About the Hoopin' Hokies

Off to a 5-1 start, Virginia Tech men’s basketball has picked up right where they left off from last season. But to reach their full potential, Mike Young’s bunch will need to pick up the slack on defense.

[Virginia Tech Athletics]

In case you needed a respite from an otherwise dismal fall sports season, the Virginia Tech men's basketball might be the antidote to all your ills.

The hoopin' Hokies are off to a 5-1 start in the 2022-23 campaign, having taken down Old Dominion and Penn State in the Charleston Classic before falling to host school College of Charleston in a barnburner. They have dispatched their low-major competition with ease, winning their first three games by an average of 27 points. In a month that has seen upsets galore, we should not forget the old adage: a win is a win, and early on Tech is doing a whole lot of winning.

While the Hokies certainly don't make life easy for the follically challenged in their propensity to play close games, you can't say they aren't fun to watch. Virginia Tech sports a top-20 offense in the nation, bolstered by a 6'9 forward in Grant Basile who is shooting 46% from three. Silky smooth point guard Sean Pedulla has transitioned seamlessly in his role to full-time starter, shooting and distributing at a level high enough to earn him a label as one of the most efficient offensive players in the nation.

Mind you, Darius Maddox has still not found his three-point stroke, and four-star recruit Rodney Rice is yet to play a single minute. This team is good, folks.

If you haven't been following Tech basketball much this season, you're in luck! Because I have, and today I'll fill you in on everything that's been going on in Mike Young's fourth season in Blacksburg. The Hokies are from a polished team, but if there's anything we learned from a season ago it's that they don't hand out trophies in November. It's a long campaign, but early indications are that the Hokies — flawed as they may be — have the pieces to compete among the ACC's best.

Quality of Looks

While Virginia Tech's offense did not operate at peak efficiency over the weekend, we should remind ourselves two things. First, the Hokies are in the midst of an uncharacteristically bad shooting slump, hitting just 19.5% of their three-point attempts (9-of-46) against Penn State and Charleston. Second, this offense is still really good. The Hokies are 16th in adjusted offensive efficiency according to KenPom, about where they were last season.

However, when I was watching the games, I had the sense that Tech's offense wasn't really getting the quality of looks they normally do, and the advanced stats back that up. ShotQuality tracks the expected value for every shot a team takes, based on various factors like shooting ability, defense, and distance. It's a great way to measure how well an offense is generating quality looks — while a contested fadeaway three-pointer at the end of the shot clock and a wide-open three off a set piece both count the same, one is much more sustainable than the other.

Virginia Tech currently ranks 102nd nationally in ShotQuality's adjusted offense, which puts them 11th in the ACC. (Last year, the Hokies ranked 19th nationally, about in line with their KenPom ranking). It's a small sample size, and this number will almost certainly rise as the season progresses. But lately the offense has been a lot of Pedulla and Maddox making plays off the dribble and hitting tough, contested shots, like this one:

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