Buzzketball Season 4 Week 13: Home Sweet Home for the Hokies

Virginia Tech goes 2-0 on the road, moves over .500 in ACC play, and returns to Cassell for an important two-game stretch.

[Mark Umansky]

Let's pick up with Buzzketball where we left off last week.

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.

And guess what the Hokies did.

It was a huge roadtrip for Virginia Tech which moved to 16-6 (5-4) on the season, and finished the month of January with a winning record (5-3) for the first time in Buzz Williams' tenure.

Virginia Tech 80–Notre Dame 75

Things I hoped to write about this game: Virginia Tech won a road game in South Bend.

Things I hoped to not write about this game: Virginia Tech blew a 15-point second half lead in South Bend.

I get to do both. Tech pulled out a victory on the road. They also made it as difficult as possible.

With the absence of Irish stars Bonzie Colson and Matt Farrell, the Hokies seemed comfortable from the get-go. Tech started red-hot. Four of the first six made baskets were from three, and each of those 4 deep balls came from different Hokies: Ahmed Hill, Justin Bibs, Nickeil Alexander-Walker, Justin Robinson.

Buzzketball led the game for 36:44, and for a majority of the first half, the Hokies' lead never fell under 7 points. In the second half, the differential expanded to the aforementioned 15-point margin. A 15-3 run by Notre Dame propelled the home crowd back into the game, and that provided the Irish with all the momentum. Tech bent but didn't break. A three-pointer by Alexander-Walker steadied the ship, and the Irish were never able to get over the hump and take a lead.

Justin Bibbs was the star of the game. A 21-point, 8 for 10 (4 for 4 from three) performance paced the Hokies. As a team, Tech shot 14 for 25 (56%) from deep. Not too shabby.

Chris Clarke was the hero late though. He scored the final six points, 10 of the last 12, and 10 of his own 12 points in the waning minutes of the game. His athleticism was on display when he missed a key layup, landed, and sprung right back up to tip his own miss into the hoop.

Virginia Tech 85–Boston College 80

Deep breaths. Repeat after me:

"Any ACC road win is a good win."

Until Wednesday, Boston College had only lost a single home game this season. That includes an 89-84 upset of then-No. 1 Duke. It took an extra five minutes, but the Hokies handed the Eagles their second loss at home.

Buzzketball tried their best to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. A slow, but steady, offensive grind by the Hokies resulted in a double-digit lead in the second half.

All that hard work went down the drain in a single possession. With the Hokies up 7 with 1:02 left in the game, Bibbs fouled a three-point shooter and Clarke also picked up a technical. This sequence allowed BC's Jerome Robinson to score five points with no time running off the clock.

The overtime period was back and forth. Tech wasn't able to pull away until Nickeil Alexander-Walker hit a contested three-pointer with 1:57 remaining.

The star freshman shined brightly all game long, scoring 18 points on 50% from the field and grabbing six rebounds.

Other key contributors for Tech included:

  • Blackshear Jr., who scored a team-high 20 points, went 6 for 6 from the charity stripe, and played 40 minutes
  • Bibbs with 18 points (4 for 7 from deep)
  • Robinson with a double-double (10 points and a Tech-record 12 assists)

It was yet another ugly game, and Tech basically gifted the Eagles an overtime period. But at the end of the day, Buzzketball became only the second team to win in the sleepy, weird, clanky gym that is Conte Forum. Duke couldn't do it. Florida State couldn't. Virginia only beat the Eagles by one in Charlottesville. This was a good win for the Hokies and their tournament resume.

Top Play of the Week

Clarke single-handedly sealed the game for the Hokies against Notre Dame. These two huge hustle plays showed why Williams calls him an OKG.


February 3: Virginia Tech vs. Miami

Here's a scenario for you:

The Hokies beat the Hurricanes. Louisville loses to Florida State. Buzzketball is tied for 4th in the ACC.

Seriously. There's a chance that in just over 24 hours, Tech will be sitting right on the double-bye line. Will it stay that way? The gauntlet stretch to end the Hokies' season says "probably not", but consider the sky was falling for the Hokie faithful after two straight bad losses to open conference play. I will admit, I had my doubts too. For Tech to be anywhere close to the top of the standings in February is impressive.

Miami lost one of its best players, guard Bruce Brown, to foot surgery earlier this week.
Tech has benefitted from a bit of luck, as this will be their second time in three games that the Hokies will face a quality team with a depleted roster.

Brown returned for his sophomore season as a preseason All-American, and is expected to go in the first round in the NBA draft.

How important is Brown to the Hurricanes? Before his surgery, he led Miami in minutes (33.7), rebounds (7.1), assists (4), steals (1.3), and is the second-best scorer on the team (11.4). He's good.

During Brown's absence, the Hurricanes will lean on freshman guard Lonnie Walker IV ‒ basically a carbon copy of Brown from a year ago. Walker IV is the same height and weight as Brown, and averages the same numbers this season as Brown did last year.

Tech carries all its momentum into a sold-out Cassell on Saturday afternoon. I'll use this platform to remind any Hokie fans attending to wear white! Last year's attempt for a white-out during the Miami game was... lackluster.

I've laid out the standings scenario for what happens if the Hokies win. Right now, Tech sits in a three-way tie for 5th place in the ACC. VT, Miami, and NC State. Right after the Miami game it's...

February 7: Virginia Tech vs. N.C. State

Ugh. 9 p.m. tip-offs are dumb.

N.C. State is a weird team this season. In their first year under Kevin Keatts, the Wolfpack have beaten Duke, UNC, Clemson, and Arizona. They've also lost to UNC-Greensboro and Northern Iowa.

This is one of the two remaining games this season (Georgia Tech) for the Hokies where their opponent is ranked below them in the metrics the selection committee looks at. In KenPom and RPI, the Wolfpack are rated No. 65 and No. 64 respectively. The Yellow Jackets sit at No. 105/135.

The Wolfpack ran the Hokies out of the gym last season, winning 104-78. Dennis Smith Jr. was the star for N.C. State last year, but he's moved on to dunking and dropping triple-doubles for the Mavericks.

This season, it's more of a team effort for the Wolfpack. In their upset win over North Carolina, State shot 15 for 30 from distance, including a career performance from Allerik Freeman (29 points, 7 for 7 from three). N.C. State averaged 6.8 threes/game before their breakout performance against the Heels. And if we're being honest, don't be surprised to see a similar showing against the Hokies. Tech seems to love to give opponents career games from beyond the arc.

Omer Yurtseven is the Wolfpack's seven-footer. He's a complete player, averaging 14 points and 7 rebounds. He'll be an issue for Tech if Blackshear Jr. gets in foul trouble. Yurtseven had 16 points and 13 rebounds in the upset over North Carolina.

Keep an eye out for Abdul-Malik Abu, a 6'8", 240 pound forward who gave the Hokies fits last season during the game.

Examining the remaining home schedule, these next two in Blacksburg are opportunities the Hokies need to capitalize on. The rest of the home slate — Duke, Louisville, and Clemson — stand to be much more of a challenge.

Comments

I think NAW is starting to mature into the player we were all hoping for. He stepped into and drained really big 3 pointers to slow down the other teams momentum in both denied come-backs. His rebounding numbers have been creeping up. He also seems to be doing a better job on fighting through screens and getting out on guys shooting three's. Enough so that last few games when he brought Devin in for D is wasn't always for NAW. Jr. has also been much better at avoiding the dumb fouls, while still getting points and rebounds. Robinson and Clarke have been limiting their turnovers, but I think NAW is the biggest reason we are back on the win side of the ledger.

Sometimes we live no particular way but our own

NAW definitely seems to be playing with more fire.

I still think he looks a little lead footed as an on ball defender but he's definitely getting better. I hope he's back in Blacksburg next year because he will be a monster if he can cut down on some of the turnovers.

Here lies It's a Stroman Jersey I Swear, surpassed in life by no one because he intercepted it.

Is there still doubt that he might be a one-and-done? I think he is improving but from what we have seen so far I'd be really surprised if he left.

I'm off that train. He hasn't played as well as I expected, obviously, but I still think he's a special player and I'll still expect great things from him next year. He's got a beautiful jump shot and earns some rebounds here and there that it seems he has no business pulling down.

I've thought about this thoroughly since the BC game. If we some how get into the tournament, and make a decent run, I have to believe that if he contributes the way that we think he can, he's as good as gone. And honestly I don't think that would be the worst thing for our program. Unless he goes undrafted...

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

You could be right. However, he hasn't been putting up the numbers so far in ACC play to attract enough NBA attention, and the road only gets tougher. If he can step up against the rest of our schedule and be the guy he was for us in the BC game, then I'll be back to believing he's gone.

Now way he's one and done. Needs a lot of work improving his game on both sides of the ball.

Matty Ballgame

I mean, I agree with you, but so do a lot of one-and-done rookies in the NBA

He'd be lucky to get drafted this year. Needs at least another year or two in college. I don't look at his game right now and see NBA potential.

Matty Ballgame

Clarke fouled a three-point shooter and also picked up a technical.

I believe it was Bibbs that fouled the three point shooter in the BC debacle, not that there was a good way to be sure of that. We hardly got any replays the whole night.

The Orange and Maroon you see, that's fighting on to victory.

You are correct, Sir.

Lunardi has the good guys at a 12 seed. Palm has the good guys at a 11 seed. Both play in games. We still got a lot of work to do. Bring on "Da Who?"

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

And Lunardi still has UNCheat as a 4 seed? There goes any credibility...

This was rather nifty.

Robinson and team did a great job of finding people under the basket WIIIIDE OPEN during the 2nd Half. Bibbs, Jr are two that I remember where there wasn't a defender in 4 ft of the player.

many many great dives down the lane by guys who made themselves available to receive a pass. Frequently I watch as players make a move towards the basket and get a step on the defense but never look back for the ball and thus don't get the pass. It was nice seeing our guys taking advantage of their opportunities.

Something about how that pass just sticks to Bibbs hand is perfect.

I've thought several times throughout the year that all our players have great hands handling some of the passes they get. This is a great passing team, but I'm always surprised how well they handle/catch a lot of the passes. That handle by Bibbs was definitely impressive, as was the KJ handle.

--
"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

love the crestfallen posture of BC's #1 after the layup falls.

Let's watch it again, in slow motion this time:

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)..

Something needs to be said about how we lose these massive second half leads. In the BC game we tried to completely slow down the game and run out the shot clock while there was still 4:00 left in the game. Slowing our game down is not how we play and not how we built that lead in the first place. I will never understand it. Here's some of our possessions starting at 3:59.

3:59 - VT 66 BC 55
3:43 - Bowman hits a 3. VT 66 BC 58
3:18 - 25 second possession J Rob TO
3:10 - Bowman hits another 3. VT 66 BC 61
2:43 - 27 second possession Med missed 3

After that we got fouled early in the possession thank god because this trend probably wouldve continued. After Ky had an and one we had yet another 26 second possession that luckily ended in Bibbs hitting a contested 3. We lost the lead in the Notre Dame game so this doesn't apply to that game, but slowing down the game and relying on a sub par half court offense to score with seconds left on the shot clock is baffling to me. I was yelling at my TV right when we started doing it and continued to yell when we lost the lead because of it.

I'm not against you...but in the same instance, if we keep the up tempo going and lose the lead fans will say "why didn't we use more clock"!

"Take care of the little things and the big things will come."

Yea because those fans are just looking for something to blame it on and don't actually understand the sport. I try to be better and not having so much hindsight bias. It's like when Buzz categorizes shots. Yea we often make some percentage of poor shots, but just because you make it doesn't mean it's a good shot. Objectively when you look at our game plan, we don't need to be slowing the game down so much. I think slowing it down a little bit is beneficial (like not going for a 1 on 2 fastbreak), but crossing half court and sitting there with couple lazy passes around the perimeter until the shot clock hits 10 is not going to work for us.

I understand you agree with me I don't want it to sound like I'm attacking you lol just venting.

I 100% agree. It's not how the team is built and so we struggle when we slow down. Even in our regular half court offense we are trying to move the ball quickly and get open looks or paint touches. I know that Bede struggled when he came in, but I think that's because he was asked to sandbag the offense and I'm sure he isn't use to handling that situation but neither is the rest of the team.

Totally agree with this and the reply above. As soon as we push it with a comfortable lead and turn it over with 20 seconds left on the shot clock the pitchforks are ready to go. But I'd still rather see that than to slow it down

My only beef with when we slowed it down was when gave up great looks. If you shoot 40%+ from three, and get the ball wide open, shoot it. If they concede a lay-up, take it. Don't press for a shot or force contact on a drive in the lane until the clock winds down, but don't pass on the great look to burn clock.

Sometimes we live no particular way but our own

I definitely understand the reasoning for slowing it down, but if we've built a solid lead by going 100mph the whole game, I believe we should stick to what's working

I understand it and I think it can work if you know when to do it. When there are 4 minutes left, that is wayyyy too much time for a team to come back. I think you just slow it down slightly in terms of not taking as many risks on fast breaks, but besides that get into the offense, get the ball moving, paint touches and get your shots. We don't have a guy who can wait til the end of the shot clock then just create something out of thin air.

And yea, fans will get mad if we lost the game by stayin with our pace, but after years in the student section hearing the most ridiculous complaints and questions during the game, I'm not inclined to let most fans be the barometer for our basketball team.

Yeah, I guess it all just depends on how much time is left and what kind of lead we're talking about. Definitely don't change the pace with more than 2-3 minutes left, regardless of the score, and not with <10 point lead.

On the other hand, if it ain't broke, don't fix it. 2-0 after giving up big leads by slowing it down.
;/s (semi-sarcastic)

Sometimes we live no particular way but our own

Totally agree.

I think my biggest issue is that it looks like we completely shut down a lot of the off-ball movement until about 10 seconds left on the shot clock. If you don't want to move the ball that much then I can live with that, but there's no reason for everybody that's off the ball to stop moving around. I'm willing to bet that Buzz has the team better-conditioned than most other teams out there, so make it that much harder for them to mount a comeback when every person on the court is having to defend full-out for nearly 30 seconds every possession.

This is probably the single biggest issue of VT's offense.

As I watch every other team we play and as we all learn in rec league, moving without the ball is the key to good offense. Simple concepts like "pass and screen away" are things I almost never see by Buzz coached teams but consistently see by almost every other team in the league. I don't know if Buzz tells them to do this to save energy on defense or if they truly believe having 4 guards stand around the perimeter with KJ or Clarke in the middle is a good offensive set.

I think there's a fine line between maintaining spacing and off-the-ball movement, and somebody with more basketball savvy can probably define that line with more clarity. I think our action is good for most of the game, and Buzz-coached teams are well known for stealing points on out-of-bounds under and sideline plays stemming from well-executed movement off the ball. So it's not like we can't/don't do it.

This team plays its best when we find open shooters either via collapsing the defense or forcing them into (often slow) rotation with good passing. Since everybody on our team shoots the three, I'd say spacing is probably the bigger catalyst to good offense over moving off the ball, especially with our tendency to get called for moving screens. But when none of this is happening until 10 seconds left on the shot clock, you're basically resigned to a single drive and kick-out, regardless of how good/bad of a look you get. Run your normal offense and if you don't get a clean look, then reset to J-Rob and let him try to create at the end of the shot clock.

I agree for the most part, but this team is good enough that they should be able to slow it down. Honestly, J-Rob has done a good job, and in these last couple of games against ND and BC, we have mostly done a good job of using the shot clock and getting a good look. Against UNC we continued to make the shots, but against ND and BC we've missed some good looks. I don't think our half-court offense is sub-par.

--
"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

It's not about how good a team is though. It's how they run their offense. UVA is good enough to win games when they're down 10 with 3 minutes to go, but they won't win if they get away from what they're best at and try to run up and down the floor creating shots. They pick up the pace a little bit and stay within the confines of what they know.

Our half court offense has improved significantly and I would say it's sub-par to par. We're getting better ball movement and J Rob and KJ can be money on the pick and roll. But we still rely a lot on primary and secondary breaks to get defenses out of position and score. Besides that we shoot threes and draw fouls. Nobody on our team can effectively get to the rim and either make a shot or draw a foul consistently without turning it over.

This is the week where we find out if we are a tournament team. 7-3 or 5-5? I think if if we beat Miami we beat NCST and if we lose to Miami, we lose to NCST. These are two winnable games before a very tough stretch.

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

7-4 or 5-6, our current ACC record is 5-4

--
"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

Yea the old January record was stuck in my brain because it's the last thing I read in the article.

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

We are in incredible shape if we take care of business at home and can beat GT away.
We're in good shape if we do that and drop one game at home.
We are in okay shape if we drop two games at home or 1 at home and on the road at GT.
We are in bad shape if we lose out.

Always choose joy.

HOT TAKES!!!

Does that put us in ludicrous shape if we win out?

Senior Graduate Transfer Nigel Johnson, backup guard for UVA will miss the rematch with the Hokies as he received a three game suspension today. He was putting up 5.5 PPG, 2 RPG, and 2 APG.

I'll take it

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)..

... And then his replacement Marco Anthony comes in and looks like an All-American. What is Bennet feeding those guys.

'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'

Zima

I believe the VT vs NCST game is on February 7th, not February 9th. Don't mean to be too nitpicky, but since it's something that people might reference to watch the game, I figured it's worth pointing out.