Buzzketball Season 4 Week 12: Hokies Hit the Road

Virginia Tech embarks on on a crucial two-game road stretch.

[Mark Umansky]

"If the Hokies can pull out one win during this two-game stretch, it's a success."

That's how I ended my column last week. Virginia Tech did just that and captured their first signature win of the season against North Carolina, 80-69.

It wasn't all rainbows and sunshine though. The former of the pair of games pitted the Hokies against Florida State, a contest that Tech struggled in, and eventually lost 91-82.

Heading into two crucial road games, the Hokies sit at 14-6 (3-4). Buzzketball travels to Notre Dame and then on to fiesty Boston College. It's a key five-day stretch.

Virginia Tech 82–Florida State 91

Frustrating. It's the best way to describe this game.

The loss for the Hokies revolved around two main issues: turnovers and free throws.

The Hokies committed 13 turnovers against the Seminoles. Those giveaways turned into 20 points for FSU — an impressive 1.54 points/turnover. By comparison, the Hokies forced 10 turnovers but only converted them into 8 points — a ratio of .8 points/turnover. If my math is correct, a difference in ratio of .74.

On the free throw front, Tech was uncharacteristically cold. Before the Florida State game, the Hokies were shooting 74% (325 for 439) from the charity stripe. Against the Seminoles, Tech shot just 53.3% (8 for 15).

From my perch on press row, the Hokies always felt one step behind. Whenever Tech made a run, the Seminoles were eager to get to the basket to hit a dagger layup. To further frustrate the home fans, the star of the game for FSU was M.J. Walker — a 5-star recruit that the Hokies missed out on in the 11th hour.

There's not much to say about the game that I didn't write already in my recap. The Seminoles looked like the better team. FSU had the height advantage and capitalized on it in the second half, wearing down the undersized Hokies.

Virginia Tech 80–North Carolina 69

It was crucial for the Hokies to win this game. To further compound the sense of urgency, the Hokies played only 48 hours after their loss to the Seminoles. The high stakes were obvious. Tech hadn't picked up a quality win, and risked starting ACC play with a f 2-5 record. If there was ever going to be a must-win game in January, it was this one.

As I mentioned in my post-game recap, Tech excelled in areas of play that pundits and fans expected for all season. The three-point shooting was up. The turnover rate was down. The rebounding was up. The fouls were down.

The sequence to end the first half made it clear that it was going to be Tech's night from deep. A 15-2 run, including four treys, gave the Hokies a lead they would never relinquish. Those daggers came from unexpected players though. Wabissa Bede, Chris Clarke, Kerry Blackshear Jr., and Justin Robinson. Out of that group, Robinson is the least surprising. The rest of them though, less predictable. Blackshear Jr. and Clarke have been known to knock down a deep shot every now and then, but not consistently. Bede has only hoisted 13 total shots from beyond the arc all season.

That spurt gave every ounce of momentum to the Hokies heading into the locker room. Tech used the Big Mo on Big Monday after the break to push back against every run the Tar Heels made.

Quote of the week

Robinson when asked on whether the team was able to exhale after the UNC game.

"Yeah. For a second. Until 12 o'clock. We felt good. We played hard all game. We got back to our identity as a team, and just played how we know how to play. Just the overall atmosphere as a team, before the game and after, was pretty big as a family."

Play of the Week

This buzzer beater from Robinson created an atmosphere I had never heard in Cassell before. It was loud.

January 27: Virginia Tech at Notre Dame

The Hokies catch a huge break against the Irish. 2017 All-ACC forward and preseason All-American Bonzie Colson is still recovering from a broken foot suffered in early January. Before being sidelined, Colson was easily one of the elite post players in college basketball. He's like a LeDay 3.0. Undersized, scrappy, mentally and physically tough.

Addendum: As I was writing this paragraph, it was announced by head coach Mike Brey that Irish point guard Matt Farrell will be out indefinitely with a bone bruise. Colson and Farrell are the two leading scorers in South Bend.

"Notre Dame, without Bonzie Colson, is No. 1 in the league in offensive rebounding percentage, tied with Florida State and North Carolina, entering today," said Williams after the UNC game. "It's absurd."

The Irish are now seventh in-conference, snagging 11 rebounds a game on the offensive end. Don't let that six spot drop deceive you. It's a gap of just 2.6 rebounds from No. 1 to No. 7.

Tech needs to demonstrate the UNC game wasn't a false positive. The Hokies flashed their potential against the Heels — good shooting, fast pace, better rebounding, less foul trouble. All the things I've mentioned before. But it hasn't been on display in the other ACC games.

Tech has turned the ball over 10+ times in every ACC game except against Pittsburgh (the Panthers are 0-8 in the ACC) and UNC. They've shot under their season average (40%) from deep in five of their seven conference games.

For the Hokies, a quality road win is ripe for the picking. Notre Dame is at No. 30 in the Pomeroy Rating. Buzzketball sits at No. 49. The Irish have struggled after losing their engine (on the) block. The Irish are currently on a four game losing streak. Tech has confidence following their shallacking of the Tar Heels. Hopefully, the perfect storm creates some more lightning.

January 31: Virginia Tech at Boston College

Ah yes. Conte Forum. More like, Can't-Win Forum. Say it quickly with a British accent. It basically sounds the same.

Tech is 3-11 in Chestnut Hill. 3 and 11! However, there's always a silver lining: Two of those three wins have come under Williams. An even better silver lining: Tech has only played in Chestnut Hill twice with Williams as head coach.

The Eagles have been a tough team at home this year. Victories over Florida State and Duke have helped propel BC to a 3-5 ACC record.

Boston College has a week off before the Hokies roll into town. Their last game out is an 18-point loss against Syracuse on January 24.

Jerome Robinson and Ky Bowman lead the Eagles again this season, averaging 18 and 16 points per game respectively. Jordan Chatman, the sharpshooter who lit up the Hokies from deep in Cassell last season, returns as well. If you don't remember his performance, let me hurt you again. Chatman made his first nine attempts from deep. He finished the game 9 for 11 from three — setting the record for most threes made against a Tech team. Ever. Chatman is averaging 13 points/game and is a 44% shooter from deep this season.

Road wins don't come easily in the ACC. However, it's entirely possible that the Hokies can string together two Ws away from the Cassell. The amount of confidence and momentum that scenario would provide this squad can not be understated.

Going 1-1 is acceptable — as long as the loss is to Notre Dame. The Irish are still a tournament quality team once Colson and Farrell return, so a loss in South Bend won't hurt the resume too much. A loss to the Eagles would. Boston College is still a couple years out from being an ACC contender. An absolute no-no for the Hokies is an 0-2 road trip. Buzzketball must win one.

Comments

Great article Skutt, as always.

Call me Mr. Optimist, but I like the odds of going 2-0 on this road trip. Although frustrating at times, this is a good team. The defensive effort I saw vs. UNCheat was the one thing I hadn't seen most of the season. If they play with that level of intensity on the defensive front, they will be competitive against every team left on the schedule. That kind of defense leads to turnovers, better chance of rebounds and we all know what this team can do in transition.

I'd just started following basketball more closely during the end of the Greenberg era (not having played or followed basketball my whole life), so it's been a process (and a tough one at that... *cough JJ era). However, since Buzz took over, I have learned to like the sport and the different nuances that make the difference between a W or an L. So here's to a great ending of the season and an invite to go dancing! Go Hokies!

It's really hard for me to look past the ND game. Mike Brey is a really good coach and his players never hurt themselves. Pfluger is a really good player.

But it's legitimate to think BC may be the tougher matchup. Bowman and Robinson are better scorers than anyone we have. Chatman is a better spot up shooter than Bibbs and Hill. They won't kill you inside, but they are still formidable against our group.

The numbers might say that a loss to ND is a better loss. But BC is the tougher team than ND especially after the ND injuries. We have a decent chance of going 2-0 on the road if the team that played UNC shows up for those games.

Go Hokies.

Completely random thought: Skutt, when you make it as a sports journalist with your own column or radio show, you're missing a golden opportunity if you don't call it Skuttlebutt.

Just saying.

Remember me when you make it big.

"How the ass pocket will be used, I do not know. Alls I know is, the ass pocket will be used."
- The BoD

Tech is 3-11 in Chestnut Hill. 3 and 11! However, there's always a silver lining: Two of those three wins have come under Williams. An even better silver lining: Tech has only played in Chestnut Hill twice with Williams as head coach.

So...Buzz Williams cannot lose in Chestnut Hill. It's science!

Warning: this post occasionally contains strong language (which may be unsuitable for children), unusual humor (which may be unsuitable for adults), and advanced mathematics (which may be unsuitable for liberal-arts majors)..

I know its still an ACC road game so its always going to be a difficult task, but its going to be quite the disappointment if we can't beat Notre Dame without Colson and Farrell.

Yeah, if we do lose to them though, let's hope the committee doesn't remember who didn't play

DJ Harvey is out a few weeks too. ND is running a seriously short bench.

But like you said, no easy feats on the road in the ACC.

I know they are only 3-5 in the ACC, but did anyone think Jim Christian would hold up even this well in the ACC? I sure didn't, thought it was an awful hire at the time.

Boston College is has been competitive this season however, at least defending their home court in the ACC. The players Christian is finding are not high profile but have been effective.

I have definitely been surprised by the way the Eagles have come out this season, and that they have managed to continue even after losing Deontae Hawkins eight games into the season. He was a graduate transfer and the only Senior on the roster. He was their third leading scorer at the time with 12.4 PPG, 9.1 RPG, and an assist. It was the rebounding and big body that I really thought they would miss, considering he is 6'8, 220 lbs. but then two games later the Eagles go out and beat Duke without him. Christian must have a ton of walk ons though because ESPN lists 17 players on their roster. Eight of those 17 are freshmen. That said, only Steffon Mitchell has been relatively productive of all the freshmen with 6.9 PPG, 7.7 RPG, and 1.8 APG. Mitchell has been key though in getting the boards that Hawkins had been getting early on as physically he is almost a mirror image at 6'8, 222 Lbs. All the rest of their minutes are going to the few experienced players they have remaining which is why I don't think its sustainable. Christian needs at least one or two more of the freshman to step up by season's end or the Eagles will struggle if they make any of the post season tournaments.

Robinson and Bowman cover a lot of coaching deficiencies. Were they well regarded recruits?

I think I remember seeing some ESPN clip about Bowman being a football recruit, I think he was committed to UNC even but then decided he was going to play round-ball.

They also still have Chatman, that mid ~30s transfer from BYU who set the ACC record for consecutive 3's at Cassell,. BC still lost that game btw..

Yes, Bowman was a mid level football recruit before deciding to switch. ESPN covered it all the time last year when they were talking about his crazy hair colors.

As is always the case... keep turnovers to 10 or less and value each possession. Do this and great things have a great chance of happening.

Go Hokies

I would say this comment is a
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slam dunk

/ducks

The next two games are definitely winnable. If anything, the UNC win should give the good guys a massive confidence bump that they can beat anyone. Knowing that "just don't beat yourselves and you can beat anyone" can take you far.

I found TKP after two rails from TOTS then walking back to my apartment and re-watching the 2012 Sugar Bowl. I woke up the next day with this username.

Wow wrong thread

1 down, 1 to go. Time to go 1-0.

Pain is Temporary, Chicks Dig Scars
Glory is Forever, Let's Go Hokies!!

Wasn't too sure where to put this, but this seems as good a thread as any:

Miami G Bruce Brown Jr. to undergo surgery for left foot injury. Expected to miss 6 weeks.

Sucks for the kid, but that's good news for Hokie fans. He was their second leading scorer, and leading rebounder. He's definitely going to be out when we play the 'Canes on Saturday, and potentially for the final game of the regular season on 3/3.

That is good news for us, bad news for the Canes. But I will take any edge we can get in some of the dicer games out remaining.

Whoa, huge news. That dude's been a force for them. 33 mins/g and leading the team with 7.1 boards/g at only 6'5. Also leads the team in Assists and Steals

That also says a lot about where Miami has struggled this season though. Their bigs have arguably been terrible outside of the Huell kid. Two of their top three rebounders are guards this season which is not normal for a Larranaga coached squad. Losing Brown will be a huge impact. They are going to have to hope that Newton and Vasilijevic can pick up the slack with Brown being out.

so...we'll lead the nation in "quality ACC wins*"

*=major contributors for opponent out with an injury at the time the contest was played.

Warning: this post occasionally contains strong language (which may be unsuitable for children), unusual humor (which may be unsuitable for adults), and advanced mathematics (which may be unsuitable for liberal-arts majors)..

I am fine with that *

Sign me up too

much better than the alternative

and as good as a hurricane

Reel men fish on Wednesdays

like it or not injury's are a part of sports. you still have to play the next game scheduled. next man up!

Go Hokies

Another ACC Roster Update: UNC suspended Freshman Guard Jalek Felton indefinitely from school, so he is no longer an option off the bench for the Tar Heels.

Didn't they only play like 10 bench minutes against us anyway?

I just sit on my couch and b*tch. - HokieChemE2016

Felton was averaging about 10 minutes per game, which is more normal for them. They aren't used to playing catchup the majority of the game.

I think we broke UNC... Third loss in a row tonight, this time to Clemson.

"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

Work just down the road (in Wilmington), lots of fair-weather fans to laugh at here.

UVA last year, UNC this year, DOOK next year?

Recruit Prosim