Yesterday, Virginia Tech’s season got off to a fast start as they beat East Tennessee State 80-62. This brought in the James Johnson era. Here are my thoughts on the game below:
Much was talked about how the Hokies would be up tempo on offense and create the majority of their points off of the fastbreak. A lot of people I noticed were saying how they didn’t think we ran very much. Every time we got the ball, we passed the ball up the court and sprinted after. No, we didn’t get a lot of fast break points but we were certainly playing at a faster pace. Another thing that neutralized our ability to get up the court fast was ETSU started to full court press. This slowed down our offense and ultimately effected how well we scored. The first half the Hokies shot 51.9% and the second they shot 41.9%.
Our offensive sets looked much better, and this team looked extremely unselfish (unlike the Greenberg era). We had a near 2:1 assist to turnover ratio, which is excellent. Everyone remember that play last year where Erick would use a pick and then pull up from just inside the three point line? Well I only recall seeing that once yesterday, showing how much more we were spreading the ball out. That could also be due to the fact that ETSU mainly played a 2-3 zone yesterday. Tech struggled mightily against the 2-3 zone last year, but performed well against it yesterday.
Johnson wasn’t afraid to play his walk-ons, either. In non-garbage time, Tech used both Will Johnston and Marcus Patrick. Johnston played 13 minutes and looks like he will be used throughout the year. Tech played without Marquis Rankin yesterday due to deaths in his family, So Robert Brown ended up at point guard for a fair amount of the game, he didn’t do too bad either, having five assists and one turnover.
I heard throughout the off season that C.J. Barksdale was a completely different basketball player this year. I didn’t see that yesterday. Honestly, you could hardly notice he was on the court. I predict we will see Marshall Wood taking over his starting spot by the end of the year. Which leads me to Wood; he is going to be a star for us. In the two open practices I attended before the season, he was incredible on the offensive side. Many have discussed how well he’s rebounded for a freshman, but boy does that kid have a stroke. He only shot 1-6 yesterday, and 0-3 from three, but I attribute that to it being his first ever college game. After he gets the bugs out, I could see him becoming a featured part of our offense. He literally can shoot over anyone and can do it from any range, so don’t be surprised if he starts lighting it up later in the season.
Cadarian played a pretty poor game yesterday. He was almost nonexistent on the boards, having only four rebounds, and struggled to get his left handed hook to work, finishing 3-9 from the field. He also had zero blocks, surprising considering how dominant he used to be at that. We got killed on the boards today by a team that has no players over 6’ 8”, which is quite concerning. Wonder if that was just a one-time thing or not? If not, look for that to be our downfall in ACC play. We allowed 36 points in the paint yesterday, further proving the issue.
Erick green led all scorers with 21 points, with Jarell Eddie and Robert Brown finishing with 17 and 16, respectively. Robert still took a few ill-advised shots, but his stroke was like butter today. Jarell Eddie struggled to get his shot going in the first 15 minutes or so, but really lit it up after that. He ended up with 10 rebounds and a double-double. The team finished 10-25 from behind the arc, so an excellent 40%. I wouldn’t be surprised if the three point shot is an important part of our game, considering the great shooters we have this year. Joey van Zegeren played solid and provided a nice spark off the bench. If he gains confidence throughout the year, he could provide some valuable time for us to rest Cadarian Raines.
Overall, this was a good opening performance from out team and new coach. One of the best parts of the game was just watching how much our players enjoyed playing under Johnson, it looked the exact opposite of the Greenberg era. For those who saw the game, I’d love to hear what you guys thought in the comments. Go Hokies!