Buzzketball Season 4 Week 14: The Gauntlet

Buzzketball hits the road for the toughest stretch of the entire season.

[Mark Umansky]

Virginia Tech went 1-1 at home last week. Tech dropped a disappointing game against Miami, but bounced back to beat N.C. State. Tech sits at 16-7 (6-5) with seven regular season games remaining.

There's no rest for the weary though. The Hokies travel to No. 2 Virginia and No. 9 Duke over a 5-day span.

Virginia Tech 75–Miami 84

How not playing defense will make it really hard to win, my column.

Virginia Tech played one of their worst halves of basketball this season to open the game. Miami scored 44 points on 60% shooting (including 6 for 9 from deep). The 12-point halftime deficit matched the largest the Hokies faced in conference play all season.

And yet, even with the lead ballooning as large as 16, the Hokies fought back and were on the cusp of taking the advantage. An 8-0 run capped by a Justin Robinson dunk cut the score to 66-63, and it seemed like the Hokies were about to pull off a huge comeback win.

Instead, star freshman Lonnie Walker IV scored 5 straight points to widen the gap back up, and the Hokies never got the game back to a one-possession affair. As Brian said in this post-game recap,.
"If it wasn't for such an impossible deficit due to lack of effort from the jump, this was winnable."

The two main storylines for me from this game were the benching of Kerry Blackshear Jr. and the pure grit of Justin Robinson. Blackshear Jr. only played 15 minutes and contributed just 2 total points. When asked after the game, Buzz Williams offered a simple explanation.

"I just didn't think he played hard."

Hokie fans love how intense Williams is as a coach, and sometimes the consequence of Williams' style means Tech's best player rides the bench for a game.

Meanwhile, Robinson single-handedly almost won the game for the Hokies. Of the final 14 Tech points, Robinson had 12. His energy and unwillingness to fold showed leadership. Following last season, it was unknown who would step up and fill that role after the departure of Seth Allen. Robinson demonstrated he's that guy.

This loss hurts because of all the normal reasons: Home loss, feels like Tech could've won, a stain on the tournament resume. But for me, I look at the bright side. If the Hokies can actually play a full 40 minutes, they'll have a chance to steal a quality road win in the last game of the season against the same Miami team.

Virginia Tech 85–NC State 75

Miami game: Worst defense of the entire season.

N.C. State game: Best defense of the entire season.

Defense would obviously be a focus when Devin Wilson was announced as a starter. Wilson is arguably the best defender on the squad, and it was a clear signal.

"It's kind of that message where he [Williams] knows that when he gives someone an opportunity, you kind of already know that message that he's putting you in for a reason," said Wilson after the game. "I thought my reason was to, you know, be that spark plug, be that defensive guy."

And it worked. Wilson came out, was disruptive on the defensive end, and contributed some layups as a nice bonus.

On the offensive side of the ball, the obvious bright spot was, yet again, Robinson. A career-high 32 points seemed easy for the point guard. And in reality, he could've racked up 40-or-more.

"I missed three bunnies at the rim, layups, and then I missed six free throws. So, when you add that up, it's over 40," explained Robinson.

For all the non-math majors (me), if Robinson hits all those shots and free throws he mentioned, he finishes with 44 points. That easily sets the Tech record for scoring in an ACC game, a record currently held by Malcolm Delaney's 37-point performance against Clemson in 2009.

February 10: Virginia Tech at No. 2 Virginia

The setting in Charlottesville for Virginia on Saturday: College Gameday. Opportunity to be No. 1. Rivalry game. 12-0 in the ACC.

I'm going to go out on a limb and say Virginia is going to be prepared for the matchup. On the flip side, being ready won't be enough for the Hokies.

The 'Hoos traveled to Blacksburg and blew the Hokies out by 26. And let's be honest, the Cavaliers have improved since then. To keep the final score within single digits would be a win for the Hokies.

If you've been living under a rock or just don't want to admit it (it's okay, I try to ignore it too), Virginia's defense is probably at an all-time high in terms of potency. In their recent win at Florida State, the 'Hoos didn't allow a Seminole made field goal for the final 9:01. They're the No. 1 team in the Pomeroy, RPI, and Sagarin ratings. They allow 52.4 points per game, and hold their opponent to 37.5% from the field. Oh, and they have a +5 turnover margin, and commit the 5th least amount of fouls.

There's no way around it. UVA is currently the best team in the country. They will absolutely deserve the No. 1 human ranking they'll get if they win on Saturday. It's going to take a complete 40 minutes from the Hokies, and also an off night from UVA, to pull the upset.

Williams and his coaching staff have to figure out how they want to approach the game. UVA's pace will win. That's a given. Do the Hokies want to at least try and push the ball up the floor some, or do they need to figure out how to play a half-court game for 40 minutes? There's one thing for certain. Tech can't run whatever makeshift press they used against UVA in early January. The 'Hoos tore that up.

February 14: Virginia Tech at No. 9 Duke

You know what's more fun than one road game at one of the nation's elite? Another one of them right after that!

Duke inexplicably lost to St. Johns earlier this week, and compounded the issue by losing to North Carolina on Thursday night. Between now and the contest with the Hokies, they'll play at Georgia Tech. I expect a very pissed off Duke team in Cameron on Wednesday night.

So who will the Hokies have to match up against? Some pretty good players, to be modest. Here's the starting five.

Marvin Bagley III could be the No. 1 pick in the NBA draft. He's a 6'11" rebound double-double machine, averaging 21 points and 11 rebounds per game. Oh, and he's 16 months younger than me. His best game was a 32-point, 21-rebound effort against Florida State. Remember how outsized the Hokies were when they played Florida State? Yeah. Consider that while I rattle these players off.

Wendell Carter Jr. is probably the best player that nobody is talking about in the country. Standing at 6'10", he is basically averaging a double-double as well (14.5 points and 9.6 rebounds per game). And he also has 48 blocks this season, twice as many as Bagley III. In the same aforementioned game against Florida State, Carter Jr. had a stat line of 14 points/16 rebounds.

Gary Trent Jr. is another freshman. He's a sharpshooter, with his three-point percentage hovering around 45%. He's only 6'6" and averages 14 points and 4 assists per game. Trent Jr. averages the second most minutes a game, with only Grayson Allen playing more. Speaking of...

Grayson Allen is a household name by now, and I don't think he stumbled into that notoriety. He's the senior (thank goodness) leader of the team, and is averaging 14 points, 3 rebounds, and 4 assists a game. He's a very steady player, just not one to break out and score 30.

Trevon Duval is one of the best rebounding players for Duke, and he's a 6'3", 186-pound shooting guard. He's snagging 6 rebounds a game and also contributing 11 points each time out.

Yeah but Henry, surely they rotate out and the Hokies don't have to worry about them for the entire game right?

Wrong. Coach K didn't sub ONCE in the second-half against UVA.

Nobody is expecting Buzzketball to win either of these games. If the Hokies are still above .500 in the ACC at this time next week, it will be a gigantic lift for Virginia Tech's tournament hopes.

Comments

I'm fully aware that there's no rational explanation for it, but being a pessimistic fan isn't fun for me. I'm confident in the squad. I think we do actually steal one of these, and I think it's UVa.

Edit: FAM!

Please let it be UVA.

Joffrey, Cersei, Ilyn Payne, the Hound, Jeff Jagodzinski, Paul Johnson, Pat Narduzzi.

how effing perfect would it be to ruin their Gameday?

Edit: IT WAS DUCKING PERFECT, FAM

and potentially their run up to #1 in the country for the next poll

And spark a losing streak to end their season.

.....but a very long long shot!

Yeah!! Suck it, Bilas. The whole game Bilas was sucking up to UVA. We beat them at their own game! Better defense and more hustle. Buzz is a genius. Since we have focused more on defense, we are unstoppable.

In Bud we trust

Defense wins games, offense sells tickets.

Always applies.

Come to Blacksburg and see what the Hokie Pokie is really all about

So uh, do you want to predict us a national championship now?

I think we do actually steal one of these, and I think it's UVa.

Take your leg, you magnificent bastard!

We out rebounded UNC 36-35. UNC out rebounded Duke 44-38. So we should expect a healthy 40-30 rebounding advantage against the Blue Devils, right?

Sounds legit

That's math!

Update: continued math seems to show that Duke will actually have negative offensive rebounds in that game. I'm liking our chances!

UVa lost to West Virginia. The Hokies beat West Virginia in football. So, yeah...

Really though... I'm feeling good about tomorrow. Fuck UVa . Hokies are going to do it.

Leonard. Duh.

Duks plays like 5 star players not a cohesive team. I think we have a solid chance to beat em.

Keep calm, Gobble on

I know what you mean but their recent championships say otherwise

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

This Duke team is much different than those Duke teams. Way less cohesive than ones of the past. Still extremely good team, but you can see the difference when you watch them especially on defense

If it were only that easy! But Sports doesn't always yeild to math, or logic.

However, anything's possible with a little Dork Magic

Realistically, I think you're right in that keeping it within 10 of UVA will be a moral victory (but goddamn I'd love to deny them that number one spot). I think we could upset Duke. Coming off a frustrating loss against a team of freshman that are making freshman mistakes and tired from constantly playing 35+ minutes a game. I was reading a Duke fan's reaction to the loss on reddit and he seemed to think Duke is tired and has no chemistry. Idk, but I'll take it!

We will have to play absolutely perfect, efficient basketball to beat Virginia. Unfortunately, I just am not sure this team is really capable of that at this time. I kinda expect to get methodically run out of the gym this weekend.

At Duke is also going to be incredibly tough. They just lost to UNC and they are a nightmare in Cameron. I think we'll keep it closer than expected, but not really challenge. I do think we will put up a good fight and knock them off in Cassell, though.

"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

Nice avatar update...

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

"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 kinda expect to get methodically run out of the gym this weekend.

"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

Can't wait for a random scrub for Duke to set his career high in 3-pointers against us

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

The name you're looking for is Alex O'Connell. He's 6'6" and maybe 170. They call him the Slim Reaper.

Other guy I'm hoping won't come out of nowhere is Jack White. I don't know what they call him but I sure hope it's The White Stripe.

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

There was a kid at my high school who allegedly ate butt and he became known as the rim reaper

Recruit Prosim

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)..

Not that there's anything wro.... Nope. That's weird.

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

I appreciate all the support, and I appreciate all the hate I am getting. I will continue to work as hard as I can to be the best I can be and bring this team a championship. Go Hokies 🐔 - Josh Jackson

I'm going to take a week long sabbatical away from VT basketball. I'll catch you guys next week!

You're going to have quite a surprise waiting for you in a few days.

I totally agree with the article here... I can't fathom any scenario that nets the Hokies a win on the road against either UVA or Duke this season. Of course it can happen, that's why they play the game. But two competitive games from this squad won't be a total loss.

Is it football season yet?

It's possible if Robinson and Clarke have a hot, passion-filled game and we start syncing the 3-ball all is possible.

Blackshear needs to find some way to have stable footing be able to jump vertically and not foul so much. It looks as though his heel is bothering him and he doesn't put his foot flat on the court.

Definitely need the three ball to be on fire to have any chance at competing with the Hoos. We are not going to drive to the rim all game against that defense.

Blackshear never flattens his feet. He has always run/played on his toes. They did a story about it a year or two ago.

it does make for awkward balance at times, I think mostly it affects him out on the perimeter where he'll lose his balance and over-reach and commit a foul .

did you fathom it yet

Chem PhD '16

Fun fact:

Justin Robinson out-of-conference - 10.7 ppg
Justin Robinson in ACC play - 17 ppg

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

Plus 5.5 assists per game in ACC play. With an assist turnover ratio over 2. The kid can play and he's gotten better each year.

Calling it here now. 5 wins ACC PoY next year

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

J Rob is sucking all of the basketball power out of Med to become an unstoppable force. This is the only explanation I can see to the inverse relationship of their statistics in OOC and ACC play.

I hope we can upset Duke @ Cameron. They have lost there before, it is hard, but doable. Right now Duke looks more mortal than UVA.

Okay, here's hoping we go 2-0 this week. That might actually get us off the bubble if we pull it off.

That might actually get us off the bubble if we pull it off.

And how!

The Poster Formerly Known As The Spirit Of Bernard Basham

Robinson:

three bunnies at the rim

This can be interpreted many ways....

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

Well I would drive the lane too if I had that waiting for me at the rim.

Another white bronco? The first one didn't go too far.

As painful as it is to admit we're probably more likely to beat Duke than UVA. Although, if this team can limit turnovers and second chance points, I think they're capable of beating both and finishing out the regular season strong.

Duke is actually beatable if we play up tempo and hit our shots. They are a very poor team defensively if you keep them in man to man and run them off multiple screens because most of their team is really young. Their inexperience shows on defense when players are moving around constantly. If Robinson takes the same energy he had in the NC State game driving to the basket off a Blackshear screen, that's going to open up lots of opportunities for us. Duke is better when they go zone, so if the pace slows down and they can set it up, its going to be difficult. The length they have becomes a real problem. Also, they tend to play poorly if Grayson Allen isn't playing well. If we can get into his head early or get him in foul trouble, that's another pathway to beat them. I'm not saying we beat them because its still Duke, they still have a ton of talent, and its still Cameron, just that they have a lot of weaknesses that can be exploited. They're a tad overrated.

UVA, on the other hand, might have the best team they've had in years. It's going to take an all time effort by us and some slip ups by them to get that game.


"We're gonna win!"
I have a good feeling about tomorrow FAM

I knew it! Who's #1? Not UVA!! 😂🦃

I don't know what a Hokie is, but God is one of them!

PaRappa the rapper will always get a leg up from me

Spiral out. Keep going

We opened the door for Michigan State.....imagine that media circus with all that place has going on

BIBBS SHOT THE FOOD

I've seen enough out of this team the last few weeks to think winning several of these games isn't beyond the realm of possibility. When the team is "on" they can be turned up and beat anybody. When they're off, it could be bad.

I see it's been nearly 20 hours and this thread hasn't derailed or been hijacked yet. My submission (and possibly useful for an aspiring journalist): consider using the word "gantlet". Discussion from 2016 as a reference.

___

-What we do is, if we need that extra push, you know what we do? -Put it up to fully dipped? -Fully dipped. Exactly. It's dork magic.

UVA down, test 1 accomplished. Buzz's focus on D was just the right thing

It's been so impressive to watch what was our best defensive performance of the year against NCST and to be able to have that carry over to a road game in JPJ. Devin Wilson with 24 minutes and 31 minutes, respectively.

Vs UVA: 7pts, 7rbd, 1ast, 1blk; 100% FG., 100% FT (clutchhhh)

Wilson's shutdown defense got me like

Bagley our for Duke tonight against GT. Mild knee sprain and mostly precautionary. Still, something to keep an eye on for Wednesday.

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

I've been messing around with seedings for the ACC Tournament on http://bball.notnothing.net/acc.php?sport=mbb
Unless UVA has a total breakdown, they will have the one seed in the tournament.
It feels like we have the most volatility with our seeding, I feel like we're going to end up right on the cut line for the double bye.

The only logical explanation for this is that Joe Lunardi is BigSmoooooooth

I saw that and just guessed he valued losing at home to #25 more than winning on the road against #2.

That factored in like two updates ago. For a guy who gets paid probably way more than me to update a bracket, that is pretty despicable. There is no way we should have dropped a seed, an 8 seed is the lowest we should be at this point. Some of the teams he has seeded high are a joke. Hopefully we can split the next 6 games and grab a 7 seed.

I've defended Lunardi in the past, and I could have rationalized it had he left us at 10, but dropping us a spot (and making us the LAST team in) after beating one of the only definitive top 5 teams in the country on their own court is egregious

Technically we're the last bye (last team not in a play-in game), but that's not the point. I've tried to rationalize this all morning and I've got nothing - waiting for Bracket Matrix to finally update today to get a better grasp on where we truly are. I'll definitely be asking him on Twitter.

Ah yeah, I missed that in my blind rage over the seeding travesty

That's hilarious, considering the CBS Selection Show had us an 8-seed yesterday.

"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 saw that. Today's update is really baffling to me. The two biggest winners I saw on Saturday (VT and Michigan St) both moved downward in seeding. I'm not sure how VT's win over UVa and MSU's win over Purdue resulted in projected seeds going from 11 to 10 and 2 to 3 respectively.

“You got one guy going boom, one guy going whack, and one guy not getting in the endzone.”
― John Madden (describing VT's offense?)

Lunardi is butt hurt...

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

Wow, I didn't even notice MSU. Maybe ESPN just told him to do some bullshit on this one so that they'd have some extra topics of conversation

MSU makes sense because the committee's top 16 came out and they have MSU as a 3 seed. As such, Lunardi also puts them as a 3 seed.

I don't agree with the committee having MSU on the 3-line (should be somewhere around #6 overall imo), but that's what they did and that's why you'll likely see a bunch of bracketologists adjusting their top 4 lines to reflect the info the committee put out yesterday.

Was debating starting a thread to bitch about this when I saw it this morning. Got distracted. Glad we have a place to complain. wtf lunardi thinking?

Old sigline: I've been cutting back on the drinking.

New Sigline: lol it's football season.

Lunardi's response on Twitter, including what I thought was the best reply to this "logic":

I'm not endorsing how after a great week, we dropped in the projected seeding, but we can't just argue that our OOC games were two months ago so they don't really equate anymore. Those teams are continuing to play games just like we are, so if the teams in our OOC schedule also continue to lose or drop in their strength, it only drops our SOS and makes us look worse...

Also, let's just go 1-0 and this will all work out. No need to even look at projections until after the ACC tourney

Looking into this just a bit to see how bad it really could have been. It could have been worse but not by much. Going back two games for each, our Out of Conference Opponents went a combined 1-25, with the only team winning a game being St. Louis. Even Kentucky and Washington let us down, with the Wildcats currently on a three game losing streak and the Huskies having lost two.

Not much of a leg to stand on when your schedule strength takes a hit like that.

Even our current Conference Schedule was a loser at 11-13. Hard to not drop when your total opponents record was 12-38 in their last two games each.

Thanks for actually doing the research. My comment was based on an "if" scenario, but definitely looks like it was a reality that our OOC opponents are really not helping us one bit recently

USA Today Sports also has us at an 8 Seed.

Jerry Palm at CBS Sports also projects us as an 8 seed in Villanova's bracket. That could be a very interesting draw.

“You got one guy going boom, one guy going whack, and one guy not getting in the endzone.”
― John Madden (describing VT's offense?)

I'm hoping for a 7 seed and playing in Nashville or Charlotte and possibly Pittsburgh to make the trip there.

And UVA is #1 in the AP anyway. Shit.

Meh, fugg 'em. Let them have it. That makes the W look even nicer on our resume anyway

Plus, we are sitting at #30 with 29 votes. I'm okay with it.

I appreciate all the support, and I appreciate all the hate I am getting. I will continue to work as hard as I can to be the best I can be and bring this team a championship. Go Hokies 🐔 - Josh Jackson

That's true. But I'm a petty child and I wanted to be the reason they didn't get to #1.

Oh I feel you, but "We'll always have Charlottesville 2/10/18"... or something like that

100% due to the committee under-seeding MSU in their reveal yesterday. If they were closer to where they should be (high 2-seed or last #1 seed imo) then MSU is #1 in the AP today.

And Georgia Tech has lost its starting point guard to a dislocated elbow for the rest of the season. He was averaging 12.1 PPG, 3.7 RPG, 3.1 APG and 1.7 SPG. He was also shooting 37% from outside, so one of their top perimeter scorer's will be missing. Two freshman will replace Alvarado's minutes going forward which will mean an extra big on the floor as both are 6'9 forwards. This shifts even more focus on sophomore Josh Okogie, who as gone for 20+ points in four of their last five and senior Tadric Jackson, Pig's older brother, who will pick up more of the ball control duties, but is also a double digit scorer this season with 11.5 PPG.

This worked before, lets hope it works again...
We beat Duke in Football. We beat UVA who beat Duke in basketball, and beat Boston College who beat Duke. There's no possibility we can lose this one.

I'll take it

It seems like we haven't played teams at their full strength lately. It's like a game or 2 before they get injured.

UVa was at full strength tho

No they were without Nigel Johnson, who was suspended.

To Nigel Johnson's mom, I'm sorry for still considering that team 'at full strength' without your son.

Bagley is out tonight. We really have to capitalize on that.

Not a great game for #5 but what worries me is what's halpeneing to hill in particular he's gone cold we're gonna need his scoring in this tough run

Directions from Blacksburg to whoville, go north till you smell it then go east until you step in it