Buzzketball Season 4 Week 5: Ole Miss(ed a lot of threes)

This week we reflect a little more on the Iowa blowout, examine how Virginia Tech pulled off the gritty victory in Oxford, and preview two should-be easy games.

[Mark Umansky]

In Buzz Williams' self-proclaimed biggest week of Virginia Tech basketball, the Hokies went 2-0. Victories over Iowa and Ole Miss pushed Virginia Tech's record to 7-1 on the season. Buzzketball looks to move to 9-1 this week with games against Radford and Maryland-Eastern Shore.

Virginia Tech 79–Iowa 55

I already shared my real-time thoughts from press row. In addition, I believe this outcome was the best-case scenario for Virginia Tech. The Hokies' defense won't often stifle its opponents. It's just not how the Hokies built or how they play. They're built to have smaller players on the floor that can run and shoot. Consider the defense's performance — holding Iowa to 17 points in the second half on 19% shooting — as its ceiling.

A couple more thoughts upon closer examination of the box score:

  • Off his February ACL tear, Chris Clarke was restricted to 15 minutes against South Carolina. That was nudged to 20-25 minutes against Detroit Mercy, and he hit the upper bound last Tuesday night. He wasn't as present on the boards (.12 rebounds a minute) compared to last year's production (.25 rebounds a minute), but he contributed 12 points. That scoring included a three-pointer. As I previously noted, if he can reliably add the three-ball to his arsenal, there is nobody more valuable to the Hokies.
  • Virginia Tech wasn't very good on offense. The Hokies shot 43% from the field and only 30% from deep. There aren't going to be many nights when that's the case, and Tech still won by 24. That's reassuring. Partial credit to Iowa for not making a shot for nine minutes straight, but also consider this — Virginia Tech only made two three-pointers in the second half. The Hokies didn't shoot the ball anywhere close to their standards and won with a walk-on playing at the buzzer.

This win will be the bright spot on the Hokies' resume until they beat an ACC team. For it to happen on a slow night offensively is extremely encouraging.

Virginia Tech 83–Ole Miss 80 (OT)

Good teams find a way to win games that they shouldn't.

Everybody read that again. And maybe a third time as well.

Virginia Tech only held the lead for a total of 4 minutes and 32 seconds, and the Hokies' largest lead was four points with 21 ticks left in the game. Buzzketball had no business winning, and yet, they did. Let's examine the positives.

Virginia Tech finished the game with 14 turnovers.

But Henry, how is that a positive?

Good question, educated reader.

Virginia Tech committed 10 turnovers in the first half. Compare that with the total (14), and it's awfully impressive. Especially because one of the final four turnovers was an obvious attempt at an intentional foul by Ole Miss. But I digress, for now.

Virginia Tech allowed nine three-pointers.

But Henry, how is that a positive?

...Let me explain, and maybe you won't keep asking so many questions, Self.

Ole Miss started the game at a ridiculous pace. The Rebels made six out of their first eight shots from deep. And let's all be honest, everybody assumed that it would be yet another record setting game from long-range for a Hokies opponent.

Those early attempts dropped because the Hokies allowed Ole Miss' shooters to step into their shots. Whether that came off of Rebel ball movement or good passess in transition, the guards for Ole Miss were taking shots in rhythm. Once again, I will reference my high school basketball experience. When I put up a shot in rhythm, I thought it was going in. Every single time.

So what changed that held Ole Miss to 3 for 23 from deep after the first nine minutes? Yes, you read that correctly. They only made three more from the bonus-sphere after their hot start, and not a single one in the final 20 minutes of the game.

Virginia Tech did two things to slow the Rebel shooters.

1) The Hokies stopped turning the ball over. The 10 turnovers in the first half were cut into only four for the remaining 25 minutes. It's amazing what not coughing up the ball will do. It prevented Ole Miss from flipping the floor at a very quick pace, and in turn, finding the wide open shooter on the wing. It also allowed Virginia Tech to settle in their defense. Speaking of...

2) The Hokies changed their defense. I don't find it coincidental that Ole Miss struggled to find open shooters once Virginia Tech went to their full court press.

The press itself was pretty tame — a defender on the inbounder, and man pressure on any Rebel in the backcourt. Double team the first man to get the ball, and have the inbound defender rotate over to trap. Back off and apply simple ball pressure once the ball got out of that trap. It was a simple press, but it was effective.

The press shortened the shot clock to around 20 seconds, which meant less time for the Virginia Tech defenders to play and maintain their hyper-active defense. This all-out, full speed defense meant Ole Miss shooters weren't open. When a shooter isn't open, and they still shoot it, it's probably not going in.

Watch this possession.

It starts with a made basket by Clarke, which allows the Hokies to get into the press. Robinson fakes the trap once the ball is inbounded and forces the cross-court pass in the backcourt. Ole Miss crosses half court with 21 seconds on the shot clock. Bibbs is active enough to switch on a guard-on-guard ball screen. Kerry Blackshear Jr. has the energy to close out on the first shooter and forces the extra pass. Usually, that extra pass leads to wide open shot. However, Clarke sprints out at the shooter. The close-out creates a contested three-pointer attempt that rims out.

That forced ball movement created a lack of Ole Miss players in the paint to rebound. And it leads to an easy defensive board for Blackshear Jr., who starts a quick fast break with an outlet pass to Robinson. Five gets his layup attempt blocked, but the Hokies' run-and-gun style is on full display.

The Hokies forced overtime.

But Henry, how is th—

Nope. Stop that.

With about four minutes left in the game, I dropped a simple message in TKP's Slack.

"Wow, I can't wait to lose on a buzzer beater."

I thought it was one of those games. Virginia Tech had battled back from a ten-point halftime deficit, a 16-point hole in the second half, and had still managed to tie it up. Everything was going too right. I had that feeling.

Robinson turning the ball over after somehow not getting the intentional foul was a frustrating catalyst for overtime. But I'm pretty sure that the selection committee isn't going to watch every possession of this game. Trust me, I barely wanted to do it. However, the committee will see Virginia Tech was down by 16 in the second half and fought all the way back to win by three in overtime. That, in itself, is a major win.

Other positive notes:

  • Chris Clarke played 35 minutes (yet another increase) and recorded a double-double. He also grabbed a team high 12 rebounds. Just another step towards Clarke being the clear-cut best player on this team.
  • Justin Bibbs, Justin Robinson, and Nickeil Alexander-Walker combined for 15 of 18 from the free throw line. Having three guards who can shoot that reliably from the charity stripe will be huge as the Hokies look to close out close games in ACC play.
  • This type of performance from the Hokies is something the coaching staff can point to in March. It's a teaching point. A mental checkpoint. A learning experience. Being able to reference this type of showing will be huge when Virginia Tech faces adversity in post-season games.

Alright, let's take a look at some negatives!

I mentioned that 14 turnovers in the game was a positive for the Hokies, and that's true. But 10 giveaways in a half will not cut it when Virginia Tech begins conference play.

Another negative from this game was the officiating fouling. Tech will need to cut back and improve on its 24 team fouls in ACC play. I hope that the officials will be better in conference games, but those were ACC refs on Saturday in Oxford. Don't get too excited.

Ahmed Hill was seemingly whistled for all three of his personal fouls while going up in the air with his arms straight up. Blackshear Jr. was called for a foul on a clean block. Robinson should've been at the line with 10 seconds left to ice the game. Those were the calls that stood out to me. But guess what, they were made, and the Hokies need to be good enough to win through those bad breaks. On Saturday, they were.

This game was ugly. It was sloppy. It was poorly officiated. And at the end of the day, it was a Hokies' victory. It was Virginia Tech's first true away game in an SEC arena since 2008, and they flew home with the W. Let's move on.

Quote(s) of the Week

"Fast beats big when fast is really fast. But fast can only be fast when fast has the ball." — Buzz Williams

Ignoring the lack of word choice for a second, this quote stood out to me in the Iowa post-game. It's obvious that Virginia Tech will once again look to get out and run this season. That's not breaking news, but it ties into the next quote that resonated with me.

"What's happened with our team, earlier than ever before, is that they're comfortable with who we are."

Buzzketball has found its identity faster than any other season, according to Williams. I can only imagine that is a good thing.

#SCTop10 Play of the week

As soon as I saw this crossover, I knew it was going to be sitting right here.

Robinson has the best handles on the team, and the poor Iowa defender had no chance. I was on press row and therefore couldn't cheer. But trust me, I was very close.

December 6th: Virginia Tech vs. Radford

Oh good. A game against a team that desperately wants to be relevant and beat Virginia Tech. And if they do, it kills the Hokies' shot at the NCAA Tournament. Gotta love it.

The Highlanders already boast one victory over Buzz and Co., a 68–66 triumph in Williams' first season as head coach. I remember sitting in Cassell on that fateful day and thinking, 'I really hope this never happens again.'

Luckily, I don't think it will. At least, it won't any time soon. Virginia Tech bested Radford in 2015, and now play them for the third time in four years.

Radford is coming off a 13-point victory over VMI on Saturday afternoon. The Highlanders are 4-3 on the season, with losses against Ohio State, Vanderbilt, and Elon.

Season averages for Radford? They're nice.

The Hokies are down to only averaging 97 points per game. I wouldn't be surprised to see them break 100 points at least once this week.

The main threat for the Highlanders is 6'5" F Ed Polite Jr., who's averaging 13 points per game while playing 30 minutes a contest. Here he is doing some nasty things to the VMI rim.

Another player to keep an eye out for is Caleb Tanner, a local sharpshooter from Floyd that can make just about anything. I played against him once in high school and he truly has unlimited range. He's only averaging seven points per game, but the Hokies best be stepping out on him when he has the ball.

December 10th: Virginia Tech vs. Maryland-Eastern Shore

Virginia Tech KenPom rank: 35th

Maryland-Eastern Shore KenPom rank: 340th

By metrics, the Hawks are the worst team the Hokies will pla-

squints

shakes head

Sorry, I got on auto-pilot there and just assumed that there was no way Virginia Tech plays one of the only 11 lower-rated teams this season. Then I saw Presbyterian at No. 342. Anyways.

There's not much to say about this game. UMES averages only 61 points per game, and are allowing, surprisingly, only 71. However, when you take a deeper dive into their schedule, the Hawks allowed 96 points to both Maryland and Saint Bonaventure. That's a season-high in terms of points for those respective teams.

In conclusion, based on many hours of analysis and deep thought, I believe that Virginia Tech will win. They'll probably have yet another shot at eclipsing the century mark.

Thomas Miryne, a true freshman forward, is the Hawks' leading scorer. He's averaging 13 points per game while playing 27 minutes. He's listed as 6'8" on the official roster, so he's a bit of a stretch forward. A la Zach LeDay.

This is one of those games where I'm going to look for the coaching staff to mess with the lineup rotations, try some different defensive looks, and maybe incorporate more offensive sets. Williams has been quoted several times this season saying that Virginia Tech probably has the least amount of actual offensive sets installed in the entire country.

This upcoming week is yet another great chance to get everything clicking and well oiled. Rupp Arena looms in the distance.

Comments

Just a quick bit: I love the title of this thread.

Can't wait to read this when I get to work

I hate to keep chiming on this, but I really hope this is the last year of scheduling 300+ teams. Our home OOC schedule is a joke, the best opponent was the one that ESPN scheduled for us. We should replace the likes of UMES and Presbeteryian with A-10, or even CAA, schools.

^YES!!!!

Why aren't we scheduling VCU and UR annually?

Maybe they are like Wisconsin in football and keep ducking us?

Since it always seems to be the state schools that are brought up I took a look at our scheduling history since joining the ACC for all VA D1 programs:

  • VMI - 7 (6 home) - LAST 2016
  • Radford - 5 (4 home) - LAST 2017
  • ODU - 3 (1 home) - LAST 2007
  • Longwood - 3 (3 home) - LAST 2011
  • Richmond 3 (2 home) - LAST 2009
  • JMU - 2 (1 home) - LAST 2006
  • W&M - 2 (1 home) - LAST 2005
  • VCU - 1 (1 neutral) - LAST 2013 - Part of Governor's Classic, not scheduled by VT
  • Norfolk St - 1 (1 home) - LAST 2011
  • Mason - 0 - LAST 1992
  • Liberty - 2 (2 home) - LAST 2014
  • Hampton - 0

So if we say the "top" OOC VA schools are VCU/UR/ODU/GMU, then VT has scheduled them 6 times in 14 years since joining the ACC. If anything it looks like VT is ducking them....

For discussions sake, I decided to look at the RPI (as of today) of the teams you listed, with the "top" OOC VA schools in bold. Radford is on our schedule and is in italics.

  • VMI - 268
  • Radford - 139
  • ODU - 65
  • Longwood - 351
  • Richmond - 242
  • JMU - 333
  • W&M - 152
  • VCU - 145
  • Norfolk St - 305
  • Mason - 181
  • Liberty - 185
  • Hampton - 227

Then I looked at our current OOC schedule. We can't do anything about the ACC schedule, so I compared the lowest ranked of the "top" schools against our schedule. Teams above Richmond (242) are in bold. Teams above VCU (145) are in italics. Teams above ODU (65) are underlined.

  • Detroit Mercy - 171
  • Citadel - 293
  • Saint Louis - 215
  • Washington - 103
  • Houston Baptist - 167
  • Morehead St. - 271
  • Iowa - 241
  • Mississippi - 133
  • Radford - 139
  • MD Eastern Shore - 223
  • Kentucky - 15
  • Presbyterian - 257
  • N.C. A&T - 162

We have 8 of 13 higher than the lowest "top" school, 5 of 13 higher than the 3rd best, 4 of 13 higher than the 2nd best, and 1 of 13 higher than the best. Not one school is currently below 300 in RPI (3 are in-state). I would prefer we play schools 200 or higher, but you can't always predict these things or get them to schedule you.

I would love to see us play more in-state schools. I think we would be able to beat them, but there's a balancing act of playing good teams and getting guys experience going into conference play.

For fun, here's our ACC schedule with RPI.

  • Syracuse - 25
  • Virginia - 11
  • Pittsburgh - 170
  • Wake Forest - 206
  • Louisville - 96
  • Florida St. - 23
  • N. Carolina - 9
  • Notre Dame - 43
  • Boston Coll. - 136
  • Miami (FL) - 45
  • N.C. State - 101
  • Virginia - 11
  • Duke - 1
  • Georgia Tech - 195
  • Clemson - 34
  • Louisville - 96
  • Duke - 1
  • Miami (FL) - 45

Source: http://realtimerpi.com/college_Men_basketball_rpi_Full.html

and while you're at it, schedule ODU for us 757 folks

I don't quite get it either.

Hopefully we'll see some quality opponents in the non-exempt event next year - the 2018 Gildan Charleston Classic will include Alabama, Appalachian State, Ball State, Davidson, Northeastern, Purdue and Wichita State.

I'm pretty sure part of Buzz's deal is that he has full control over scheduling, but I'd like to see Buzz throw a bone to the alumni bases in DC and Richmond every year. I'd love to see some games against GMU or Georgetown (although the way Ewing seems to be scheduling, they're going to play creampuffs OOC every year). Heck, I bet you could even entice JMU into a game at the Verizon Center that would get a pretty good turnout from both fanbases.

If Buzz doesn't want a true road game, organizing some type of showcase thing in Richmond or DC every year would be a solid option. Play someone like W&M, ODU or Hampton at the Richmond Coliseum, even if I'd rather play VCU at the Seigel Center or UR at the Robins Center.

I hope he gets more creative with scheduling. We're seeing interesting stuff this year with games like Villanova-Gonzaga at MSG (tonight on ESPN), but he could certainly do something more regional.

Playing GMU is a win-win (unless you lose). You get a true road game, but will likely have a pro-Hokie crowd. You can get a win against a pretty good team, and a road loss early in the season against an A-10 isn't so bad for your resume.

Outside its night time, but inside its LeDay

I wouldn't bet on that. I went to the UVa @ GMU game about 5 years back and my memory is it was sold out and a decidedly pro-GMU crowd.

I agree that it would still likely be a pro-GMU crowd against the Hokies, but I think VT would bring a bigger contingent than UVA.

This is completely anecdotal and probably doesn't mean anything in the grand scheme of things, but I live & work in Fairfax near GMU and for whatever reason, I see far more cars sporting VT paraphernalia than UVA on my daily commute.

I go to Mason for grad school and there are always a few VT stickers in the parking lot

Outside its night time, but inside its LeDay

Was the same when I was at JMU, and my truck was one of them.

"That kid you're talking to right there, I think he played his nuts off! And you can quote me on that shit!" -Bud Foster

I should also add that you can't drive from Annandale to Fairfax City without seeing at least 1 VT sticker. Those VT fans can't get to Blacksburg for a game as easily as UVA fans can get to Charlottesville, so I do think there is a bigger market for Hokies going to GMU games. Especially if VT advertises it well.

Outside its night time, but inside its LeDay

Buzz seems a bit skiddish on scheduling quality mid-major opponents opponents with a pulse in OOC play (outside of 1 or 2 marquee games)... I remember in the Citadel post game interview he said something along the lines of 'we shouldn't be playing teams like this, the only reason I scheduled them is because of my respect for their coach.' Implying that the Citadel was a dangerous team (even though they are a middle to lower end SoCon team). I think Alabama State still haunts him...

The only reason Alabama State haunts him because they were 300+ and we lost. If you schedule a better OOC team and lose it is not so detrimental. You replace that loss with a loss to GMU/ODU/UR/VCU and we probably would have been in the bubble conversation that year.

Was he implying that the Citadel was a dangerous team? I took it to mean that he knew we shouldn't be playing teams demonstrably less talented and equipped than we were, that it doesn't look good other than on the offensive stat line to be beating up on teams like the Citadel. But that's just the way it sounded to me when he said it postgame. I have heard no further elucidation.

Reel men fish on Wednesdays

I think he meant the Citadel in the fact that they don't play "normal" basketball.

Always choose joy.

I took it as there being a few factors of why we shouldn't be playing them, but it boiled down to playing Citadel doesn't do our team any good and it's almost a wasted game. There's too big a talent gap and Citadel doesn't play like any of our serious competition will play. Basically Buzz said he is playing the series as a favor to a friend. Hopefully we move on and play someone else next year. An actual series with USCe might be good, but I doubt that will happen due to the regular scrimmages we have with them every preseason.

Especially love the bench yelling at the Ole Miss player during the full court press clip

Those were ACC ref's? That was the worst officiated VT game I've seen this season. Not sure if they just called everything the way of the home team out of habit, or called everything against VT out of habit, but the ACC has a problem with the way basketball officials are evaluated and retained. At least playing in front of them is good practice for conference season. #GOACC.

Sometimes we live no particular way but our own

College basketball must be the most difficult sport in the wide world of sports to officiate or something. I agree with you that the refs at that game were atrocious, and yes, worse than any other game I've seen this season. I've long been a vocal critic of b-ball reffing, to the point of being obnoxious at games and whining like a dog at the tv, but it just doesn't seem to be getting better. I was surprised to learn they were ACC refs. The non call on Robinson alone should get a couple of guys fined and sent back to "Obvious Fouls 101" for a refresher course.

Reel men fish on Wednesdays

27. Virginia Tech Hokies
This team can shoot the ball, stretch the floor and punch the paint. Virginia Tech will be a handful for Kentucky and so many others. Chris Clarke has one of the best motors in college basketball.

http://www.espn.com/mens-college-basketball/story/_/id/21664213/bilas-in...

Seems like Bilas is pretty high on us so far this year in his volume 1 of the best 68 teams in the nation, we sit at 27, not that it means much, come selection time for the tournament.

Edit: ...come selection time for the tournament.

"...I'm getting a little tired of hearing how good everybody else is..." -Coach Fu [This week: 1-0]

Bilas loves Chris Clarke's game. Jay has talked about him a handful of times and put Clarke on a few of his early season watch lists.

This is a good read from Bilas on the NCAA. Sometimes I can't stand his Duke homerism, but I really appreciate his insights and outspokenness on the corruption and outright lack of logic applied to the NCAA and college basketball.

With regards to scheduling, I get the impression that Buzz has just been slow and hesitant in OOC scheduling while he builds this program to where he wants it to be. And I think the roster, the talent, the rebuild is ahead of schedule, compared to where he thought it would be when making the schedules.

It would be interesting to go back and look at his scheduling history during his time at Marquette.

--
"It's time to go play Virginia Tech Football longer and harder than anybody else in America!!" -- Justin Fuente
"I put a brick in Sacksburg today." -- Cam Phillips

Buzz Williams Season 1 @Marquette
Wisconsin
Tennessee
@NC State
Season 2
NC State
@Wisconsin
Season 3
Duke Neutral
Gonzaga Neutral
@Vanderbilt
Season 4/ Where we are now
@Wisconsin
Washington Neutral
@LSU

Seems like he got about 2 or 3 power 5 games per year in OOC

Thanks. So actually, fairly similar in terms of Power 5. But what about the 1-100 RPI and the +300 RPI teams? Not asking you to actually do this, but just posing the question.

--
"It's time to go play Virginia Tech Football longer and harder than anybody else in America!!" -- Justin Fuente
"I put a brick in Sacksburg today." -- Cam Phillips

Some of the teams we have been playing looked pretty familiar with his +300 RPI teams.
Seems like we've played most of that his teams played back at Marquette

That Washington win looks a hell of a lot better.

Definitely a lot of no names.
I'd say Buzz wants between 2-5 decent to good OOC games and the rest be ones we can win with ease.

I love Buzzketball enough to NOT outright complain about out schedule. BUT, if it were up to me, our non-conference opponents would look something like this, 4 last year's rpi 250-100 teams, 4 LY-rpi 100-1 teams, add the bonus game wherever Buzz wants (Citadel?), and the top 4 in-state LY-rpi teams, to give us a non-con opponent ratio of 1/7/5 (LY-rpis 250+/250-100/<100) and 13 OOC games. The Big-ACC challenge team is more likely than not to fall in that LY-rpi <100 group, but even it doesn't, 5 LY-rpi 250-100 teams and 3 LY-rpi 100-1 teams for a ratio of 1/8/4 wouldn't be bad. This years ratio, by comparison, I will admit, is bad at 3/9/1.

“I remember Lee Corso's car didn't get out of the parking lot.” -cFB

We will never have 4 OOC opponents in the <100 group unless we are invited to one of the bigger preseason tournaments. I'd expect no more than 2 opponents in the <100 group for OOC, and really that will still depend on the ACC-Big10 challenge.

"Facyson is a baller."
-CFB