Time to turn our attention to Hokie Hoops

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:

Season GMS PPG Opp PPG FG% 3PA/G 3P% AST/G TO/G AST/TO FT%
2012-13 5 85.4 71.0 0.483 22.0 0.427 15.6 11.8 1.3 0.745
2011-12 33 65.1 62.3 0.420 17.0 0.365 11.7 11.8 1.0 0.725
2010-11 34 70.3 62.7 0.452 16.8 0.330 12.5 12.3 1.0 0.710
2009-10 34 72.7 65.1 0.427 15.0 0.307 12.2 12.3 1.0 0.717
2008-09 34 72.6 70.7 0.437 18.1 0.337 13.4 13.5 1.0 0.724

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.

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Comments

The biggest reason I think this team can surprise people is because of how well we can shoot the three. It doesn't matter who you're playing against, shooting 64% from 3 (like we did against Greensboro) is ridiculous. But the one thing that will kill us is rebounding because this team can't rebound worth a damn.

Like you said, everyone show up this week! If we can win both of these games then don't be surprised to see us in the top 25 next week. When Cassell sells out that place is loud, so bring that Lane Stadium atmosphere indoors because this is a young team that will feed off the crowd.

Rip his freaking head off!

Current RPI is 157

Even if they beat Iowa and Ok State, I'd be extremely surprised if they get ranked. Iowa is not a big enough win to merit ranking, and 1 win against a top 25 team doesn't make you a top 25 team. If they win these two games, it'll be nice to see the Hokies crack the top 100 RPI.

The only reason I say that we can crack the top 25 is because people are really high on Oklahoma State right now, so even if we don't deserve it a lot of voters would be swayed to vote us in.

Rip his freaking head off!

Yep. As I've always said, if you've got multiple guys who can ..

... bury a 3-pointer if they get an open look, your team can go a long, long way even if you're deficient in other areas.

This VT team has no less than five guys ... Green, Brown, Eddie, Wood and Johnston ... in whom I have a high degree of confidence when taking an open 3-point shot. (I know Wood's 3-point % isn't good so far, but he has great form on his shot and a lot of his misses have been in & outers. They're gonna start falling.)

The bottom line is that they only award you points in this game for doing one thing: Putting the ball in the basket. You need to be able to do that well.

I just don't know if I can take the disappoinment this year

"I never surprise myself"

Disappointment? I didn't realize anyone expected us to be a great team this year... just go in to games with the realization that there's lots to learn and improve on going forward and cheer on this team. They are infinitely more fun to watch than any Greenberg team in the last 3 years and genuinely seem to enjoy playing with one another. Erick Green is the only senior on this team so they will only get better.

SOS is a Major Concern

We'll figure out about how good VT is in their next two games, but the problem is they're the only two games in their OOC schedule that are worth damn. If this VT team turns out much better than we expect, it's going to come to haunt them come tournament selection time, especially with only 3 ACC teams currently ranked this year. It's going to take a win over OSU and strong ACC record to make it to the tourny in March.

Just checked SOS

It's currently 336th. There are 347 teams in DI basketball...

Miss. Valley State, Georgia Southern, and Bradley won't help. WVU isn't doing well either. BYU and Iowa are solid, but playing them won't budge the RPI much. Only OK state will make a difference in RPI, especially with a win.

Completely agree

I completely agree on the SOS bit, but my expectations are very low for this season. So if we're even in the NCAAT conversation at the end of the year, I'll be extremely happy.

If we make the NIT, meaning we had a better season than last year, I will be pleasantly surprised.

RPI at this point in the season is completely worthless.

I think it doesn't really start to become relevant until at least the 2/3 point of the season, maybe even later.

Agreed - which is why I included the 2011-12 RPI in my post.

I don't really pay attention to the fact that the teams we have played are not very good. We played teams like this under Greenberg in prior years and couldn't do what this team is doing. My one concern, though, is our defensive play. This team can play good defense, as they have showed. It is just a matter of how bad they want it, in my opinion.

And yes, the three ball is huge. For the people that kept up with the Miami Heat in the playoffs last year; yes, they had superstars like LeBron James and Dwyane Wade and an all star post player on Chris Bosh, but the weapons around them were all exceptional three point shooters. People like Shane Battier, Mike Miller, Mario Chalmers, and Norris Cole (who didn't really who his ability to shoot the three ball until The Finals) all could knock down the three and made a huge contribution. That's what I feel the Hokies have in players like Jarell Eddie, Will Johnston, and Marshall Wood, with players like Erick Green and Robert Brown being the scorers.

I love Virginia Tech, regardless of the outcome of every game.

Excited, but not raising expectations

I'm excited that it's basketball season and it's hard for a team to be less fun to watch than last year's was. That said, even with a good start I'm not raising expectations. While beating bad teams is better than losing to bad teams (which happened at times under Greenberg) I won't start raising my expectations until this team proves they can score at a similarly high rate while playing some defense against ACC opponents.

That said, I really think we're moving in the right direction under JJ. I just hope that people don't look at our record heading into ACC play (which could realistically be 10-2 or better due to a weak schedule), raise their expectations and then give up on the team if they lose to a couple of middle of the road ACC teams.

I agree. My goal for the year for this team was to get to 7 conference wins. I don't think that's unreasonable and would be a great first year for JJ. With that said, it's hard for me not to get excited for this weeks games because they could get us that national recognition JJ needs to help in recruiting.

Rip his freaking head off!

I'd be happy with that. Seven conference wins would be a great step forward especially on a team that lost a major recruit, had a starter transfer and has limited depth. I don't expect them to be great, but I'd love to see some consistency. Under Seth we had some big wins and a lot of letdowns. I'd be happy with seven wins even if they all came against the bottom half of the conference. It won't get us in the NCAA Tourney, but it would be a major step forward for a program that has had some puzzling losses (that helped keep us out of the dance). If this squad can pick up even 1 win against the ACC Top 4 (NC State, Duke, UNC, FSU) that'd just be icing on the cake.

Yeah, even with 18 conference games....

7 wins may be a high bar for VT in the ACC. Somewhere between 4 and 7 is my guess.

I also think we will be 5-3 ten days from now.

I don't think so. WVU is bad this year, I mean really bad. And while we've only beaten cupcakes, WVU doesn't even look like they're capable of doing that. I'll take us in that one. Iowa is another team that really hasn't beaten anyone, so again, even though our schedule has been easy, they are in the same spot as us. I'd put tonight as a toss-up. That leaves the OK State game, and I'm leaving my judgement for that one until after I see us play tonight.

Rip his freaking head off!

Bill Roth and Mike Burnop do just as well with B-Ball as football. Never listened to their basketball broadcast. We have the best radio duo in all of college sports, I daresay.

Two epic goatees. Two epic coaches. Tip of the Spear and The Lunchpail. GRIMES&FOSTER.

Roth does well

Burnop is not good at basketball, he doesn't know anything about it. He is effective because he teams well with Roth and s a VT cheerleader, but preferably your color guy knows the sport he s covering.

Go Hokies! This team is for real everyone. The offense can score with anyone.

Rip his freaking head off!