Tuesday night finally featured a Virginia Tech basketball game that wasn’t blacked out in my area. Which meant I could see the Hokies play after missing the FSU contest. Turns out I might have been better off with another TV blackout and instead venturing over to Disney+. But nevertheless, we are back with three takeaways from Tech’s fourth straight loss.
1 – Making average teams looks great
Welcome to the first year struggles. On the positive side, many expected this to be how the entire year would go. So all those early ACC wins and the big Michigan State upset – a bonus! But now having lost four in a row, five out of six and the only win being a come from behind, force double overtime win at home against UNC, it’s clear this team has completely fallen off.
Potentially the most frustrating part is that this string of ACC losses isn’t coming against a run of top-level teams. Miami is still next to last, Boston College and Georgia Tech are 5-7 (which is now the Hokies record), and UNC is near the bottom. The FSU result is the only one that would have been both expected and acceptable heading into this stretch.
But Tech was down by 30 at one point in the game to a team with a losing record. 30 points. A losing record. “Are you struggling to score? Play the Hokies.” will be a marketing scheme at the moment. With the next three games all at home, Mike Young has to straighten out the defense.
2 – Exactly what is the offensive plan?
Besides the first half against Boston College and the second half against UNC, Virginia Tech’s offense appears to be lacking any cohesion. For the rest of the past six games the Hokies have fallen into large deficits because of their inability to create an attacking rhythm.
Last night was an prime example. Being forced to use the majority of the shot clock, forcing up late, desperate threes, scrambling to pass the ball out of pressure, and settling too often for bad shots. Against BC, Miami and GT the Hokies shot under 42% overall. The team’s only true weapon was the triple, which fell into the 30%s against BC and Miami before a dreadful 17.4% in Atlanta.
There is a lack of driving inside, working the ball into the paint and creating space for open threes that put the Hokies towards the top of the ACC just a few weeks ago. Mike Young needs to reset his team.
3 – When in doubt – keep trying the same over and over?
Yes the Hokies aren’t extremely deep, but after multiple slow starts and ineffective offense it is time to switch things up. For the most part the starting five has been set – and you get why. Tech has two upperclassmen leaders, a star player and an impressive all-arounder that quickly fill up a starting five. Alleyne and Cone have traded the 5th spot, but for the rest they’ve been set.
Despite going 1-9 from deep, Landers Nolley remains VT’s best player and should start every night. Tyrece Radford has developed into the team’s second best player. His rebounds, defense and aggression can’t be matched on this team. And he is now Tech’s second leader scorer.
Wabissa Bede is way ahead of anyone else in assists, so despite his lack of scoring as the point guard needs to remain a fixture in the team. Meanwhile, P.J. Horne continues to start but hasn’t had over six points a game during this run. You can’t point to a single stat the indicates he should be given a starting role or more minutes every night over Alleyne or Cone.
The Hokies’ downturn lines up perfectly with Cone’s lack of points. But Mike Young has continued to cut his minutes. Cone got less minutes in the BC and FSU games combined that he played against either UNC or Syracuse. Tech has to live or die by the three this year, so get your best shooters from deep on the court as much as possible. Because right now the defense isn’t working.
NCAA Tournament? Gone. NIT? Still a possibility. Up next the Hokies host Boston College on Saturday.
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