James Johnson’s Dismissal Highlights the Other Unpleasant Side of March

Posted by Lathan Wells on March 17th, 2014

The month of March is one that brings joy to many college basketball programs across the country, as they now have the chance to chase a national championship via the NCAA Tournament (or to a lesser extent, an NIT title that at least yields a banner). But as many know, March is often a time of despondency across the college basketball landscape. It starts with the teams that had their hopes dashed on Selection Sunday when their names weren’t called, but it also extends to the programs whose seasons are completely over. That’s where the dark days in March occur, and Virginia Tech’s James Johnson experienced such a day today as he was relieved of his duties as head coach of the Hokies after a mere two seasons on the bench.

James Johnson's uninspiring term at Virginia Tech ended after only two years (newsleader.com)

James Johnson’s uninspiring term at Virginia Tech ended after only two years (newsleader.com)

Johnson was considered something of a surprise hire when he replaced the ousted Seth Greenberg two years ago. In fact, he had never been a head coach at all, having recently left Blacksburg to take on a similar assistant coaching role at Clemson. Instead, Greenberg’s messy exit coupled with resounding support from the holdover players convinced the administration to hire Johnson to take over the program, citing in particular his recruiting ability for some of the better teams of the Greenberg era. He inherited a bad team in his first season that only produced 13 wins, even with ACC Player of the Year and eventual pro Erick Green on the roster. His follow-up nine-win campaign, which resulted in a dead-last performance in a 15-team ACC, was due to an extremely underwhelming roster. In the preseason, Johnson made the bizarre decision to name an incoming freshman team captain despite the presence of seniors Jarell Eddie and Cadarian Raines returning. And it wasn’t a superstar talent like Jabari Parker who was named the leader, either; it was two- or three-star guard Ben Emelogu. Emelogu had a decent start to his first college campaign, but he was far from a star.

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ACC M5: 01.17.14 Edition

Posted by mpatton on January 17th, 2014

morning5_ACC

  1. Roanoke Times: I entirely overvalue Cadarian Raines‘s performance. I can admit it. I’ve seen flashes of potential — usually glimpses of a remarkably well-developed post game. It appears Aaron McFarling is on the bandwagon with me, but James Johnson isn’t as he’s sat Raines for the last two games. The question is why? Johnson claims it’s the players “ahead” of Raines, and that could be true but I think it has to be Raines’ attitude. Johnson knows he’s not going to win 20 games this season, with or without Raines, but  he also knows the culture he wants to build in Blacksburg. This just feels a lot like Coach K’s early season benching of Rasheed Sulaimon.
  2. Sporting News: Speaking of Rasheed Sulaimon, Mike DeCourcy does a great job in this profile of the Duke sophomore. Sulaimon pointed to becoming the third “break down the defense” option this year, instead of last year when he was arguably the first. It’s interesting that Mike Krzyzewski appears to be meeting Sulaimon somewhere in the middle. A side product of his recently instituted “line changes” are some odd lineups. One includes Marshall Plumlee and Tyler Thornton, which leaves Sulaimon as the go-to player in those situations.
  3. Winston-Salem Journal: Come for the brief profile of Arnaud William “Bill” Adala Moto; leave with an awesomely awkward Bzdelikian analogy.

    “I kind of likened it the other day to a bunch of chicken eggs. Some of the eggs start cracking, and the little chick pokes its head out and looks. Some of these guys have completely gotten out of their shell. Some of them, the shell is cracking, and their head is poking out. Some of them are still in it, playing. But my point is, they’re all starting to hatch — at different times — and slowly breaking out of that shell.”

    Clearly, Jeff Bzdelik has been working on his PR game. But seriously, Moto is a guy who plays like a great teammate. He just outworks opponents.

  4. Tar Heel Blog: Speaking of PR game, North Carolina needs to up its version in a serious way. The university hasn’t looked good at all in its dealing with Mary Willingham’s allegations, and the fine bloggers at Tar Heel Blog have done a tremendous job covering the story. The interesting possible spin going on right now is that North Carolina claims 97 percent of admitted athletes during the past two years were above the testing levels that CNN and Willingham cited. What’s interesting is that Willingham’s numbers covered 2004-12. Does that mean her numbers are right and North Carolina has fixed its problems, or was the most recent data the most accessible? Good move by the administration to question the media (which is likely at fault anyways) instead of Willingham here.
  5. Charlottesville Daily Progress: Virginia has played well but lost all (three) of its games against Top 25 opponents this season. But I’m not sure there’s much to be drawn from the Duke loss. Had the Cavaliers rolled over and lost by 15 instead of mounting a comeback in the last three minutes, I would be more concerned. By the end of the year Virginia will knock off at least one team in the national rankings assuming no one gets hurt.
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ACC Team Preview: Virginia Tech Hokies

Posted by Lathan Wells on October 25th, 2013

It’s difficult to argue that a coach with the eventual Atlantic Coast Conference Player of the Year on his roster was dealt a difficult hand, but that’s exactly what James Johnson was given in his first season at Virginia Tech last year. Johnson’s team, following the dismissal of long-tenured coach Seth Greenberg, operated most of the season with only eight scholarship players (and at times as few as six), making it difficult for the Hokies to employ his favored full-court pressure and trapping defenses. It also made for a very taxing season on his players overall, with very little depth to turn to and no consistent offense outside of the POY award-winning Erick Green. Green has departed for the greener pastures of the NBA, which leaves the Hokies in a transitional year as Johnson attempts to mold the team in his image in his second term.

Virginia Tech Preview 2013

Virginia Tech didn’t lose much outside of Green (their only other significant departure was the transfer of guard Robert Brown to UAB), but as stated above, the team certainly stood to gain quite a bit from an influx of new faces. While Johnson’s recruiting class this season is dominated by lightly-regarded players (at least by most scouting services), they will all be thrown into the cauldron early as the Hokies experiment with lineups and combinations. Combo guard Ben Emelogu, recently named captain of the team despite being a freshman, is characterized by Johnson as someone who can slash and jump-start the offense. Guard Adam Smith, a transfer from UNC-Wilmington, sat out the requisite season last year, but posted solid numbers in his freshman campaign in the Colonial Athletic Association (13.7 points per game, the top freshman scorer in the conference). Smith also has the benefit of familiarity with ACC competition, having notched 32 points against Wake Forest and 23 against Maryland in non-conference action two seasons ago. Freshman Devin Wilson also should see some minutes at the point as the Hokies try to rebuild their guard ranks.

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ACC M5: 01.30.13 Edition

Posted by mpatton on January 30th, 2013

morning5_ACC

  1. Basketball Prospectus: So how good has Miami been? So far this season, the Hurricanes are an average 0.21 points per possession (PPP) better than their conference opponents (the Duke game helped a lot on this front). For those of you not mathematically inclined, that’s equivalent to a point lead in every five possessions.  That’s the third best mark for a power-conference team behind Florida’s gaudy 0.43 (which will come down) and Michigan’s 0.24 PPP. Miami has the best defense in the league by a decent margin to go with a serviceable offense. The Hurricanes’ secret? Insanely good field goal percentage numbers and good rebounding.
  2. Raleigh News & Observer: It’s pretty obvious Duke is a different team without Ryan Kelly, but his injury may have some positive side effects. For one, Amile Jefferson is really starting to develop, which probably wouldn’t have happened until next season without the recent extra playing time. Also Duke is changing its offense, namely running more set plays to get people open. Both should prove very useful when Kelly returns. Duke would be able to throw very different offensive looks at opponents and won’t have to settle for Josh Hairston’s limited offensive repertoire (though don’t look for his minutes to disappear completely).
  3. Fayetteville Observer: For pretty much everyone but Miami, the road has been tough on ACC teams. Take out the Hurricanes and the league is 8-30 in road games (with Duke still searching for its first win). Duke‘s biggest issue is that it played its hardest two road games first. I don’t agree that it’s an experience thing, unless Coach K means experience playing without Ryan Kelly. The Blue Devils don’t have Miami’s aggregate age across the lineup, but they do start two seniors and this mostly shows that the ACC is very competitive. There’s just not a lot separating the teams in the middle of the pack or even at the top of the league right now (discounting the Hurricanes, of course).
  4. NBC Sports: Virginia Tech’s Erick Green is shining this season, but unfortunately his teammates in Blacksburg aren’t. He’s leading the country in scoring right now, but Green isn’t a new Terrell Stoglin. He’s surrounded by competent but passive players who can’t seem to find the bottom of the net. Cadarian Raines and Jarrell Eddie, especially Eddie, should make a decent scoring backcourt. But Raines has only added half a point to his average from last season in a much bigger role, and Eddie can only do so much. Add in zero depth, and there’s good reason for Green to take as many shots as he does. For Virginia Tech to win, he needs his teammates to join the offensive cause. Green knows it and wants to win more than anything, but if his supporting cast keeps up its current pace, he’ll have to settle for scoring.
  5. Maryland Diamondback: It’s too bad Charles Mitchell will be leaving the ACC with the Terrapins because he’s incredible to watch. He’s a more in-shape Reggie Johnson with plenty of opportunity to condition himself next offseason. If there’s a shot missed, it’s a good bet Mitchell will come down with it. He combines a massive frame, good instincts and superb hustle to rack up boards like no one’s business. He also showed some pretty strong post moves against Duke. Assuming Mark Turgeon can convince him to stay around College Park for four years, Maryland has a real asset for the future in the post.
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ACC M5: 11.08.12 Edition

Posted by KCarpenter on November 8th, 2012

  1. Inside Carolina: In the Roy Williams era, it hasn’t been too difficult for North Carolina to score. The combination of a brisk tempo and a humming offense has meant that Chapel Hill residents have gotten used to gaudy scores and the discounted biscuits that come when UNC scores over 100 during a home game. This year, however, it seems more likely that the team will derive more of its identity from defense. While John Henson and Tyler Zeller were great interior defenders, the perimeter defense of the Tar Heels was inconsistent at best last season. This year, with speedy Marcus Paige at the point and gifted defenders Dexter Strickland and Reggie Bullock on the wings, it seems likely that UNC could have one of the better perimeter defenses in the Roy Williams era.
  2. Raleigh News & Observer: Down the road in Raleigh, North Carolina State is thinking about defense as well. Despite the lofty expectations that have been placed upon the Wolfpack, one of the easily spotted weaknesses for this team is defense. In Mark Gottfried’s first year, NCSU had a middling defense, and with the departure of paint protector DeShawn Painter and the ball-hawking tandem of C.J. Williams and Alex Johnson, there is concern that the defense could get worse. Still, the Wolfpack has been focusing on defense in practice, striving to improve in areas where the team fell short. C.J. Leslie and Richard Howell were often the cornerstones of NCSU’s interior defense last season, but both struggled to stay on the court due to foul trouble. Each is working on defending without fouling while maintaining the same intensity that served the team so well last year. Increased time on the court for either will do nothing but help North Carolina State become the elite team that many pundits are expecting.
  3. Washington Post: The immediate eligibility of Dez Wells is a story with a lot of big time basketball implications for the Maryland Terrapins. On a human level it’s a big story for Wells, his family, his mentor, his teammates, and the Maryland basketball family as they all stood by him and hoped for the best when things looked bleakest for Wells. Sexual assault is a heinous offense that is psychologically damaging to its victims in a way that few other crimes are. To be wrongfully accused of committing this crime and to lose your place at school and on your basketball team is a heavy load for a young man to carry. It’s hard not to be happy for Wells who seems to have found a new and supportive home in College Park. His newfound eligibility is really just the cherry on top.
  4. The Virginian-Pilot: James Johnson is the only rookie coach in the ACC this year, and his road will be far from easy as he tries to rebuild a Virginia Tech program that seemed permanently stuck just outside the NCAA Tournament under Seth Greenberg. The departure of Greenberg made things seem even more difficult as players transferred and recruits like Montrezl Harrell de-committed. The scary thing is that it could have been much worse. Erick Green, the senior star point guard of the Hokies, considered transferring away from Blacksburg as well but Johnson’s appointment (previously an assistant under Greenberg) to the head spot tipped the scales in favor of VT. Now the Hokies are going to try to enjoy a rebirth as an up-tempo team that complements a blistering, frantic attack with the determined inside presence of a now-healthy Cadarian Raines. Little is expected of Virginia Tech this season, but it sounds like Johnson and Green hope to surprise the rest of the ACC.
  5. Washington Times: Last year, Virginia had a watershed moment with coach Tony Bennett. The Cavaliers were respected as one of the toughest defenses in the nation and Mike Scott was garnering praise as a potential All-American. When Bennett left Washington State to take on the project of rebuilding Virginia, it was clear that this wouldn’t be an easy job with a quick solution. It’s somewhat surprising then that Bennett was able to talk Washington native Joe Harris into following him to the other side of the country to play for a rebuilding team. Entering his third year, however, Harris is poised to take a starring role on a team that is expected to again make plenty of noise in the conference. Harris has NBA size and skills and, in a featured role for Cavaliers (including some time at the point with Jontel Evans out), the sharpshooting guard will hopefully see some more of  the seeds of his and Bennett’s hard work blossom.
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ACC Preseason Power Rankings

Posted by mpatton on November 6th, 2012

With all of the ACC previews behind us, it’s time to put everything together in our first ACC Power Rankings of the season.

Duke Blue Devils 1. Duke has all of the pieces to be a much better team than last year’s team. While the recruiting class is small, don’t forget redshirt freshmen Alex Murphy and Marshall Plumlee. Mason Plumlee may be the focal point of the Blue Devil offense. But the big question is how improved will Quinn Cook be?
NC State Wolfpack 2. NC State has the most complete team on paper. Add three top-shelf recruits to a talented returning group that includes two potential conference players of the year, and there’s bound to be plenty of hype. But will the Wolfpack be able to overcome their defensive woes (and the historical defensive woes of Mark Gottfried) and play like the end of last season, or will they play like the rest of the year?
North Carolina Tar Heels 3. North Carolina (tied) lost a lot from last year’s team with the four leading contributors with Reggie Bullock as the sole returning starter. But Roy Williams reloads instead of rebuilds. James Michael McAdoo may be the best player in the league, and Bullock looks ready to step up production. Freshman point Marcus Paige has big shoes (or at least a lot of shoes) to fill, but he’ll have help from backcourt veterans Dexter Strickland and Leslie McDonald.
Florida State Seminoles 3. Florida State (tied) may fall on its face, but Leonard Hamilton and Michael Snaer have earned the right to be taken seriously after knocking Duke and North Carolina off en route to the conference championship. Keep an eye on Okaro White and Terrance Shannon this season. You can trust Hamilton’s team to bring it defensively, but can they stop turning the ball over?
Miami Hurricanes 3. Miami (tied) looked rough in its exhibition loss, but there’s no denying the talent on this roster. The Hurricane frontcourt of Reggie Johnson and Kenny Kadji is the best in the league; Durand Scott and Shane Larkin make an exciting backcourt duo; and there’s no shortage of athletic wings to help fill out the lineup. But can Jim Larranaga realize his team’s talent?
Maryland Terrapins 6. Maryland also has a lot of talent on its roster, but the Terrapins were abysmal offensively last season. To make matters worse (though potentially better in the long run), Terrell Stoglin is no longer with the team. Nick Faust and Alex Len need to make big improvements for Maryland to finish in the top half of the conference. Keep an eye on Maryland’s freshmen.
Virginia Cavaliers 7. Virginia has some interesting pieces, and Tony Bennett‘s system appears very effective. But the Cavaliers don’t have Mike Scott and his mid-range game to bail mediocre offensive possessions out anymore. This team will rely on its tenacious defense because it’s hard to see the offense being consistently effective.
Virginia Tech Hokies 8. Virginia Tech hired James Johnson to replace Seth Greenberg, and Greenberg left Johnson with some real talent. The Hokies are a sleeper to finish in the top half of the conference if Erick Green, Jarell Eddie and Cadarian Raines mesh well. Depth will be an issue, but those three are very good players. Johnson also has established relationships with the players, which should make his transition smoother.
Wake Forest Demon Deacons 9. Wake Forest is really young. But a strong freshman class joining two of the best scorers in the league should make the team marginally more competitive than the last two years. Don’t sleep on Travis McKie. McKie is a match-up nightmare for every team, and shouldn’t surprise anyone when he averages close to 20 points a night.
Clemson Tigers 10. Clemson probably should be ranked higher than this. Certainly based on roster talent and previous results, the Tigers look better than tenth in the league. That said, Milton Jennings and Devin Booker haven’t shown the consistency to take over primary roles. If Jennings lives up to his McDonald’s All-American billing and Booker gets more aggressive, this team could finish much closer to the middle of the pack.
Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets 11. Georgia Tech (tied) looks OK on paper, but didn’t add anything significant from last season’s 4-12 campaign. This points to another rough season in Atlanta, though Glen Rice Jr.’s sudden departure may prove more of a blessing than a curse.
Boston College 11. Boston College (tied) will be a significantly more watchable team this season. The team is still young, and still low on ACC-caliber talent. But the sophomore trio of Ryan Anderson, Patrick Heckmann and Dennis Clifford are the real deal. They also all improved a lot just over the course of last season (except Heckmann, who went down with mono).
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ACC Team Previews: Virginia Tech Hokies

Posted by EMann on October 18th, 2012

Throughout the preseason, the ACC microsite will release a preview for each of the 12 teams. Today’s victim: the Virginia Tech Hokies.

Virginia Tech finally escaped the the wrong side of the bubble last year… by coming nowhere near the bubble. The Hokies’ 2011-12 season was a massive disappointment, as the squad finished below .500 and 4-12 in the ACC. However, Virginia Tech was probably a better team than their record indicated. In ACC play (including the ACC Tournament), the team was 5-9 in games decided by five points or less, so it was clear that luck was not on their side. This season, more importantly, was the final nail in the coffin for Seth Greenberg, one of the ACC’s most vocal coaches. Greenberg was fired in April, not just due to his team’s inability to make the NCAA Tournament (only once in his tenure), but also due to his inability to retain assistant coaches and retain continuity in the program.

Johnson faces many challenges in his first year as a Division I head coach. (USA Today)

Before his firing, two members of Greenberg’s staff left during this offseason, and it was the second time in three years he had to replace multiple members of his coaching staff. Greenberg’s firing, which shocked the man himself, also made it very difficult for Virginia Tech to hire the best coach available in the coaching carousel and also drastically hurt their player retention/recruiting due to the strange timing of the move. New coach James Johnson was an assistant under Greenberg for five years before taking an assistant coaching job at Clemson. Johnson had held the position at Clemson for all of 2 1/2 weeks before the Virginia Tech job became vacant. Virginia Tech hopes that Johnson can help provide the continuity (and the urge for a more difficult non-conference schedule) that eluded Greenberg, while also building on Greenberg’s positive moves towards making Virginia Tech a viable threat to perennially contend towards Tournament bids, a difficult task for a coach at a school where football is certainly prioritized.

Newcomers

This is where Virginia Tech’s suddenly thin roster is apparent. Three-star forward Marcus Wood is the only scholarship freshman on the team, following the de-commitment of Montrezl Harrell (who later chose Louisville) in the wake of Greenberg’s firing. Wood should see immediate playing time as an athletic forward who can hopefully replace the role of the transferring Dorian Finney-Smith (they have nearly the same build, 6’8” and just under 200 lbs.). Virginia Tech also added a walk-on guard, Marcus Patrick, a high school teammate of Wood, who could compete for some bench minutes on this scant roster. Adam Smith, who transferred from UNC Wilmington, will sit out the 2012-13 season. Read the rest of this entry »

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ACC Summer Recess: Virginia Tech Hokies

Posted by mpatton on July 17th, 2012

Over the next four weeks we’ll be taking a step back and looking at each team in the ACC to assess where each program — and the conference as a whole — stands before we totally turn our attention to the 2013-14 season later this fall. Today’s target: Virginia Tech.

Where They Stand Now

Virginia Tech surprised most people last year. The Hokies were picked in the middle of the pack by pretty much everyone. It was supposed to be a “down year” in the sense that people expected Seth Greenberg‘s perennial bubble team to not be one of the last teams out on Selection Sunday. Non-conference play went as expected: the Hokies lost all three games they played against tough competition and won the other 11. Then the ACC slate hit like a dump truck.

Virginia Tech started 1-6 in conference play with losses to league cellar dwellers Boston College and Wake Forest. Until beating Clemson by five in their final regular season match-up, the Hokies’ three wins came by a total of five points. No conference team played opponents as consistently close (Virginia Tech saw all but four of its conference games decided by single figures), but no team saw fewer conference wins either. It was the last straw for the athletic department brass, which waited until April 23 to let Greenberg go.

Erick Green

Erick Green Has First Team All-ACC Potential this Season.

In his stead is last year’s Assistant Head Coach, James Johnson. Johnson is a great choice for the job, though he failed his first assignments. Top recruit Montrezl Harrell de-committed from the program to go to Louisville, and rising star Dorian Finney-Smith transferred to Florida. Still, Johnson knows the Virginia Tech team well and he knows the program.

Who’s Leaving

Long story short: a lot of people. The Hokies lose Dorenzo Hudson and Victor Davila to graduation; they lose Allan Chaney and Finney-Smith to transfer; and they lost Harrell’s commitment along with their head coach Greenberg.

Hudson and Davila were the team’s second and fourth-leading scorers, respectively. They combined to average 18.4 points and 7.0 rebounds a game. While Finney-Smith was still very raw offensively, he contributed a lot on defense and by crashing the glass. He was highly rated coming out of high school (#18 by ESPN, #27 by Scout and #31 by Rivals), largely thanks to his potential.

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ACC Morning Five: 04.06.12 Edition

Posted by mpatton on April 6th, 2012

  1. Duke Basketball Report: The other day I pointed out the tunnel vision for Charles Bloom‘s national championship stat. Barry Jacobs took it several steps further, charting national titles since 1990 and 1980. Duke and North Carolina own more championships than any other conference since either date (seven since 1990 and eight since 1980). Even more impressive, the pair own more Final Four appearances than any other conference since 1990 (each school has as many semifinal showings as the Pac-12 over that span).
  2. NBCSports.com: Boston College’s second leading scorer Matt Humphrey is hitting the road for the second time, transferring away from the Eagles after just one year, as Humphrey had already transferred from Oregon. Because Humphrey is graduating from Boston College, so he’ll be able to play immediately wherever he ends up. Despite his inefficiency, Humphrey did average more than 10 points per game on this year’s team. Look for Patrick Heckmann to pick up the slack once he fully recovers from mononucleosis.
  3. Wilmington Star-News: James Michael McAdoo decided to come back to North Carolina for his sophomore year despite many projecting he’d go in the lottery of this year’s NBA Draft. His decision was well-received by the Tar Heel faithful, as it closed the “on-paper” gap between them and NC State. However, with stories like Harrison Barnes’, Jared Sullinger’s and Jeremy Lamb’s, it’s tough not to wonder if McAdoo is making the right financial decision for his future.
  4. Gobbler Country: Here are individual report cards for all of the players on Virginia Tech’s roster. My one issue is that Cadarian Raines only got a B. Sure Raines wasn’t exactly a world-beater the whole season, but he looked terrific down the stretch. He’s strong, appears fine on the court for extended stretches, and knows how to get deep position (which is virtually unstoppable). I’m not sure how anyone could have expected more. It will be interesting to see if the Hokies try to feed him more down low next year. I expect them to make a pretty big leap forward with nearly all of their key pieces coming back (minus Dorenzo Hudson and Victor Davila). Dorian Finney-Smith and CJ Barksdale should be very good players to compliment Erick Green.
  5. Seminoles.com: In an award selection less surprising than Anthony Davis winning player of the year, Bernard James won the USBWA’s Most Courageous award. I don’t need to tell you James’ story, which was even more in the spotlight with Florida State’s success. The other recipient this year was Tennessee women’s head basketball coach Pat Summit.
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ACC Team Previews: Virginia Tech

Posted by KCarpenter on October 31st, 2011

For what it’s worth, I think Virginia Tech should have made the NCAA Tournament last season. I have a hard time believing that this team was worse than Villanova, Marquette, or Missouri, to name a few of the other power conference teams that got the bubble nod while Virginia Tech was overlooked once again. I understand the case for those teams, but believe me when I say that last year’s Hokies were a tough, resilient team stocked with great players. Malcolm Delaney was a great basketball talent and his fellow seniors, Jeff Allen and Terrell Bell were all excellent starters for Seth Greenberg.  Despite all the injuries that this team suffered, his core held strong and led Virginia Tech to repeatedly strong conference showings. These guys are now gone and a new era of basketball in Blacksburg begins.

Seth Greenberg Will Have To Rebuild The Hokies Now That The Malcolm Delaney and Jeff Allen Era Has Ended

A few holdovers remain, though, and that continuity will be important for what promises to be a relatively inexperienced team. Starters Erick Green, along with seniors Dorenzo Hudson and Victor Davila will have to be strong leaders on a team that is in transition. Despite the graduation of the legendary senior class, the transfer of the surprising Hokies’ leader in offensive efficiency, Manny Atkins, and the loss of Alan Chaney because of concerns about the promising big man’s heart condition, there is a real case to be made that Virginia Tech is gaining more than it’s losing. With contributors like Hudson and J. T. Thompson returning from injury, VT is regaining a guy who averaged 15.2 points per game and once scored 41 against a hapless Seton Hall team as their sixth man. As big as that will be for the Hokies in 2011-12, the real story for this team is its freshman class.

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ATB: A Turkey Ends Holiday Hoops Week

Posted by rtmsf on December 24th, 2010

The Lede.  ‘Twas the night before Christmas Eve (Christmas Adam, so they say), and all through the land, not a creature was shooting.  Well, that’s not completely true.  Actually, it’s not true at all, as the week of Holiday Hoops finished strong tonight.  There were several good games, some excellent performances and even an ugly incident in Oahu for our enjoyment this evening.  The schedule reduces to nearly nothing the next few days — four games in Cancun on Friday, four games in Honolulu on Saturday, two random games on Sunday — and that’s fine.  Christmas is for spending quality time with our friends and families, so as much as we’ll miss it, things will be a bit light around here as well over the weekend.  Of course, if anything major happens, we’ll be there to comment and analyze it.  Short of that, though — from everyone at RTC, have a very Merry Christmas, folks!

What a Ridiculous Incident in Honolulu Tonight

Your Watercooler MomentPlayers Go All Knucklehead in the Stands.  Mississippi State won its game at the Diamond Head Classic yesterday against San Diego, but it was a later incident between teammates Renardo Sidney and Elgin Bailey that captured all the headlines.  As the two sat in the stands prior to the Utah-Hawaii game, they got into a fracas that was of course caught on tape for the world to see.  Regardless of who was at fault in this incident, is there any doubt that MSU’s recruitment and retention of Sidney has resulted in much more trouble than he’s worth?  This was his second incident in the last week, and the prevailing meme is that there’s no way Rick Stansbury can now keep him on the Bulldog team.  With images still somewhat fresh in mind of the Malice in the Palace where fans and players went after each other, this is reminiscent and disastrous footage for the MSU program.  Heads will roll on this, we’d have to imagine.

Don’t stop, make it pop. DJ, blow my speakers up. Memphis lost the game, but they won the damn highlight reel, that’s for sure.  Hey, Mr. DJ.

Tonight’s Quick Hits

  • Discipline Over Raw Talent.  No disrespect to the excellent players populating the rosters of Georgetown and Washington State, but their opponents tonight (Memphis and Baylor, respectively) have more players on their teams that make the NBA scouts drool uncontrollably.  Klay Thompson and Austin Freeman are considered nice players, but it’s guys like LaceDarius Dunn, Perry Jones, Will Barton and Joe Jackson who have the greater upside.  Score one (actually, two) tonight for the teams that actually know how to play the game, as the Hoyas and Cougars repeatedly used their experience to fool the teams still figuring it out.  Both shot 57% from the field while holding their opponents in the 30% range, and proved to us that Georgetown is every bit as good as its top ten ranking and Wazzu should probably be a co-favorite along with a few others in the Pac-10 this season.
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Set Your Tivo: 12.23.10

Posted by Brian Otskey on December 23rd, 2010

***** – quit your job and divorce your wife if that’s what it takes to watch this game live
**** – best watched live, but if you must, tivo and watch it tonight as soon as you get home
*** – set your tivo but make sure you watch it later
** – set your tivo but we’ll forgive you if it stays in the queue until 2013
* – don’t waste bandwidth (yours or the tivo’s) of any kind on this game

Brian Otskey is an RTC contributor.

Not a bad set of games tonight but nothing that jumps out at you as a must watch. The best games of the night may very well be in paradise as opposed to Memphis. All rankings from RTC and all times eastern.

#11 Baylor vs. Washington State (in Honolulu, HI) – 6:30 pm on ESPNU (****)

A Rare Klay Thompson Sighting on National TV Tonight

The theory that good guard play wins in college basketball will be put to the test in this game from the Diamond Head Classic. Washington State’s guard-heavy lineup goes up against Baylor’s powerful front court, though the Bears have a star guard in LaceDarius Dunn. The Cougars have surprised this year and sit at 9-1 with wins over Gonzaga and Mississippi State in addition to a close home loss against Kansas State. Washington State shares one common opponent with Baylor, that’s Gonzaga. Baylor lost to the Bulldogs this past Saturday in Dallas while Washington State rolled the Zags 81-59 at home ten days earlier. Baylor’s offense has struggled a bit against the two decent teams they’ve played, Gonzaga and Arizona State. Combine that with the fact that Washington State defends the three exceptionally well, the Bears should look to use their strength and athleticism inside and pound the ball into the paint. Rebounding is a concern for the Cougars, especially against a Baylor team that averages 41 RPG. Even if the Bears miss some shots inside, they’re sure to get a bunch of put-back chances against the WSU front line. For Washington State, DeAngelo Casto must have a good night on the glass in order to contain Baylor’s front court, led by Perry Jones and Quincy Acy. The Cougars must look to their back court for scoring and they’ll feel comfortable knowing they have Klay Thompson on their team. Thompson had 28 points against Mississippi State on Wednesday and will be in the running for Pac 10 POY honors. In addition to Thompson, Faisal Aden has enjoyed a terrific season so far. Aden and Thompson form a strong guard duo capable of draining three’s with regularity. Washington State is very good inside the arc as well but Baylor’s interior defense poses the toughest challenge the Cougars have faced so far. They need to be clicking from deep or else it could be a long night. Baylor’s back court isn’t too shabby either with Dunn and A.J. Walton, but each player struggles with turnovers. Washington State enjoys a great turnover margin and that’s how they’re going to get extra possessions against the turnover-prone Bears. With the expected rebounding problem, Washington State has to create turnovers to win this game. Expect Baylor to have an edge at the free throw line as well, enjoying a nice free throw rate on both ends of the floor. The Bears also shoot five percent better from the line than Washington State. The Cougars are a good team but Baylor has something to prove after falling to Gonzaga. We’ll take the Bears behind a big game from Acy inside.

#9 Georgetown @ Memphis – 8 pm on ESPN2 (***)

With the departure of Angel Garcia, the injury to Wesley Witherspoon and their struggles on the court, Memphis is going through some adversity. How Josh Pastner gets his young team to overcome that will determine how far he can take his talented group of players. The Tigers have had three close calls against bad teams and are struggling a bit offensively. Memphis averaged 85 PPG in its first seven games but that number has dropped to 69 PPG over the last three contests. Memphis is not a particularly great shooting team but they get to the charity stripe often and do make up some points there. The pregame story is whether or not Witherspoon will play, as Pastner did not rule him out and said he was day-to-day. If he doesn’t play, the guard-laden Tigers will be severely undersized and thin overall. If he does play, they’ll still be undersized but at least will have a scorer capable of pulling the Georgetown big men away from the basket. For the purposes of this preview, we’ll go on the assumption that he doesn’t play and wouldn’t be near 100% even if he does. Memphis already struggles rebounding the basketball and that’ll be a huge problem against a Hoya team with good rebounding guards and two strong post men. Look for Julian Vaughn and Hollis Thompson to own the paint with Witherspoon out. For Memphis, Will Coleman and Tarik Black have to make their presence known, otherwise Georgetown will focus its defense on the Tiger guards all night. A freshman, Black has had a tough time adjusting to a bigger role on this Memphis team. Tonight is a huge opportunity to assert himself and make himself a strong option for his head coach. The story for Georgetown is obviously their terrific trio of guards. They account for 57% of their points and all are great three point shooters. Point guard Chris Wright is also averaging seven assists per game during his senior season in the nation’s capital. Jason Clark is one of the most underrated players in the game today and has the potential to break out at any time. Austin Freeman is their rock. The preseason Big East POY leads the team in scoring and is a lights out three point shooter. When Freeman is hot, Georgetown is incredibly difficult to beat. The Hoyas are third nationally in offensive efficiency, first in effective field goal percentage and fourth in two point percentage, showing they can get it done both inside and out. It’s no surprise Georgetown hoists a lot of three’s, getting a third of their points from the arc. Memphis has to do a good job defensively on the perimeter otherwise Georgetown will shoot them out of the building. The Tigers also have to worry about turnovers, currently averaging 16 per game with Joe Jackson accounting for almost a quarter of those. Jackson is another freshman who’s incredibly talented but a bit undisciplined at this point in his career. He needs to play well and also get Chris Crawford and Charles Carmouche involved from the arc. With almost all of their players being guards, Memphis is going to have to try to match Georgetown’s outside shooting and get to the foul line. The Tigers will be in this game if they can disrupt the flow and score by getting to the stripe but Georgetown is just too experienced and talented for the young Tigers to overcome. Expect the Hoyas to pick up a nice road win at the FedEx Forum tonight after missing an opportunity at Temple a couple weeks ago.

A few other games to monitor:

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