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.