Tech's Loss to BC Highlights Tough Road Forward

The Hokies' 61-56 loss to Boston College wasn't just a resume knock, it was a reminder at just how precarious a path to the NCAA Tournament is.

[Boston College Athletics]

The Virginia Tech men's basketball team is a lot of things.

They're fun, fast, and potent. They're scrappy. They're incredibly well coached. They're an amazing storyline in a year when the ACC could use one. They're talented, with a borderline-NBA player leading the way. They'll likely finish in the top half of their conference in the same season when they were picked to finish second-to-last. They're full of heart.

One thing they're not, however, is an NCAA Tournament team.

Before you jump to the comments and call me a hater, you have to know one thing–I love these guys. It's so great to watch a group made up primarily of leftovers, looked-overs, and very young freshmen figure out how to win on the fly. They care for each other, and have improved as a unit each time out. They represent Virginia Tech with pride, and their energy is endearingly infectious.

This squad is easy to root for, and raise the program's ceiling over the next three-to-four years. But if we're talking about this year, Tech's probably not going to make the dance.

The Hokies' chance to remain on the right side of the bubble popped after they went up to Chestnut Hill and lost a close one to Boston College 61-56. The Eagles are not good–though they're 4-5 in conference, they're the worst team by far according to KenPom. BC sits at 165, and the next closest conference opponent (Miami) is at 115. It's a bad loss on an already weak resume for Tech, whose strength of schedule already kept them as a "first four out" according to ESPN's Joe Lunardi.

But with 50 days still remaining before selection Sunday, it's foolish to chalk up one result as a do-or-die. A young team going into a sleepy environment on a Saturday afternoon has always been a recipe for a letdown game, and the Hokies' sluggishness shouldn't have come as a surprise. When a head coach has to play seven underclassmen big minutes, this is something he'll occasionally have to deal with.

Tech's uncharacteristically slow feet limited them offensively (14 turnovers, consistently stagnant off-ball movement) and defensively (19 fouls, losing shooters on the perimeter, constantly beaten to 50/50 balls.)

"I don't think it was as much what they did defensively as it was us and what we did to
ourselves offensively," head coach Mike Young said afterwards. "Our movement was horrific, our ball movement was horrific. I can't think of many times we've had a negative assist-turnover ratio like we had today. You get what you earned and we earned what we got."

It was a bad day from everyone, and those performances tend to happen on the road. Falling to Boston College won't single handedly reject the Hokies from the tournament, but did highlight two huge problems ahead.

The ACC is down in 2020. Duke, Florida State, and Louisville are all potentially worthy of a top seed, but after that? There's not much. Over the last few seasons, the Hokies have been able to counteract their weak non-conference schedule by picking up wins over solid conference foes. Wins over Syracuse and NC State and Notre Dame meant beating other opponents with postseason aspirations. They could pad their resume without needing to upset multiple top teams.

But now? North Carolina, Virginia, Notre Dame, and Syracuse are all down, Pittsburgh and Miami still have yet to turn the corner, and the rest of the recently bad programs are still just that. After averaging eight postseason bids between 2017-2019, Lunardi predicts just four to go dancing this March. The league is filled with bad losses and expected wins, leaving no room for error and just a few chances for redemption.

Let's break down the rest of Tech's schedule:

@ Miami (10-9, 2-7 ACC, 115th KenPom)

vs Florida State (17-2, 7-1, 16th KenPom)

@ Georgia Tech (9-11, 4-6, 82nd KenPom)

vs Boston College (10-10, 4-5, 165th KenPom)

vs Pittsburgh (13-7, 4-5, 80th KenPom)

vs Miami

@ Duke (16-3, 6-2, 2nd KenPom)

vs Virginia (13-6, 5-4, 53rd KenPom)

@ Louisville (17-3, 8-1, 8th KenPom)

vs Clemson (10-9, 4-5, 83rd KenPom)

@ Notre Dame (11-8, 2-6, 62 KenPom)

For reference, in 2019 the lowest at-large tournament team was 60th in KenPom (Seton Hall), but most programs on the bubble sat in the upper 30s and 40s. Outside of the FSU/Duke/Louisville triad, Tech's best chance for a "statement" win comes against Virginia–another squad on the outside looking in.

Instead, the Hokies' path to the postseason is filled with landmines. Trips to Miami, Atlanta, and South Bend. Home contests with Clemson and Pitt. With such a soft slate, the committee will expect Tech to go above .500 in ACC play (last year, both NC State and Clemson were cut for going 9-9). Assuming the Hokies go 0-3 against the Seminoles, Cardinals, and Blue Devils, that would allow them just two more losses to finish 11-9 in the league.

That means nearly every game is do-or-die, adding pressure to a young group. There's no more room for sluggish starts and playing down to opponents. There's no time for cold first halves and hoping the threes start falling. To get to the postseason, the Hokies need to beat every team they're supposed to be better than, and then hope things shake out in their favor. They might be up to it, but Saturday's showing in Massachusetts showed otherwise.

Tech's penchant for inconsistency stems from the way they play. It's the reason they can smash NC State and Wake Forest, epically come back at Syracuse, and then play poorly against two of the worst teams in the conference (UNC and BC).

The sport is changing. The reliance on the three pointer started as an analytical movement in the NBA, and has now trickled down into every layer of the game. Youngsters want to shoot like Steph Curry, high schoolers keep expanding their range, and colleges can make up for a lack of size and talent by chucking triples.

Mathematically, it makes sense. It doesn't take an engineering major to realize three points are worth more than two, and making more (even at a lower percentage) means your points-per-possession improves. But there's one thing people tend to overlook when they talk about the rise of shooting from deep: getting to the basket.

There's a reason the shots are distributed the way they are in Kirk Goldsberry's chart. A bunch of triples and a bunch of chances at the rim are how you space the floor, and you don't get one without the other. If a team can attack the hoop with impunity, the defense collapses and will leave shooters open for a three. If teams are on fire from behind the arc, the defense widens out and surrenders driving lanes and one-on-one opportunities.

The Hokies can do half of this. They take (and make) more threes than any power five team in college basketball. But their opponents know this and overplay the perimeter, daring Tech to take it inside. Last season Justin Robinson thrived on these chances, attacking downhill relentlessly. Kerry Blackshear also took advantage in the post, as defenders were too wary to double him and give up an open look elsewhere.

But this Tech squad isn't the same, and their consistency suffers because of it. Wabissa Bede's playmaking has improved, but he's still more suited to play as a secondary creator. Tyrece Radford and Nahiem Alleyne don't have a reliable enough handle to take on defenders, and Landers Nolley lacks the foot speed to always beat his man into the lane. Jalen Cone has both the quickness and ball handling, but his lack of size seems to make him hesitant amongst the trees inside.

This results in stagnant offense, and far too many reluctant Nolley triples from the top of the key. When they make them, anything can happen. They can mount both comebacks and onslaughts, and can compete with anyone on their schedule. But a cold streak can bring a loss to anyone, as we've seen over the last week.

The Hokies are exciting, and will be a blast to watch for the next two months. Assuming they pick up two more wins we'll see them in some form of postseason tournament (and hey, the NIT is fun!) But as of now, it doesn't seem like it will be the type of tournament many were hoping for just two weeks ago.

Comments

This team is so much better than any of us thought, at least a year ahead of schedule. However, you can really tell that they aren't comfortable once the baseline drive is cut off. That's MY's bread and butter on offense and it's what this young team has become most comfortable with. Hopefully in the next few weeks they can continue to grow and be able to score without just relying on Nolley to go one-on-one once that baseline drive is cut off.

I like the offensive scheme.

I do think, however, there could be more off ball movement, i.e. back door cutters with the way teams are selling out guarding the Hokies at the 3 pt line.

As far as defense, I couldn't be more impressed with how the young fellas are D'ing up this year.

NCAA bid is going to be a stretch, but it's doable. I think they have to win out, and probably take out one of Duke, Louisville, or FSU.

Leonard. Duh.

On defense, I'm convinced MY is a popcorn-fueled wizard.

And yes, there's a tendency for this team to have zero movement on offense. I think younger players tend to lack the initiative to just go and make a hard cut to the basket to get things moving. They just start to ball watch.

I notice the same thing coaching younger kids in volleyball actually, lol. Once they get confused or the game is getting stale, they start standing and staring. That only compounds the problem. Same body language and everything from Tech on Saturday.

As much as I like cheering on this bad news bears rag tag collection, bottom line is this team has fatal flaws and even if they made the dance, it would be one and done unless threes started raining like in a thunderstorm. First thing lacking is any kind of fast break - when was the last time we got a turnover and scored in a fast break situation.....pretty much never. Kind of weird for a team getting far more takeaways than turnovers, but there it is. Second thing lacking is any kind of alley oop capability. You would think it would be there from our raw center or Boots, but the deafening lack of it against a team like Syracuse where it should be available is scary. Throw in the aforementioned lack of driving the lane plus the usual height disadvantage and all I can say is wow, is Mike Young doing one heck of a coaching job to get what he has so far.
So if I was on the selection committee it would be off to the NIT for the Hokies, as there have to be other bubble teams that would actually have a real chance of advancing in the dance, unless the Hokies start displaying more team strengths (paging Mr. Ojiako).
The only other puzzling thing about this team is how is that a guy shooting 58% from three point land isn't putting up more shots? Well, ok, besides the fact that when Bede drives the lane NO ONE leaves their man to help. Oh, for just one driving threat that could score.

The LewDew, Professional Golf Bum

I was bummed immediately after the loss, but this team is SO far ahead of schedule compared to preseason expectations that it's hard for me to be anything but pleased overall.

Also, it was pretty obvious to anyone that follows this team that a letdown game was coming. That many freshman playing 2OT on a Wednesday are not going to be 100% ready to go on Saturday after flying up to Boston. I don't care how down the ACC is, winning on the road in college hoops is hard, and Saturday is a reminder of why.

After Buzz left, most of our commits went with him, and Nolley and Bede were in the transfer portal. Most of us were wondering if we could even field a team, much less be competitive. The result - this is the second youngest team in Division 1 basketball.

The freshmen have played over their heads repeatedly, making the team competitive, which set higher expectations. Last April, if anyone thought this team might have a ghost of a chance at the tourney, they would have been laughed off the internet. This team will win a game down the stretch they shouldn't, and lose one or two headscratchers.

But that's okay - the team is learning, and setting a great foundation for the future. All one has to do is look at the ends of the Syracuse and Carolina games - the team learned how to play in an end game situation, and that's all we can ask - that this inexperienced team keep improving.

Yeah, without a win over Duke, this is one that bounces you off the bubble.

The 2011 team might take issue with beating Duke being a prerequisite to be off the bubble.

We really miss a guy like Robinson this year, having him for the last few years really spoiled us on how good an elite PG can be at this level and if Bede can continue to work on his offensive game he can help us tremendously with helping get better looks across the board. Would love to see more from Ojiako as well but seems young doesnt feel hes ready for the step up completely yet. I think an NIT run would be best for this group anyways they would have a chance and a home game or two most likely which would be a positive experience. Anyway you cut it the fact we're even looking at postseason play at this stage is mind blowing looking at what Young inherited when he came in.

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

Oh how I long for a Seth Allen type on this team. We all new that wasn't Bede's game and could only hope that one of the youngsters would be that offensive spark plug. I think Nolley can be, but he will have to do it from the high post as he isn't going to blow by many defenders from the 3 pt line. I am still holding out hope that Cone grows two more inches and finishes at the rim with ease.

Whatever. It was one bad year.

Seasonal Brew means High ABV for football season and standard the rest of the year.

Cone really reminds me of a younger Jrob but with a serious offensive game, if he can get better using his body to shield the ball hand and allow him the space to make up for his height differential he can be special. Just needs the confidence to go inside and trust his speed and use some trickery to learn to get the easy lay ins

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

I too have really enjoyed watching these guys. It's funny how my expectations have changed from pre-season to now. I went from thinking this team would be pretty bad to being disappointed that we may not make the tourney. Considering how young this team is both in age and experience in CMY's system, I can't wait to see what their ceiling is going forward.

"The Hokies are exciting, and will be a blast to watch for the next two months"

can I just take this opportunity to say F*CK xfinity, F*CK ESPN, and F*CK the ACC network. ive jumped through more hoops this season than mike young's teams has had 3 point basket go through one and some how even after all that Ive still seen less basketball on TV this year than guys we have over 6''9''

twitter @smithey_daniel
head scout BSP scouting specializing in north florida/ southern GA highschool football scouting

I second that opinion. I used to be able to get most of the games on TV or through the ESPN app. Not any more, I have only seen maybe 5 games this year. I either have to switch back to Spectrum (uggh) or cut the cord thanks to the monopolized service areas. The unfamiliarity of using the YTTV, hulu, roku, etc is really the biggest obstacle, and for someone whose age puts them almost to millenial gen, I am probably making a bigger deal out of than I should and just need to make the switch.

Whatever. It was one bad year.

Seasonal Brew means High ABV for football season and standard the rest of the year.

I used youtube tv during football season but i only watched 1 game on TV (the ODU game) and just found it to be a waste of money. considering my xfinity bill is already excessive as hell (cutting the cord isn't really an option because of the # of TVs in my house) i just couldn't bring myself to pay another 50 a month for youtube TV so i cancelled it after a month.

twitter @smithey_daniel
head scout BSP scouting specializing in north florida/ southern GA highschool football scouting

I did the exact same. Xfinity is the only cable service on Cape Cod, and I believe they have perpetual rights.

"cutting the cord isn't really an option because of the # of TVs in my house"

Can you elaborate on this? Too many TVs? Not enough? How many are Smart TVs?

I absolutely love YouTubeTV. I have 4 TVs, (one is a smart TV hard wired to the router, two are connected to Chromecast Ultras, and the fourth is using a Gen2 Chromecast). For the "dumb" TVs, the wife and I just cast from our tablets, phones, and on rare occasions, our laptops. I am saving a ton of money versus what I was paying with FiOS or Comcast years before.

"Sooner or later, if man is ever to be worthy of his destiny, we must fill our heart with tolerance."
-Stan Lee

"Never half-ass two things. Whole-ass one thing."
-Ron Swanson

"11-0, bro"
-Hunter Carpenter (probably)

maybe i haven't done enough research? i was thinking 40-50 bucks a TV for a streaming service? (and actually i misspoke its 6 tvs) 3 smart TVs. smart ones in the den (man cave/ hokie room) one in the living room (which is rarely used) and one in the master, then the 3 remaining TVs are on the back patio, my sons room and the guest bedroom. ive been a long time cord in person so maybe my hesitation is just comfort and lack of real attempts to do anything about it and look into other options. coach me up! help get me right so i can save some money at home and splurge a little more for the recruits on the trips so they can get a value meal at the hardees instead of just a sandwich!

twitter @smithey_daniel
head scout BSP scouting specializing in north florida/ southern GA highschool football scouting

For you it would really come down to how many TVs will realistically be on at the same time using YouTubeTV. With one subscription (I think it is up to $54.99/mo now, used to be $49.99) you can stream to 3 TVs at the same time, so theoretically you, your wife, and your son could all be watching YouTubeTV simultaneously. Add in a guest and someone is getting kicked off, though. You would just have to consider how often that is likely to happen. I have two kids, but they usually are watching the same TV or are watching Netflix or Disney+ so it works out. Just yesterday evening, I got kicked off of YouTubeTV on my Smart TV because my wife didn't close YouTubeTV on one of the tablets in the morning, my kids were watching it in the dining room and she opened it on the other tablet. That was the first time that happened since I signed up over a year ago. I haven't checked into it, but I wonder if they offer expanded options for more $.

I was very reticent to switch at first, especially since I was initially doing it without the convenience of a smart TV. But now, I wish I did it sooner. Don't let fear of the unknown stop you.

"Sooner or later, if man is ever to be worthy of his destiny, we must fill our heart with tolerance."
-Stan Lee

"Never half-ass two things. Whole-ass one thing."
-Ron Swanson

"11-0, bro"
-Hunter Carpenter (probably)

I was very reticent to switch at first, especially since I was initially doing it without the convenience of a smart TV. But now, I wish I did it sooner. Don't let fear of the unknown stop you.

I can't second your sentiment enough. My only regret with switching to YouTubeTV is not doing it sooner. I'm in Asheville and I there hasn't been a Hokie football or basketball game that I've been unable to watch.

I will also add that the beauty of YouTubeTV or Hulu Live is the lack of a contract. You can try it out for a month to see if you like it or if it is just too much of a hassle. Sometimes they even offer free trial periods. If you like it, keep it and ditch the cable. If you don't cancel it and stick to what you have.

"Sooner or later, if man is ever to be worthy of his destiny, we must fill our heart with tolerance."
-Stan Lee

"Never half-ass two things. Whole-ass one thing."
-Ron Swanson

"11-0, bro"
-Hunter Carpenter (probably)

I travel a lot for work and the ability to watch my teams wherever I am is great! I've even been able to stream YouTubeTV on my iPad on a plane. I've never gotten a streaming service to work on a plane.

Have said before and will again...Directv with the $10 sports package and I've gotten every game this year, football and basketball. Yeah, I hate them, and I wrangle with them quarterly to keep my bill in line, but we just like so many different things on tv that we can't seem to do without it. Prime and now Netflix costs even more, but we get Prime money back on free shipping and haven't paid Netflix a dime yet. I'd love to know how much a person spends that has cut the cord and what they do without to do so. We haven't figured out a cheaper way to get what we want yet.

Reel men fish on Wednesdays

We have Sling Orange+Blue with whatever package has the Hallmark Channels and that is $50 per month. We also have Prime but really got that for the free shipping, and we pay $7 per month to be able to stream CBS. I think it would be $10 per month for the ACC network, but I have chosen to listen to Laze and Burnup for the games that are not on regular ESPN or the Duece or other major network. The benefit is the rental money for the damn cable boxes. I have Roku boxes for all my TVs which you can get on sale for $50-60.

One thing about Sling is that Orange you can stream on 3 devices and Blue you can stream on 1.

I wasn't surprised by this game, you could see it coming because our play was starting to waver. I love Bebe, but he has to become an offensive threat instead of picking up the ball in the lane. That is a huge no-no and he can not be the pivot guy against a zone defense, too short and not a good enough shooter, yet. We also need to cut down our droughts where we don't score for 5+ minutes. And I have said for years, we need height!! But all in all this is house money so we should be playing loosely (but not too loosely) and learn from the experience. Our future looks very bright under CMY.