game.  One loss for LSU or Alabama or even OK State probably won't drop them close enough to the Hokies to matter.

Although the Heisman trophy means nothing once a player jumps to the NFL, I'd still love to see a Hokie take one home one day.  Since David Wilson will probably take his talents to the NFL after this year, maybe that guy for VT can be Logan Thomas.  Thomas has made huge strides in his last 3 games and is starting to look like a real talent.  Will he continue on that path and eventually become elite?  The answer is obviously "Yes."  Next topic for discussion, please.

Friday, October 21, 2011

B-Ball Practices Underway

The Virginia Tech Hokies have finally taken to the court... for practice.  Their first practice was one week ago on the 14th, so after a week of practice Seth Greenberg has done nothing but praise freshman Dorian Finney-Smith.  You can tell that Greenberg has a gigantic man-crush on this kid.  "Doe-Doe" is coachable, works hard, and can do just about everything you want from a small forward.  There will be a learning curve for him like there is for all freshmen, but he does seem like the kind of player who makes everyone around him better.  After watching some film of him (whole game tape so you see the good and the bad), you get a feeling for how he might fit into the team.  I watched two of his games, the state AAA semi-final and the state AAA final, which his team won, and this is what I saw:
  • He is an excellent rebounder, but especially on the offensive end.  He has a knack for tipping up his own misses.  One negative thing is that he seems to need to do that pretty often.  He misses more "bunnies" than you would like for a player of his caliber.
  • He is a good on-ball defender who gets up to challenge shots.  His length at his position (kid has a 7'2" wingspan) helps him to block shots and change shots even when he's not able to block them.  He's not great at offering weakside help at this point... needs to get better at the next level.
  • Doe-Doe can handle the rock.  I anticipate that he's already the 3rd best ballhandler on our team next to Erick Green and Marquis Rankin, so Coach Greenberg could potentially use him as a point-forward if he wants to do that.  This ability also helps Finney-Smith to create his own shot or draw multiple defenders, leaving a teammate open for a shot.
  • He's probably too unselfish for his own good.  At the high school level he liked to defer to his teammates even though he was often the better option for the shot.  He does pass well though.
  • He has a good shot from the outside that I think will translate to him being at least a 33% 3-point shooter.  His motion is quick and smooth with a good high release.
So as you can see, there's a lot to be excited about with Dorian Finney-Smith... no wonder Seth Greenberg is all about him.  He's not just a recruit with a high pedigree (the highest that Greenberg has ever recruited), but it's pretty easy to see how that will translate to the next level.

In other news, I decided to do a little research concerning Malcolm Delaney.  See, I think there is huge Ewing Theory potential for the Hokies this season.  I'm going to go ahead and make the outlandish prediction that Virginia Tech will make the NCAA tournament this season, and that the lack of Malcolm Delaney and Jeff Allen will be part of the reason why that happens.  For any VT fan who watched Delaney's last two years at VT, you started to see some real negativity coming from him.  He was getting all over his teammates when they made mistakes, but not in an encouraging way.  Post-game quotes showed that he didn't have a lot of faith in any of the other players on the team.  When he was down the rest of the team followed him down.  Mix that in with his historic "unclutchness", and you start to see why maybe the team will function better without him.  I could only go back a little more than two seasons with the data available to me, but in that time Malcolm Delaney had 7 chances in VT's last possesion of regulation to either tie a game when the Hokies were down, or win a game when the team was either losing or tied.  In those 7 chances, he made 1 shot.  That shot sent the game into overtime where VT eventually lost.  So VT never won a game where Malcolm Delaney took the last shot, or at least as far back as I could research.  Too add to that, I'm pretty sure Jeff Allen was 0-2 in those situations, and his bone-headed plays probably cost the team more than we know.  If you're wondering, Dorenzo Hudson is 2-4 in these situations, or if you prefer, 50%.  Erick Green is 1-2, again 50%.  I don't know about you guys, but I'm ready for a new regime.

Monday, October 10, 2011

VT Thoughts... a Shameful Admission

I haven't posted anything since June... that's not great, but honestly I'm finding the reason for this is that I am souring on college football a bit, at least from a writing standpoint. I still like to watch the games and cheer for the Hokies, but I find with college football that my interest wanes significantly after VT puts up a loss. I guess that is the problem with living through the Michael Vick era... I am constantly expecting Virginia Tech to be in the mix for a national title. It's not a fair expectation, but it's not helped by the fact that VT has frequently won the ACC, a BCS auto-bid conference. In my mind, that makes us a legitimate contender for the title. But when you set your expectations at that level and the Hokies put up a loss, you realize that you are out of the hunt for the national title already. That completely sucks... one loss, one bad game and you are done.

To me, the college basketball format makes so much more sense. Nobody goes undefeated, but every good team from the most unlikely of small conference tournament winners to the juggernauts gets a chance to get the title. And honestly, for me, my expectations for VT basketball are much more realistic. I just want to get to the NCAA tournament. Winning a game in the tournament would be fantastic, but I just want the team to get there and I will be happy. That's a realistic goal.

My goal for the football team is obviously unfairly unrealistic given their results in big games, but my brain still thinks they should be at that level, so I can't change my expectations. I'm not happy with a win in the Chick-Fil-A Bowl. I'm not happy with an appearance in the Orange Bowl against Stanford. I'll take a win against Cincinnati in the Orange Bowl, but honestly I would have liked more than that as well. So if my goal is a national title and my team is out of contention for the national title just 5 weeks into the season because of one loss, then my interest turns to a sport where my team can lose several games and still have a realistic chance to meet my expectations for them.

So with that said, I've been getting more and more anxious for basketball season. The first item -- VT lost freshman point guard Marquis Rankin for at least a few games as he went down in practice the other day with a knee injury. I am always way too optimistic before the season starts, but in my mind this is not a huge loss. I would have liked for Rankin to be able to keep getting familiar with his new teammates, there's no question about that. However, I was not counting on Rankin to give us much this season. Point guard is the most difficult position when speaking of the jump from high school to college, especially in the ACC. Just ask Tyrone Garland. Ty was one of the most prolific high school point guards in the history of the city of Philadelphia and some bright spots aside, most of his freshman season was a struggle. He had an extremely tough time dealing with the defensive pressure of opposing PGs in the ACC and rarely seemed to be in sync with the rest of the offense. It was basically the same for Erick Green in his freshman year, and this is exactly what we can expect from Rankin in his freshman season. It's best if he doesn't have to see any major minutes on the floor this year anyway, so his loss in the first couple of games doesn't scare me... so long as the other point guards stay healthy.

I also decided to take a look at freshman power forward Joey Van Zegeren's highlights today. I have to tell you, I like what I have seen. I'm not sure what exactly a coach looks for when he views game tape of a potential recruit, but here are the things that I noticed:

  • I see above average athleticism. Not elite, but definitely better than a lot of players in the ACC. Joey is 6'10", but moves around easily and gets off the ground quickly when he jumps. He is able to get up and block shots when an opposing player jumps first and releases at the top of their jump. On dunks, his hands are well above the rim. Victor Davila is 6'8" and seemingly moves around like he has weights in his shoes in comparison. Because of this, I think JVZ will be a solid shot-blocker and shot-changer defensively.

  • Conversely, Davila has an array of offensive post moves and JVZ doesn't really have much to work with. It seems like his only shot down there besides a dunk is an awkward looking push-hook shot that he seemingly can get off with either his left or right hand. In highlight videos that shot always goes in, but I'm guessing that in real life it doesn't go in all that much. You never know though... Chiek Diakite had a horrible looking turn-around jumper, but he nailed it at a high percentage.

  • The rebounding is luscious. JVZ frequently gets himself into a mix of players and comes down with the ball. He looks like he's not afraid to use his body to create space, which is the first thing you would worry about with a European recruit. He seems to embrace contact, and when you combine that with athleticism and good hands you usually get a solid rebounder.

  • JVZ has a good-looking jump shot. It's fluid and he has a high release. I'd expect him to be able to hit jumpers out to the 3-point line at a good percentage.

  • My final point... he seems to move well without the ball. He makes good, strong cuts to the basket and seems like he has energy to make his defender work to keep up with him.

All in all, I think this kid could really turn out to be a good player. He is already 20 years old, but he doesn't look like he has reached his ceiling. With improved competition in practice helping to strengthen his game, he could end up being the power forward we thought we were getting with Allan Chaney. That's a bold prediction and one that I'm not really going to stand behind given that I've only seen his pre-college highlight reel, but man he's got a crap load of potential.

Monday, June 13, 2011

An NBA Thought...

How's everyone feeling today? I feel like a million bucks and couldn't be happier. I had really put myself in a bit of a hole... I got myself to the point where I didn't think I could enjoy NBA basketball ever again if the Heat won the title this season. The reason why: if the NBA isn't about team basketball and playing the sport the right way and working hard 11 months of the year to get the title, but instead is about superstars colluding together to join forces and have fun on the beach and create a dominant team consisting of 3 players... well, then I couldn't have any interest in the NBA anymore. That's not a true sport to me. Sure, the Mavericks had two guys who you knew were going to score. Dirk Nowitzki and Jason Terry are going to put up points. But can the Mavericks win without the defense and quick hands of Jason Kidd, or the explosiveness of JJ Barea, or the interior presence of Tyson Chandler, or the quirky effectiveness of Shawn Marion? Heck, even the 3-point shooting of DeShawn Stevenson was huge. They needed all of those guys to win. They needed Rick Carlisle to make a brilliant switch of the hard-working Brian Cardinal for the ineffective Peja Stojakovic (even though Peja was magnificent against the Lakers). They don't win the title without all of those guys. Do the Miami Heat play any better if you switch out Mike Miller for James Jones? Probably not. Did they get better when Eddie House replaced Mike Bibby? Not at all. Was Joel Anthony key in the series. Not in the least. The only truly important players on the Miami Heat are the three stars who couldn't make their former teams better and can't seem to make each other better.

I'm still a Cleveland Cavaliers fan and will be until the day I die (or until the NBA morphs into a league that doesn't interest me anymore), and I was certainly rooting for the Dallas Mavericks from the beginning of the finals because I hate the Miami Heat, but somewhere along the way before they even met up in this series, I started to love the Dallas Mavericks as well. It couldn't have been a better story. Guys on the downside of their career looking for a championship as the only accomplishment they still crave... and they had so many. Dirk, Kidd, Terry, Marion, Chandler, Stojakovic, Cardinal... all those guys are on the wrong side of their prime and most had already been to a conference championship or finals and lost. Team basketball in its truest sense, I mean, Dallas was basically the only NBA team to play an effective zone defense and stick with it for several minutes of play. They're unselfish guys with great personalities who say the right things to the media and the fans. I'll be rooting first and foremost for the Cavs next season, but I think that I will be rooting for the Mavericks to win their second title knowing that Cleveland won't be ready to get there just yet.

My wife was going crazy last night. I mean, she was even more excited than I was. She was pacing around our house during commercial breaks. She was living and dying with every shot, asking me to explain rules at different times or why as Dallas player had fouled a Miami player. She screamed and squealed with delight as the last seconds came off the clock, probably waking up our neighbors. It was fun. The whole series was so fun. It's almost as good as having a Cleveland team become champion... note quite, but at least I can understand that feeling a little bit now.

Today is a good day, even for us people "with [our] same problems and same lives." Thanks LBJ... that's the icing on the cake, buddy.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

VT Basketball Adds Another Recruit for 2011

Coach Seth Greenberg has apparently been searching among the wooden clogged Dutch for another recruit. After the loss of Manny "Millions" Atkins, who has decided to transfer to Georgia State in search of more playing time (congrats Manny, you will certainly get it on that team), Coach Greenberg realized the need to bring in another recruit ASAP. With the questions around the health of our post players, Greenberg wisely chose to offer the newly-opened scholarship to Joey van Zegeren of the Netherlands. Joey is a 6'10" power forward. He is 21 years old and seems to have gotten a late start on his dream of playing for a US college, but I think this was a good move by Greenberg. It's really too late in the year to start looking around this country for a diamond in the rough for next season, so he did the smart thing and starting looking around Europe.

After first hearing this news, I got a little nervous that Greenberg was looking to bring in another Robert Krabbedam, who is also tall and Dutch. Do you all remember Krabbendam? Yeah the 7-footer with terrible hands, no vertical, no shooting touch, and no talents other than being tall. I remember him too, he sucked. However my fears are a little relieved in this day and age where every basketball player's highlights are on YouTube. This is the link for JVZ's highlights. Right off the back I am feeling a little better. JVZ obviously has a lot more athleticism than Krabby, and he's got a nicer shooting touch for sure with range out to the 3-point line. He also doesn't seem to have that stereotypical softness that a lot of other Euro bigs are deemed to have (and that Krabbendam had in spades). Is he an impact player? No probably not. He looks a little skinny for a post player, I'm not sure his post moves translate to the ACC, and I'm not sure about his funky looking shot either. But I think there's some potential there, and it's not all that raw. This looks like a guy who could step into a backup role right away... but I've certainly been known to be overly optimistic in the offseason. At any rate, Seth Greenberg should be commended for going out and filling an immediate need. Nicely done!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Darren Evans

I know the NFL draft is long gone at this point, but can we talk about how ridiculous it is that no NFL teams bothered to draft Darren Evans? As a freshman, he runs for 4.4 yards per carry and 1265 yards total. He then has to sit out a year with an ACL tear. He comes back last season to run for 5.7 yards per carry and 854 yards total. A lot of athletes take 2 seasons to get back to their original form after an ACL tear, but Darren Evans is not them. The fear that usually keeps other athletes from fulling relying on their repaired ligament did not grip Darren Evans, and he was a better running back then he was when he was the ACC freshman of year. So what was the issue for NFL teams? Was it the total yardage? That number tends to go down when you are splitting time with 2 other pro-level running backs. If I am an NFL team and I'm looking to draft a running back, and I decide I'm going to weigh the pros and cons of Darren Evans, my list would look like this:

Does not possess elite speed
Sat out a season with injury
Cannot be used as a return specialist

Excellent power and vision at position
Solid blocking technique
Good hands in the passing game
Excellent character
Showed no hesitation coming back from injury
Averaged 5.7 yards per carry... was also team's short-yardage specialist.
Put up good numbers behind a mediocre offensive line

Which brings me to my point... NFL teams obviously don't do much research on players outside of the first 2 or 3 rounds. How in the world would you pass that guy up? If this wasn't Darren Evans' resume, do you know whose it would be? It would be Peyton Hillis' resume (but exchange ACL tear with compartment syndrome).

NFL scouts are a joke. End of rant.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Thoughts on the ACC for next season

Here's a question for you ACC fans... which teams do you expect to be good enough to get an NCAA tournament bid next season? Obviously Duke and UNC, so let's talk about the rest.

Boston College - they are graduating a lot of seniors (Joe Trapani, Biko Paris, Josh Southern, Cori Raji, Courtney Dunn) and their recruiting class for next season is pretty weak, so even though they still have Reggie Jackson, I am guessing they won't be good enough.

Clemson - Losing Demontez Stitt and Jerai Grant hurts them, especially Stitt. They recruited a 3-star and a 2-star guard, so I'm not sure about a team with starting guards of Andre Young and Cory Stanton with no decent backups if either goes down with injury. I think they'll miss the NCAA tournament next year, although I feel shaky picking against Brad Brownell... he's a really good coach.

FSU - Losing their only good guard in Derwin Kitchen and probably losing Chris Singleton. They have a ton of frontcourt talent returning. I think guards Ian Miller and Michael Snaer both improved a lot during this season and they recruited some good guards for next season... I think they will make the NCAA tournament again, but just barely.

Georgia Tech - Should be really interesting under a new coach. They have excellent guards returning. Their frontcourt sucks, but they are almost all freshmen this year and should get better. GT could do like Clemson did this season and make the NCAA tournament with a new coach and no decent recruits. But I'm saying out.

Miami - they have a lot of young talent (Durand Scott, Malcolm Grant, Reggie Johnson) and I think they are going to get over the hump next year... they're in.

Maryland - they're in the same situation with Terrell Stoglin, Pe'Shon Howard, and Jordan Williams... they're in.

NC State - Ditto GT... new coach could get them in if he's any good. They have a lot of talent returning and it's a school that is historically good at recruiting. They need CJ Leslie to return, which he should if he is smart... he won't be a lottery pick in this year's NBA draft, and he might not even play if they can't get their CBA worked out in time. But I'm saying out.

UVA - Not a ton of athletic talent on this team, but Mike Scott is coming back and they do have some shooters. Plus I really like Tony Bennett as a coach... his slow pace and defensive style keeps UVA in games when they should get creamed (like VT when we had Dowdell/Gordon). They have a couple decent recruits coming in... could be a surprise NCAA team, and I'm going to guess that they get in.

Wake Forest - Not a chance... they are still way too far away.

Virginia Tech - I'm a homer, so I'm going to say that the things that could go positively for VT do happen and we get in. A non-biased person would probably say no though.

So I'm guessing the ACC gets 7 teams in, but realistically, 6 is more likely.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Football Signing Day Reactions

I was talking with a buddy earlier today... let's call him Salty J to give him a bit of anonymity. Salty J was worried that the Hokies would not win another ACC championship anytime soon due to the loss of players like Tyrod Taylor, Ryan Williams, and Darren Evans, coupled with the fact that the VT coaching staff has a very mediocre recruiting class coming in for next season. I'm wondering if this is the sentiment of most Hokie fans? Personally, I am not the least bit concerned, and here's why: VT has never really done a great job of recruiting, and they are still able to be competitive in the ACC (and before that, the Big East) consistently since the days of Michael Vick. A few headliners for this year's signing day are:
  1. KyShoen Jarrett, a defensive back from PA. VT and secondary coach Torrian Gray have created a dynasty here at Tech for cornerbacks, and Jarrett is just the next in that line. Gray has also already received a commitment from a fantastic cornerback recruit for 2012... Donaldven Manning.
  2. Kris Harley, a defensive tackle for Indiana.
  3. Robert Lockhart, a wide receiver from Florida.

You know, I could go on listing names, but really I think I am just at a point where I trust our coaches to recruit the right players for their system, and then coach them up. We take some shots at Frank Beamer for not being able to beat the big programs, but the truth is that there's a reason behind all of the consecutive 10-win seasons. Beamer, Bud Foster, and maybe even Bryan Stinespring are good at teaching their system to their players and getting them to buy in. Look at the recruiting classes that Miami and Florida State have had over the past several seasons... they are always fantastic, and those teams have been losing pretty consistently to Virginia Tech.

Frankly, I think we're fine. There were no big running back recruits for 2011 because those guys were expecting Williams, Evans, and David Wilson to be sitting in the way of their playing time when they were being recruited. Well now things are very different with Williams and Evans both going to the NFL (where they will certainly both be drafted), and high school running backs are going to take notice. You can absolutely count on a major RB recruit being signed by VT for the 2012 class. The truth is, the only positions where 2011 recruits can come in and contribute quickly are defensive back (because our corners have a history of leaving early for the NFL), tight end (because we lost our one good TE), and defensive line. VT has entrenched starters at linebacker (Rivers, Taylor, Gibson), offensive line (DeChristopher, Brooks, Miller, Nosal, Lanier), quarterback (Thomas), running back (Wilson), and wide receiver (Boykin, Coale, Roberts, Davis, Boyce). If I were a top-rated recruit and saw that logjam, I would probably stay clear of VT too.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

A Look Ahead

After suffering an extremely disappointing loss to Georgia Tech and grabbing a decent win at home over Miami, the Virginia Tech Hokies are sitting at 4-3 in the ACC and are in good position to finish with a conference record that contains more W's than L's. Make no mistake, this team is limited and has zero chance of a magical NCAA Final Four run, but that doesn't mean there is nothing to enjoy about this team or that there's nothing to look forward to this season. Here's a plain look at what is going on with VT basketball right now.

  • Mostly due to the fact that there are no dominant mid-major teams like in recent years past (Butler, Memphis, Gonzaga, etc), there are likely to be several more at-large spots in the NCAA tournament that will go to teams from power conferences, and I'm not just talking about the 4 extra play-in game spots. And yes, that term "power conferences" somehow still includes the ACC. My gut and ESPN's Bracketology[tm] tells me that if the season were to end right now, the Hokies would be an NCAA tournament team.
  • So what does that mean? Can the Hokies just keep the status quo for the rest of the season... losing games they are expected to lose while winning games they are expected to win in order to stay in the field? Not exactly. What is outside of the team's control is how all of the other teams play from here on out. VT's wins over Florida State, Penn State, and Oklahoma State look pretty good right now, but they could look a lot fuglier in a month's time if one or two of those teams start tanking.
  • I'm starting to think that the best thing for Virginia Tech, besides a win at home against Duke, would be for the ACC teams that VT has beaten to win against Duke as well. Scratch that... I mean the ACC teams who are in the RPI top 100 and have lost to VT. I think it would be a bad thing if Wake Forest were to upend Duke. Duke did so well in their out-of-conference schedule that they could probably lose a few more games without feeling much of a repercussion in the RPI.
  • As good as Malcolm Delaney is (and he's incredibly good), I am just now starting to realize that he's basically anti-clutch. Delaney is the one to work for a shot in just about every last possession of every game against a quality opponent when the Hokies need a win, and I have no memories of him coming through for VT. Some guys fold under pressure and some guys get better under pressure. I'm sad to say, I think Delaney falls into the first category. I have to imagine that 'Zo Hudson will be the guy to be shooting the last shot next season, and I think he'll rise to the challenge like he did a few times last season.
  • If one more guy gets injured, this season is finished. Greenberg has done a great job in helping the team to limit fouls with the zone defenses, but eventually they are going to get in foul trouble and need their bench players to contribute in order to win. Manny Atkins has been contributing pretty consistently, but Eddie and Garland can't be counted on at this point and giving either of them extended minutes looks iffy right now. Then again, Erick Green became a completely different player with extended minutes... maybe the same thing would happen for Eddie or Garland.
  • Garland doesn't have the handle to be a point guard at this time in his career. The guy is a turnover machine and looks extremely uncomfortable against active defenders. I have a feeling that he's always going to be an undersized shooting guard, which isn't necessarily a terrible thing if he can learn to defend point guards since Erick Green has the size to defend shooting guards. The thing I like about Garland is that the kid really looks like a natural scorer. If you let him shoot, he's going to score a lot. I just don't know if he isn't better off being the go-to guy on a team like Ball State, Lehigh, or Central Michigan.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Thanks Hokies

Well, thanks for making me look like an idiot. Here I am predicting that Maryland is going to come out like their hair is on fire and really take it to Virginia Tech, and instead they are completely dominated by the Hokies from the opening tip. Virginia Tech beat Maryland 74-57, handing the Terps their worst loss ever at the Comcast Center (opened in 2002), and Virginia Tech led the entire way. It was a good old-fashioned butt-whooping, complete with icy staredowns courtesy of Malcolm Delaney and a career night from Erick Green. Green shot 12-16 from the floor, good for 24 points. He crushed his previous career high. Some notes:
  • I couldn't be more happy for Tech's players. Maryland's fans really are some of the worst in the country, and they were hurling some pretty nasty insults at the Hokies from start to finish. Luckily, the insults only seemed to fuel our team as they tore apart Maryland and shut their usual high-scoring offense down.
  • Jordan Williams may have gone for 11 points and 11 rebounds, but when you watched the game you saw that he was basically a non-factor in that game. 9 of his 11 rebounds were on the defensive end, and almost all of his points came off situations where the ball just happened to land in his hands when he was close to the basket. Victor Davila and Jeff Allen did a great job of denying post feeds to Williams so that he could never seem to catch the ball in a dangerous area.
  • The game seemed closer than it really was. I remember that my wife and I were glued to the TV thinking that Maryland was going to make a run and get themselves back into the game, but it just never really happened. Even when VT got burned by the exact same inside-out play three times in the span of about a minute where MD's Cliff Tucker ended up making uncontested threes each time, the Hokies still managed to stay calm and execute on the offensive end so that Maryland couldn't get close. I'm not kidding either, the exact same play where Dino Gregory caught the ball in the high post and slipped it back out to an open Tucker when the Hokies tried to collapse on Gregory. It was stupifying, but our players stayed composed and finally adjusted.
  • You could tell that Jeff Allen was pressing in that game. He missed a bunch of shots close to the basket that I think he would usually hit if he wasn't so amped up. Allen got so frustrated with Maryland's fans that he flipped them off two years ago in the Comcast Center and got suspended for the next game. He didn't make any mistakes like that this time, but he took some bad shots and struggled to finish plays on offense. Fortunately, he had a nice game defensively and rebounded the basketball well.
  • I'm excited about Erick Green. I don't see him as a true scorer the way Delaney is... he's just not a very good 3-point shooter and with his quirky shot, it's hard to imagine he ever will be. What Green does do well is drive to the basket and work the mid-range game. That's how he killed the Terrapins last night. Every drive to the hoop seemed to end in either a layup or an assist. Green has a knack for finding holes in defenses and exploiting them. Not to mention, he's an incredible defender, good rebounder (for a guard), and he rarely turns the ball over. Oh, and did I mention we get to see him play for two more years at VT? SWEEEEEEEET!
  • Delaney's offensive game has changed this year, and I think it's going to serve him well as far as his NBA draft stock goes. In his sophomore and junior years, Delaney was pushing hard to draw fouls every time he had the ball in his hands. He was shooting contested jumpers and trying to lean into fouls. He was driving the lane hard looking for contact. He was doing lots of things that were getting him trips to the foul line, but were really hurting him considering that he wouldn't be able to get away with those things at the next level. The fact that the referees really decided to clamp down on his acting and stopped awarding him for his behavior has led to Delaney being forced to take smart shots (in other words, shots that have more than a snowball's chance in hell of going into the basket). Just look at his shooting percentages this season compared to the last 2... he has a field goal percentage of 44.5 this season and a 3-point percentage of 43.6 this season. In 2009-2010 he was at 38.7 and 30.6, respectively. In 2008-2009 he was at 38.5 and 35.4, respectively. It's way more than shooting extra shots in the gym, it's a change in his offensive philosophy. I love it.

Next up for the Hokies is a game against Longwood at home on Saturday. That's not even really a game, so let's just go ahead and say the next game for VT is on Tuesday at Georgia Tech. GT always plays better at home, so I would anticipate the Hokies getting more of a run for their money than you would expect considering the talent for the Yellow Jackets and their abysmal head coach.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Beat Those Twerps!

I was taking a look at tomorrow's game against Maryland, and I just can't figure out who I expect to win this game. If you look at the stats sheet, it seems like Maryland is completely reliant on their 6'10" center, Jordan Williams. The guy is averaging a double-double with 18.1 points and 12.2 rebounds per game. He's an absolute terror on the offensive glass, averaging 4 offensive rebounds per game. So even though Victor Davila has improved defensively to the point where you can see he's a very good low post defender, Davila is not a good rebounder for his size and is likely to lose that battle to Jordan Williams several times in this game. So you are probably thinking to yourself, "Well you should just go hard at Williams and see if you can get him in foul trouble!" That's an extremely difficult task. The guy only averages 2.2 fouls per game. That stat is completely absurd for a center who averages 31.2 minutes on the floor per game. Maryland is very good at spreading around their fouls, so you have to expect that none of their players are likely to be in foul trouble during this game. Couple Williams' dominance in the post with the fact that Maryland will be gunning hard for a win at home to avoid going 1-3 in ACC play, and you have a likely loss for the Hokies.

However, there are some reasons for optimism as well. Tech will likely mix up their defenses playing a lot of 2-3 zone with a little bit of 1-3-1 trap and man-to-man mixed in to keep Maryland guessing. Why play mostly 2-3 zone? For one, VT will want to keep their big men from getting in foul trouble, and the 2-3 zone collapses quickly on interior players, forcing them to pass back out (although often to an open shooter). This could work to the Hokies' advantage since Maryland is a crappy 3-point shooting team. If they are bombing jump shots, they are playing right into the Hokies' hands. I could also see the 1-3-1 trap being successful against Maryland because the don't seem to have a true point guard. Adrian Bowie is more of a combo-guard and Sean Mosley is also a fairly poor ball-handler. I could see a high pressure 1-3-1 trap leading to several turnovers for the Terps. If VT had more depth in the post (i.e. more fouls to spare), I would want to see them play man-to-man in this game. I like how our guys match up defensively man-for-man with the Terrapins... it seems like our best on-ball defenders would be guarding Maryland's best offensive players, and our best help defender (Jeff Allen) would be free to roam around the paint a little bit.

Offensively, I think Delaney is going to come to play tomorrow. He grew up in nearby Baltimore and will want to show up Maryland for not bothering to recruit him. I would think that Erick Green could be in line for a big game if Maryland plays man-to-man. He'll likely be guarded by freshmen Terrell Stoglin and Pe'Shon Howard most of the game, both of whom are shorter than Green. If Jeff Allen stays focused in this game and doesn't let Maryland's classless fans get to him, he could also be in line for a high scoring game.

In the end, even though I usually like to match player against player in order to determine who will have a big game, that's rarely how it works out. Defense is a much more team-oriented thing, so you have to look at how Maryland plays team defense in order to determine who will have a big game, and honestly I don't know if Maryland plays more man-to-man or more zone. My best guess is man-to-man, so I would assume our most likely scorers will be Delaney and Green (created by pick and roll situations). Jeff Allen will have a hard time scoring points in the post against Dino Gregory, but if his mid-range jump shot is falling, then he can be effective. I think there's also a chance for a shooter like Manny Atkins to put up some points as defenders come to help on Delaney.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Basketball Update

Woah, it's been a while since my last blog post! Several things have happened since I last talked about the Virginia Tech men's basketball team. The Hokies have gone 2-1 against their last 3 ACC opponents, and had a real shot at going 3-0 with a late loss to North Carolina in Chapel Hill. There's been a lot said about that game, and despite the awful calls from that referee crew and the perceived cronyism between Tyler Zeller and an official after a brutally bad blocking call on Jeff Allen, the real reason for the loss was all of the cramping that was happening with VT's players. When you only have 8 players, it's definitely going to hurt you if 3 of them are having cramps during the game. Unfortunately, the NCAA tournament selection committee does not use "cramping" as a reason to view a loss as a win, so the Hokies will have to continue to battle with their emaciated roster. Here are some quick hits regarding the team:
  • The win over Florida State at home was a good one for VT. FSU has been playing beneath their talent so far this season, or at least they were right up until their meeting with Duke in Talahassee last week. The Seminoles played tough defense on Duke, particularly Chris Singleton on Kyle Singler. Almost all of Singler's points came when Singleton was on the bench with foul trouble... if you were to argue that Chris Singleton is the best defender in college hoops right now, I would not have any problem with that statement. The other factor for Florida State against Duke was senior guard Derwin Kitchen. Kitchen is not really known for being a prolific scorer, but he has had a quietly solid season scoring the ball for the Seminoles. He shoots 50.8% from the field and averages 10.8 points per game (the combination of the two is almost unheard of for a guard... you rarely see a guard put up over 10 points per game with a field goal percentage that high). Kitchen is also a decent foul shooter at 78.3% and a decent 3-point shooter at 35.7%, although I don't think he shoots a lot of threes. He is also a fantastic defender, so Duke's guards really had their hands full on both ends. At any rate, I think that FSU may finally start to right the ship now, and if they do, that win could turn out to be a quality win for VT.
  • With that said, I am trying hard not to get my hopes up this season. Virginia Tech has been playing really good basketball over the last month or so, but can they really challenge for a spot in the NCAA tournament this season like they were supposed to? You know, before the injury bug bit us and laid eggs in us? I think the answer is unfortunately, no. With only 8 players in the rotation, and with only two of those players being true post players, it's tough to imagine that VT will be able to compete consistently enough with ACC-caliber opponents. The one team that would go the farthest as a win for VT would obviously be Duke, which VT plays at home on February 26. This is the only meeting between the two teams this season. Tech will be facing a Duke squad that routinely plays 9 players, and they have 10 solid players if Kyrie Irving can get healthy. Of those ten players, 4 are true post players going 6'8", 6'10", 6'10", and 6'11". VT's two post players are 6'8" Victor Davila and 6'7" Jeff Allen. The size disparity will ultimately lead to a lot of offensive rebounds for Duke, and when you couple that with the high intensity that Duke always plays on defense, I just see them wearing the Hokies down eventually rolling over them. Without a win against Duke, the Hokies will be sitting squarely on the bubble yet again (assuming they are somehow able to go 8-8 or better in the ACC). It's a tall order.
  • I know it's looking ahead a long ways, but I'd like to see VT use predominantly man-to-man defense against Duke and mix it up with some of the 1-3-1 trapping zone. If the Hokies attempt to use a lot of 2-3 zone against Duke, they're going to get burned. Duke is an excellent 3-point shooting team and their guards love to drive the lane and kick to open shooters. That's exactly the kind of offense that beats a 2-3 zone. Man-to-Man makes the most sense. Davila will be defending purely in the post against the Plumlee brothers, and he doesn't really have to worry about them shooting from the outside, which is well within Davila's comfort zone. Allen has the potential to be destroyed by Mason Plumlee, as he has very good offensive moves in the post and does a good job of battling for position, and Allen is defensively susceptible to players like that. I'd rather see Allen on Miles Plumlee, who isn't as good of an offensive player. Davila and Allen are also comfortable hedging high screens, so I don't see the Dukies burning the Hokies too bad there as long as the guards go high around the screen to try to cut out the 3-point shot. Assuming Kyrie Irving is still out, I think Nolan Smith versus Erick Green should be a very good match. Green is a superb defender and does a great job of cutting off the dribble-drive, and Smith's game is primarily the dribble-drive and shooting threes. Duke uses a lot of 3-guard sets with 6-4" Andre Dawkins playing along with 6'2" Seth Curry and 6'2" Nolan Smith... size advantage has to go to VT there. Duke can also "go big" with Smith, Curry/Dawkins, Kyle Singler, Ryan Kelly/Miles Plumlee, and Mason Plumlee. This lineup would also have it's advantages for VT as you would see Terrell Bell guarding Singler, rather than Jeff Allen.
  • Okay, I need to stop meandering. That game is still over a month away, and there's plenty of basketball to play between now and then. I think the thing that has been most encouraging is the emergence in the play of sophomore forward Manny Atkins, and freshman forward Jarell Eddie. After a (very) briefly nice start, Eddie was really looking like a freshman for most of this season. He was being intimidated by the opposition and failed to understand the level of activity required to play ACC-level basketball. The confidence is starting to come. After shooting 2/19 from the 3-point line, Eddie made 2/3 attempts in his last game and contributed 18 points in his last 2 games. Eddie definitely looks like a player with a smooth shooting stroke and the ability to rebound the ball, so confidence is the only thing keeping him from setting the ACC on fire. On the other hand, you have another VT player starting to emerge in Manny Atkins who is brimming with confidence. He just needed the opportunity to take some shots. Atkins is getting that opportunity as the Hokies are sharing the ball more than ever on offense. Malcolm Delaney is sacrificing shots for assists when the game calls for him to do so, and it's working out to Manny's advantage. Atkins hit 5-7 shots from the 3-point line in his last 2 games. His shot is a little more unorthodox than Eddie's, but it works very well for shooting jump shots. He has a quick release that he keeps high and in front of his body, which seems to confuse defenders as they go to block the ball. If you have ever seen the Celtics' Ray Allen shoot a jumper, it's somewhat similar in form, although Manny takes more time loading up the shot than Ray-Ray. Both guys are scrappy and can grab rebounds in traffic. Both guys are becoming better defenders (especially Atkins), and Eddie can handle the ball in space a little bit, so you can use him at the 2, 3, or 4.
  • It's tough to talk about the improvement from those two guys without looking ahead to next season. VT returns a lot of talent, and also adds a lot of talent. Seniors like Dorenzo Hudson and JT Thompson were originally slated to be moving on after this season, but will return next season instead. I'd imagine Hudson will keep his starting spot at shooting guard, although I would be surprised if JT Thompson wasn't coming off the bench again. A projected starting lineup for Virginia Tech (if they are all healthy) would be PG Erick Green, SG Dorenzo Hudson, SF Jarell Eddie (although I wouldn't be surprised to see either Atkins or stud recruit Dorian Finney-Smith contend for this spot), PF Allan Chaney, and C Victor Davila. That leaves a bench of PG/SG Tyrone Garland, SF Manny Atkins, PF JT Thompson, C Cadarian Raines, and our 4 stellar recruits, SF Dorian Finney-Smith, PF CJ Barksdale, SG Robert Brown, and PG Marquis Rankin. I am known to put higher expectations on the Hokies than should be expected, but I have a hard time seeing how that group of guys wouldn't dominate. Of course, that all changes when Raines' foot starts to act up again, Allen Chaney's heart keeps him from playing, one of the freshmen transfers due to lack of playing time, and another random Hokie goes down with a season-ending injury. Ahhhhh, now that's more like it! That's a VT basketball team that I'm more familiar with. Maybe I just need to go back to focusing on this season and hoping for the best.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Post-season Thoughts on Hokie Football

There's a lot of room here to cloud this blog with negativity, so I'm going to try to do my best to avoid that. I find the best way to get negative stuff out is with bullet points.
  • The loss last night can be attributed mostly to two things. First, our defense was unable to corral the big play. They gave up 9 plays of 20 or more yards... that's just terrible. Our guys made a lot of mental errors and tackled poorly, which is the same reason they lost the games against Boise State and JMU. Where were our safeties on those long running plays by Stanford? They seemed awfully close to the line of scrimmage despite being our last line of defense. What's worse is they were burned by the same kind of cutback lane 3 times and never learned their lesson. Secondly, our offensive line imploded. They were subpar in both run blocking and pass protection. It's tough to write anything positive about the way they played... there were no holes for the running backs to run through and Tyrod was constantly having to sidestep blitzing defenders. The running backs do share in the blame a bit on that second point as they did not do a good job of picking up the blitz.
  • There were also some minor contributing factors to the loss. This one is a little more subjective but I think Bryan Stinespring reverted to his old self and got uber-conservative in his play-calling. The offense was having problems running the ball between the tackles, but our boy BS didn't care. He kept calling straight running plays up the gut despite what looked to be a consistent effort to stop the run from Stanford. The few run plays that did seem to work were misdirection plays and option plays, but we didn't see many of those despite their success. With that said, I refuse to believe that the Stanford defense is anything special and I think our standard offense should have been able to create holes if they were playing up to their abilities... they just weren't.
  • Tyrod Taylor picked a bad time to have a mediocre game. He wasn't terrible, but for maybe the first time this season, he just didn't have it yesterday. His receivers didn't drop any passes (as far as I can remember), but he was still only slightly over 50% for his completion rate. Tyrod did an exceptional job in sidestepping blitzing defenders throughout the game, but then failed to make throws once that happened. He did make some good passes and did some good things, but didn't show his usual ability to read defenses and determine the right time to pass and the right time to take off and run. His mobility hurt him a couple times where he should have been sacked for a minor loss, but got free and ran backwards only to be eventually sacked 15 yards deeper. But like I said, this was a minor factor.

So that's my review of the problems with our team from last night's game. There were a few bright spots, like Tyrod's scramble and throw to David Wilson for the touchdown, and the special teams doing and exceptional job in picking up on the fake punt. I loved seeing them shut that down. Jarett Boykin made some great plays as well. John Graves had a nice game... probably one of his best of the season.

There are some pieces to build on for next season. 4 of the 5 offensive line starters will be back, and the player being lost is not considered to be talented enough for the NFL (sorry Beau Warren). The group may actually end up being better with Andrew Miller in there at center, but we'll see. They weren't that great this season, so it's tough to imagine they'll be a lot better next season unless they learn to play with a mean streak.

A lot of the Hokies' success hinges on the development of Logan Thomas. He is an impressive athlete and a smart guy, so I think odds are good that he will be at least serviceable. Defensively, there is a lot of talent coming in and a lot of key players coming back.

The coaching staff is likely to look exactly the same, and I think that only hurts us. This staff has been together a long time and seems to have some obvious problems preparing our team for big games. We won't get to see a new offensive coordinator since the VT offense was considered to be very successful this season. So the FireBryanStinespring web site will not be dying any time soon.

I am optimistic about next season for the most part, but I'll be happy to focus on basketball and rest on VT's football laurels for a while.