Buzzketball Season 4 Week 6: Lexington Trip Looms Large for Virginia Tech

This week we analyze more blowouts and the Hokies' upcoming date with the Wildcats.

[Mark Umansky]

In a week of non-competitive games, Virginia Tech went 2-0, with ease. The Hokies bested Radford and Maryland-Eastern Shore. Those wins push Buzzketball to 9-1 on the season. Tech will attempt to move to 10-1 with an upset win over Kentucky on Saturday. A contest John Calipari is not overlooking.

"I'm going to tell you one that you guys aren't thinking about and when we play the game you'll say, 'Holy cow were they good?' Virginia Tech," Calipari said. "That's going to be a really hard game for us to win. I don't care that it's at home. That will be a difficult game."

December 6: Virginia Tech 95–Radford 68

The Hokies started this game a tad slow overall, and Radford hung around behind hot shooting and a solid defense. It wasn't until Virginia Tech utilized 14-2 and 9-0 runs in the first half that Tech began to show more control.

Radford isn't a terrible team. They gave Ohio State and Vanderbilt close games, and only lost by 10 and 12 points respectively. However, the Hokies looked dominant by the end of the game.

Shooting a blistering 62% from the field, 53% from deep, and 81% from the charity stripe, Virginia Tech held onto the country's best scoring average (96.6 points after this game).

Justin Bibbs and Kerry Blackshear Jr. led the team with 20 points a piece. Blackshear Jr. also snagged six rebounds, a game high. Bibbs contributed his points via 80% from the field (8 for 10) which included 80% from deep (4 for 5).

Every other player who played significant minutes for the Hokies — Ammerman and Fullard don't count, sadly — scored at least four points. Diversity among scorers is extremely important for the Hokies this season. Tech can't rely on only a couple scorers, as their defense won't compliment an underwhelming output.

The Hokies' performance from the free throw line was extremely encouraging. Blackshear Jr. shot a perfect 11 for 11, and freshman Nickeil Alexander-Walker contributed 7 for 9. Tech leads the country in free throws attempted and free throws made. Keep that pace up and it'll be a way for the Hokies to secure precious points.

One more positive from this game, surprisingly, was the Hokies' defense. Seems rather contradictory to what I wrote above. Let's discuss.

As previously mentioned, Radford isn't a terrible team. They rank 156th in adjusted offense according to KenPom, a category where ACC foe Georgia Tech is 204th. Virginia Tech held the Highlanders to 43% from the field and a mere 15% from distance. It's an encouraging step forward for the Hokies' defense, but I'm still not sold. Save for the second half against Iowa, Tech hasn't locked down on defense. And those games have been against underwhelming competition. They have two more non-conference games against terrible teams where, hopefully, progress is made for Tech's defense. The Hokies need to become a more cohesive unit when guarding their basket. Too many easy layups and open jumpers have been given up.

December 10: Virginia Tech 93–Maryland Eastern Shore 40

Oof. This was an absolute whooping. I knew it would be lopsided, but didn't think it'd get that out of hand.

Let's examine the numbers that tell the story.

55% vs. 29%

Feel free to guess which shooting percentage belongs to each team.

The Hokies had 21 assists on 35 made baskets. Maryland Eastern Shore had 11 assists, which isn't too shabby, but they only had 15 made shots all game.

38-7

Surprisingly, the game was close in the opening minutes. The score was at 16-15 with 12 minutes left in the first period. Tech first expanded that one-point lead to an 18-point margin, courtesy of an initial 17-0 run. They then continued their expected dominance, finishing the first half on a 38-7 spurt.

To put that thrashing in perspective, the Hokies finished the game on a 77-25 run, and at one point it was a 65-15 jaunt.

Chris Clarke reflected after the game on what changed to allow such a impressive showing.

"The rhythm and our pace really helped us out," said Clarke. "We started to get stops. They were shooting a really good percentage in that first segment of the first half."

15

There are two scenarios where this number applies. Both involve three-point shooting.

  • Virginia Tech drilled 15 attempts from deep, two away tying from the team record. Tech made those 15 shots at a 56% rate, and exhibited again why they're going to be a very dangerous team in ACC play.
  • Maryland Eastern Shore shot 15% from the bonus-sphere. Virginia Tech really stepped up its defense. (Is that worth writing given the opponent...) The Hokies played so well on defense that it didn't feel like the Hawks were shooting at even a 15% clip.

Prior to the tip, Tech hadn't proven its defense was capable of holding a team to a paltry amount of points. That narrative evolved. There are plenty of stats to point to to buoy that claim, e.g. Maryland-Eastern Shore didn't make a shot from the field in the second half until the 9:53 mark.

TL;DR: The Hawks' largest lead was 2 points (18:55, 1st half),Tech's was 54.

Quote of the Week and #SCTop10 Play of the Week

Here you see a man who tore his ACL about ten months ago, gliding down the court with ease. He then proceeds to do what I can only assume to be magic, and converts a layup while simultaneously crashing into the stanchion.

Buzz Williams remarked on this play, and Clarke's progress in the postgame presser.

"He's beginning to have more comfort in 'Yeah, I'm back full speed. I can do this now'," said Williams. "When you're herky-jerky, and you tear a ligament, I think it takes time before you feel comfortable. I do think he's more confident."

Williams then simultaneously enriched my vocabulary and went into more specifics about said layup.

"The whirly dervish layup that he made," added Williams. "He wouldn't have made that the second week of the season. He wouldn't have shot that shot. It would've stayed on the left lane line. He wouldn't have gone under the basket."

December 16: Virginia Tech at Kentucky

Buzzketball's trip to Kentucky has been circled on my calendar since the game was announced in May. And I'll be in Rupp Arena, checking it off my bucket list.

Kentucky is No. 8 in the current AP poll, although they haven't beaten anyone of note. Their marquee game thus far this season was against Kansas. The Wildcats lost a hard fought contest 61-65 .

The Wildcats have uncharacteristically struggled at home this year, making hard work of dispatching teams such as Vermont and Harvard. Vermont is a tournament caliber team however, so I don't consider that 73-69 victory too much of a worry for Calipari's team.

This game presents a huge opportunity for Buzzketball. One the aforementioned moniker's namesake sought out.

"I told Jeff [Reynolds, Director of Game Management] ] that I wanted to play the best team in the country and I wanted to play on the road," said Williams. "Let's play at Arizona. Let's play at Kentucky. Let's go play somewhere ... if a committee member were to look at it, there would be ... someone who said that we did it."

These are the type of big-time matchups Hokie Nation wants to see scheduled. A loss is barely a typo on the Hokies' resume come March, but walk off the floor victorious, and it's a headline for Tech.

Williams realizes this fact.

"It'll be good for us. Good or bad, it'll be good for us."

Even though Williams jokingly answered a question about expectations for Saturday with a coy "We'll see", the Hokies can, in fact, win this game.

Well duh, Henry. They can technically win any game they play.

Prior to Williams' arrival, it was inconceivable to imagine Tech competing with a non-conference blueblood of the Wildcats' calibur anytime soon. Now it's plausible to believe Tech is capable of going into Rupp Arena and beating Kentucky. I'm not guaranteeing a win, but a realistic chance is there.

Tech must continue to shoot the ball extremely well. Put up, and make, double-digit three-pointers and Tech will have a chance against any team they play this season. That includes Kentucky. On the contrary, if Virginia Tech doesn't convert their open shots, it will be a long night.

However, if we're being completely honest, Kentucky isn't the toughest test the Hokies will face this season. And Williams agrees with this sentiment.

"I think it's great for our program," said Williams."But, and I mean this respectfully. We're going to play teams just as good or better, than Kentucky over the next 60 days. We're going to play in arenas where the ambience is just as good or better."

Even though the Hokies will face stiffer competition in January, February, and March, Saturday is Buzzketball's first moment to show their fans what to expect during ACC play.

Virginia Tech must also get out and run the fast break whenever they have the chance. The undersized Hokies will get outrebounded. It's not a prediction, it's a certainty. Calipari has assembled one of the tallest teams in the country; seven players stand at 6'7" or taller. Tech, in comparison, has two players of the same qualifications. And one of them only plays with one minute left in a blowout.

Because of this size disadvantage, the Hokies must take every opportunity they can muster to reign in a rebound and push the ball up the floor. Tech has looked like a completely different team this season when on a fast break compared to when they're running sets in the halfcourt.

"We'll do what we do best," said Nickeil Alexander-Walker. "Get multiple paint touches, make open shots, make it easier for each other."

Virginia Tech has an opportunity to make a statement on Saturday afternoon. The Hokies have the capability to pull it off, it's just a question of whether they capitalize on their potential.

Comments

I'm excited to see what kind of line Vegas puts on this game. With the way we spread the ball around and shoot, I just can't imagine a scenario where we get run off the floor. I'm expecting KJ and PJ to get tested early and often (and probably get into foul trouble), but Kentucky is bad at guarding the 3 this year and we have 5+ guys who can highlight that on Saturday.

Put up, and make, double-digit three-pointers and Tech will have a chance against any team they play this season

So much this^^^

Great write up Henry. Can't wait for this game hope to see you up there on press row!

When I first woke up and read this title (granted I hadn't had any coffee), I asked myself, "Why is VMI a big game?" So yeah..... It's going to be one of those days.

"What kind of person would throw away a perfectly good dog?"

So ummm... about that Kentucky game

ESPN says we're the favorite to win... and.. you'll want to sit down for this... the odds are growing in our favor (51.5% last night vs 51.6% today)

"Some days you’re a horse and some days you’re a horse’s ass. I’ve been a horse’s ass for a little while." - Roy Halladay

I think once I got over the initial shock of seeing that, it kind of makes sense. Our size forces us to play a type of basketball that is going to stretch out the UK big man forest down low and force them away from the basket. They're a super young team that seems to still be finding its identity, and we've already found ours. That's not to say they're not going to be a great team come March, but I think we're catching them early enough to take advantage.

They're 231st in opposing 3s made (8.2/gm) and we've all seen how good we are at draining them. As the saying goes, when you live by the 3, you die by the 3, but it makes me a lot more comfortable when pretty much everyone on the team can shoot from range.

Yea I'm sure that's based almost entirely on BPI. And it doesn't take much to see how flawed BPI is as it puts us at 12, only two spots behind Duke... and puts Purdue at #4. Vegas will show the true numbers for this game because they won't go off such a flawed system like BPI. If you look at KenPom or any other advanced stats it will show Kentucky is obviously the better team and being at home is worth another few points on the spread.

However, this is shaping up to be a close game. Nobody is denying that but I rarely look at ESPN for those kinds of things. Vegas always has the better numbers there and I expect us to be 3-6 point dogs once they release their numbers.

We've gained .3%

it's a great test for a developing team. It will surely give us a good indication of our progress, win or lose, we are moving in a great direction. Thanks Buzz!

Moving this to the more pertinent thread...
_________________________________________

Sacha Killeya-Jones and Quade Green (starting PG) are hurt and may not play.... Green's eye was swollen shut against Monmouth... would be a big loss for them.

Killeya- Jones (6-10 F) has an ankle issue and missed Monmouth game.

If those two are out it is a 6-7 man rotation for UK with Calipari's son playing PG

UK is ridiculously young and therefore inconsistent in really all phases except rebounding where they can destroy you on the boards with their length. We can't get obliterated on the boards and allow them to shoot 40% and still will due to second shots.

'Its easy to grin, when your ship comes in, and you've got the stock market beat,
but the man worthwhile, is the man who can smile, when his shorts are too tight in the seat'

We don't have to worry about offensive boards if we just sink all our shots...

Gotta agree with Henry that we have a chance, and with Buzz that win or lose, this is a good game to be playing. Kentucky is big, Rupp is big, the moment will likely be bigger to our kids than theirs. Just hope none of that is too big for our guys because, like we all know, there will be even bigger games to come this year. Don't want to go down too much in the first half to be able to dig out and overcome in the second half, but would be surprised if we're even or ahead after the first. I'm nervous already, but waaaay looking forward to this game.

Reel men fish on Wednesdays

I mean, not to downplay Rupp at all, but with regular trips to the Smith Center and Cameron Indoor, its not like our team hasn't been in as tough if not tougher environments. Yes, its one of the biggest OOC games our basketball program has played in a very long time, but the stage shouldn't be too big. Yes, its the biggest on campus arena we'll play in (23k capacity), but that's only marginally larger than UNC (21.75k). This stage shouldn't be too big, we should be used to it.

"Some days you’re a horse and some days you’re a horse’s ass. I’ve been a horse’s ass for a little while." - Roy Halladay

UK message boards are actually calling it "Funeral Home Arena." They certainly don't seem to be expecting a sell out crowd especially with the students on break.

Ya, their break really works in our favor. Let's get this signature W.

"What kind of person would throw away a perfectly good dog?"

It really is crazy to think of how far this program has come.... we are getting ready to play @ Kentucky and the fanbase feels like they have a shot at winning, It really is a testament to what Whit sold to Buzz and Buzz for building it. Now we just need to capitalize on the opportunity, the fanbase is hungry after the football team failed to capitalize on their 2 shots on the national stage this year.

A win Saturday and we would likely be ranked and back on the national basketball radar. If Arizona State can do it, so can Virginia Tech.

Not a chance in hell we beat Kentucky at Rupp on Saturday.

Incidentally, my friend used to call his one night stands "Caliparis" because they were one and done.

"What are you going to do, stab me? - Quote from Man Stabbed

7LOP's Stone Cold Lock of the Century of the Week can't be restricted to Football alone

Ahhh shiat... I forgot. I got too excited about the ability to use one of my favorite gifs.

"What are you going to do, stab me? - Quote from Man Stabbed

Good thing we're on earth then fam!

Always choose joy.

And not in Morgantown or Charlottesville

I'm with Nate23 on this, we are going to Rupp, to play Kentucky and amongst some experts are picked to win. Buzz has made incredible strides in such a short time. It's an exciting time to be a fan of Hokie BB. I am going into Saturday with zero expectations, but man IF we pull this win off, it'll speak a lot to where we are as a program. I hate to say this, because the comparison is apples to oranges, but I feel like this offensive scheme is very Golden State like. Granted they have way better shooters than we do, but they don't worry about size, and neither do we. The comparison is apples to oranges when you don't have a defensive whiz kid Draymond Green in the paint or outside the arc to stretch the defense. For all the arguments that we need size, Golden State has proved on a bigger stage, that it isn't the case.

Disclaimer: I know this is an apples to oranges comparison, I'm strictly speaking of the offensive strategy/height limitations. No need to take this thread off the rails with the standard "But they don't have anyone over 6'7" PAWWWWLLLLL, in the tournament you need size PAWWWWLLLLLL, we don't have Steph Curry PAWWWWLLLL (even though we could've, but that's another story)"

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

I actually had this exact same thought when I was watching our game Sunday against UMES. I really dislike golden state so it's hard for me to admit, but we do play a very similar style and have a similar mentality like you stated as far as versatility between positions. It's a very fun style to watch, I just personally don't love some of the personalities on their team

I think what made me think about it was when I was watching highlights of the game on YT; there were about 4 or 5 instances when we penetrated the lane, and then made a baseline pass to the far corner, for a corner 3. I was like, "if that ain't a Golden State set I don't know what is." I know many teams run this set, but I honestly had to do a double take and make sure I wasn't watching GSW highlights, it just looked so similar.

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

I don't think Steve Kerr gets enough credit. Yes, they are stacked but the offensive system they run is beautiful basketball

"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 would like to have a 7 footer who plays like a guard like Golden State has as well. I think that helps

Agreed having KD does help, but GSW were good even before KD came around. Even before KD's arrival most of the team was listed under 6'7"-6'9" (other than Bogut).

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

The Two Deep guys did a solid preview with a couple UK fans this week. Definitely worth a listen if you haven't checked it out already. Also, Two Deep is finally available on Spotify!

Loving these write-ups!

Never had so much fun watching basketball as I am so far this season. It is clear that Buzz has a vision for how he wants the team to play, that the players understand this vision, have bought into it, and are doing a good job of executing it night in and night out.

--
"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

I find it weird that Kentucky is ranked #8, has a home game, and an unranked visiting team is favored to win...

I've been to several games this year, and while we haven't played the best competition, we have been shooting considerably well from behind the arc. I look forward to watching this game (hopefully) boost our tournament resume while dressed in my ugly Christmas suit while attending a bar crawl in DT Roanoke.

VT Marketing Class of 2009
Current Roanoke-Hokie
Go Hokies!

dressed in my ugly Christmas suit while attending a bar crawl

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#extendbronco

I think we're a pretty similar team to Kansas, who eked out a win against Kentucky on a neutral court. We both lack depth at the 5 position, lack front court size, run a lot, and rely on 3s. UK is not great offensively, and at this point in the season relies mostly on size and athleticism on defense. I don't think we'll see a lot of Hill because he won't be able to get his shot off against UK's length. If the rest of the guys are feeling it from deep and KJ can stay in the game until after the final media timeout I think we'll have a chance. Hopefully Buzz will have us using a lot of screens in the halfcourt, UK's freshman could have a lot of trouble with those especially if they open up a shooter.

Outside its night time, but inside its LeDay

#FUENTEenFUEGO
Waho's suck
Uva swallows

Someone explain to me why there's still no line to be found on this game. Do they not put out lines for college basketball until 24 hours before? Seems to me that once neither team has a game left to play beforehand, Vegas/bookies would want a few extra days to cash in/adjust lines and whatnot.

Also, the ESPN predictive thingy is up to 51.9% for the good guys

Kentucky had opened as a 5 point favorite

"Some days you’re a horse and some days you’re a horse’s ass. I’ve been a horse’s ass for a little while." - Roy Halladay

That's fair, we're getting the respect we deserve. Lot's of the public money going on UK, not surprising. 70-80% according to a few random sites I track.