Now that the regular season is done for the Virginia Tech football team, and with only a lower tier bowl remaining, it's time for Hokie Nation to turn its collective attention towards the basketball team. With their first 5-0 start since 1984 there is a certain amount of buzz surrounding this year's edition of the Hokies on the hardwood.
I haven't been able to make it to a game in Cassell yet, but the fact that we're scoring 85 points a game has me generally optimistic about the James Johnson era at Tech. Everything I've read indicates that this team genuinely likes playing together and for Coach Johnson, and they're having fun doing it. That kind of camaraderie will be invaluable down the stretch when the ACC season gets into high gear. I promise you that our victory margin of 14.4 will go down after the New Year.
That said, there is reason for the optimism. I did some research Friday evening after the win over VMI. The 427 points that the Virginia Tech Hokies has scored in their first 5 games this season is the most points scored in 5 consecutive games since the 1994-95 season. In their wins over VMI, TCU, WVU, East Tennessee State, and Tennessee, the Hokies scored 450 points during that 5-game stretch in December of 1994. Needless to say, it's been a long time since we've seen this kind of offensive production in Cassell.
Here's a look at some of the offensive statistics of this year's Hokies compared the 4 prior seasons:
I highlighted the notable improvements, but the three that really jump out at me are the increase in 3-point attempts per game (22), 3-point shooting percentage (0.427), and assists per game (15.6). We're averaging roughly 5 more 3-point shot attempts per game, and more of them are going in. I can only hope this continues, because it makes us more difficult to defend. The other huge improvement is the increase in assists per game. Our short bench has not prevented us from being selfless, and it shows in the increase in assist-to-turnover ratio (1.3).
Speaking of our short bench, how about the contributions from Joey van Zegeren, walk-on Will Johnston, and freshman Marshall Wood? Van Zegeren and Johnston are averaging 14.2 and 11.4 minutes per game, and Johnston is a sexy 8 of 13 from beyond the arc. Marshall Wood is averaging 21.6 minutes and 6.6 points per game. The minutes we've seen from these 3 are huge for team that is short on depth. If Marquis Rankin can get going, this just might be a team that will surprise a few people during conference play.
Ok, let's put my good tidings and accolades aside and let me give you the bad news. Remember the aforementioned 427 points over 5 games? Those were scored against teams whose average RPI is currently 243, and whose 2011-12 RPI average out to 236. East Tennessee State, Rhode Island, VMI, UNC-Greensboro, and Appalachian State are flat out not good teams.
Things will get real interesting this week when Iowa (RPI 69th, 2011-12 RPI 125th) and Oklahoma State (RPI 2nd, 2011-12 RPI 122nd) come to Blacksburg on Tuesday and Saturday. The Hokies will get to test themselves against quality competition and we will get a much better idea where the hoops program stands at the start of the James Johnson era.
The upshot is that both of those games are in Cassell. I cannot stress enough how important it is for Hokie Nation to come to Cassell and support these guys this week. I've seen some magical games there over the course of the last 8 years. When Cassell Colliseum is rowdy and full, it is as intimidating of an arena as you will find. This season won't be rainbows and ponies all of the time, and I'm sure there are going to be some ugly losses coming down the pipe. But I'm convinced there's some great basketball ahead of us, and I'm looking forward to watching some roundball this winter.