Random Thoughts After 5 MBB Games

My love of VT sports started in 1986. My best friend and I snuck into Cassell Coliseum while everyone else from F-C High School competed at Rector Field House. 33 years later, those same two seats are mine as a season ticket holder, just behind press row in the rafters. I enjoy Lane Stadium. I LOVE the Cassell and Hokie basketball. So with Joe's permission, I'm going to share some thoughts from the cheap seats behind press row from time to time in forum.

First, attendance. We can revisit the impact of Brent Williams on Virginia Tech basketball in a few years, but there is one really salient point that matters today. The attendance for last night was 8,421. While that's arguably not reflecting butts-in-seats, you can't ignore the fact the crowd was excellent for a Wednesday night, non-conference home game. On November 22, 2014 Virginia Tech lost to Appalachian State 65-63 with a posted attendance of 2,970, and I can tell you – the place was pretty empty. Donation dollars, facilities improvements, and the sale of beer are important to a program. But having a crowd to play for matters, and what we see today is attributable to Buzz and Whit. A big shout out to a flourishing Cassell Guard and the pep band, too – louder, prouder and with serious fathead action.

Second, I'm truly bummed out by the "Ford Trip to the Line". I already own a Ford, my ambulances are Fords... I'm thankful for Ford contributing to the program, but the Smithfield bacon promotion was fun and helped Cassell get rowdy. I just don't see Ford giving away food (leave your lemon jokes here); but how about a $250 scholarship to a member of Cassell Guard when an opponent misses a pair in ACC play? I'll defer comments on the beer sales 'til later in the season and we have a larger sample size.

Third, this team and coach already know who they are even though they struggle with execution at times. With 27 seconds left, the Hokies led 97-64. Nahiem Alleyne pulled in a rebound and kicked it out to Isaiah Wilkins. Wilkins didn't turn out and dribble down the clock, and didn't power slam. Instead, he pulled up and drilled a three-pointer to break the century mark. Cassell went bananas. Coach Young said when he was hired the team was going to shoot threes "until our arms fall off." And they did – all five of Wilkins' buckets were behind the arc. That shot – and the culture it represents – is going to matter.

Which brings me to my fourth point. Coach Young is HOME. I'm sure most of you have heard some of his sound bites; he's personable, accessible, respectful, open, and downright funny at times. The anti-Buzz. He has a "gee-golly-gosh" approach coupled with a masterful understanding of both his team and the game. He quipped after the Clemson game: "I looked over there one time, and bless their hearts, I've got three freshmen playing in their first college game. I thought, 'What am I doing with my life?'" He's open about the team, their challenges, and how he coaches. He literally bounces right out of the locker room to Laaser and Burnop. He's focused, not flippant and clearly enjoys coaching.

More importantly, he truly loves coaching Virginia Tech. I know we'll have some tough moments this year and who knows – maybe the 5-0 start winds up being the high point. What I can say, though – I'm truly looking forward to watching this team from Row BB, behind press row. Come join us if you can.

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Comments

Buzz took us from basement dwellers playing in an old empty barn, to a school that expects to make the big dance and a rockin' crowd. As salty as some are about his personality and his exit, he did that.

He also left the cupboard pretty bare when he left and it would be pretty easy to slip right back down to the basement. CMY worked his ass off getting a team together and it is one that can compete. I remember JJ and how he started hot before becoming the worst coach in Hokie history (worse than Stokes). So I will reserve judgement.

But I am thrilled that we have a team that is fun to watch and not an embarrassment. Will we be beat Duke, MSU, UNCheat or loluva, I have no clue. But we should also at least look like we belong on the same court.

That being said, let's go to Maui and win the damn thing!

The mantra that Buzz built VT basketball is erroneous. Buzz did great things in his time in Blacksburg but Hokies will turn out to support quality teams (see this upcoming Sunday for NCAA Men's Soccer)!

Yes, Buzz did rebuild after the JJ years but Greenberg proved that VT could compete in the ACC and draw crowds first. (And before Greenberg the Foster years had a packed Cassell, etc.)

  • November 23, 2004 (Greenberg's 2nd Season @ VT, 1st in ACC) vs Maryland-Eastern Shore, Attendance: 8,389;
  • November 12, 2005 vs Bowling Green, Attendance: 9,847;
  • December 10, 2006 vs Appalachian State, Attendance: 9,847;
  • December 1, 2007 vs UNC Asheville, Attendance 9,847.

Hokies have supported VT Basketball for 15 years, Buzz did not build this (JJ almost demolished it).

I actually agree with you completely. My point would have been better made by saying he helped us return to a form that we had lost. As many programs can attest, that is never as easy as it sounds. The Cassell I remember (and found most endearing) were the Wally / Bimbo / Quentin years where we did have outstanding, rowdy crowds.

And no surprise there, it's Wally Lancaster with an airball that looked gorgeous on its way to nowhere...
2/15/89, VT vs. South Carolina...

Lee

The reason the "Buzz is the savior of VT basketball" gets to me is not born out of disdain for Buzz but for my appreciation of the support Hokies give one another and have done so for decades.

This is home and it is a special place.

I think you are right and rebuilt would probably be a better way of saying it. JJ hurt us with fans, donors and recruits. I think you are right in that winning will build a fan base and donors, but it is hard to win without recruits and it can be hard to get kids to buy into your program when you have been absolutely terrible. That is what I give Buzz credit for. Being able to recruit and coach a winning team that rebuilt the excitement. I also believe that in terms of excitement around the program, recent history of success, and more name recognition definitely put CMY in a much better position to start from. That is what Buzz helped build, or rebuild. We weren't nothing, but he helped us rise from the ashes.

Built or rebuilt, Buzz deserves a ton of credit. Because of him we are a respectable ACC basketball school that's capable of generating 1st round NBA draft picks. Building that is a huge feat in this modern recruiting era.

I think its a little unfair to say that 'JJ' almost demolished it. I don't think he should bear the blame, but the AD that put him in that place. He was offered (and likely enticed) the position and it was a huge opportunity for a young coach. And obviously an opportunity that was way too early and over his head. But how do you turn that down?

He should not have been put in that position. It was irresponsible of the school and AD. Period.

I feel for the guy......

JJ was a horrible coach for VT.
Rickey Stokes was a horrible coach for VT.
Bobby Hussey was a horrible coach for VT.

I am not aware of anything to make me think that any of these coaches are horrible people or didn't try their hardest.

I do blame JW for the Stokes and JJ hires. JW made lots of bad decisions while at the helm.

Will we beat MSU? I agree, I don't know. But we match up better with them than we will with some ACC teams. Their starters are 6-8, 6-6, 6-8, 6-1, and 6-2. Ours are 6-7, 6-3, 6-6, 6-0, and either 6-1(Radford) or 6-4(Wilkins). They do have 2 guys 6-11, 225 and 7-0, 245; but the 6-11 guy is a soph the plays 11 minutes per game. The 7 footer is a RJr who only played 2 games for a total of 5 minutes. My question is whether we can continue to get and make the 3's. If we can, we should be able to not be embarrassed.

Doesn't matter if it's cake or pie as long as it's chocolate.

I think the lack of another rotational post guy, coupled with a PG who hasn't shown the ability to get to the rim, will hurt in the long run. But, I like how they play unselfishly and they are playing as good a defense as they can play given their limitations.

They have a good coach and a good core to build on.

Five star get after it 100 percent Juice Key-Playing. MAN

I think the lack of another rotational post guy

The absence of Blackshear is glaring. With early losses to FSU and UConn, Florida stumbled out of the gate for a preseason top-10 team and maybe KBJ is lamenting his decision to transfer.

CMY hasn't trusted Johnson enough to play him major minutes which is damning for a graduate transfer. Ojiako flashed potential but I'm bearish about him against stronger competition at his current iteration. Horne is an endearing character but the fact that he's our main "big man" is an indictment of both coaching regimes.

TL;DR I agree, our bigs ain't great.

coupled with a PG who hasn't shown the ability to get to the rim

I believe Cone will eventually evolve into that guy. Cattoor has played beyond my expectations but hasn't demonstrated the burst or creativity to be a lead guard. This is a great opportunity for Bede to become an alpha alongside Nolley.

They have a good coach and a good core to build on.

I agree and it's exciting to see what CMY can pull of this year. .500 in conference play would be an incredible goal for them to hit and I legitimately think it's in play this season.

Regarding Johnson, it seems pretty clear he's just a bench energy/morale guy. He's hilarious to watch on the bench after a big play. I assume he was also a contingency plan if we didn't land Ojiako. Remember this guy wasn't a starter for Alabama State.

Great points French, and both were things Coach Young mentioned over the past few days as well. Last night (paraphrasing best I can remember) 'I'd love to have a couple of bigs that we could drop the ball to but that's not who we are right now...' as well as him stating that they were going to need Wabissa Bede to start calling his own number and get to the rim to keep opponents honest.

And no surprise there, it's Wally Lancaster with an airball that looked gorgeous on its way to nowhere...
2/15/89, VT vs. South Carolina...

Lee

With the way their offense functions, they don't need a big to be a primary scoring threat. However, when your shooting struggles, you desperately need a point guard to get to the rim and either finish, distribute, or get to the line. VT doesn't have that guy, so they will hit a stretch where the offense will become stagnant. The lack of an additional post guy is obvious, but 2-1 oozes talent defensively. But, you can't just rely on one guy, particularly because teams that do have PGs who can get to the rim will foul one guy out the way the game is officiated now.

I like it. I am just tempering expectations because there are limitations. And, that is to be expected. I like the fundamentals (and they are super familiar after years of sitting through EHC basketball at it's peak before I went to school there and the wheels fell off.)

Five star get after it 100 percent Juice Key-Playing. MAN

I agree with your takes. I have hope for Bede finding a go-to offensive move that defenses have to respect/ collapse the lane around. Probably a pull-up floater or a strong foul-drawing drive (think NAW getting to his left in the lane). If that doesn't come to fruition, Cone might be able to provide an offensive PG boost from the bench. We have to see how he handles tougher competition though.

I went to high school in Saltville and the wife went to EHC. I partied down there OFTEN many years ago.

I went to high school in Saltville

Did graduate before or after Pat Narduzzi?

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)..

He went to Youngstown Ursaline in Ohio. Not sure what your asking.

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)..

Did graduate before or after Pat Narduzzi?

So are you taking a shot at me or the high school? I'm genuinely curious. Some key words missing in your question there.

You said you went to high school in SALTVILLE. He asked about a man famous for being, among other things, very salty. I'm not mad, I'm just disappointed.

Ah! I see now. I am indeed slow this week

Bede is averaging 8 assists per game and passing up a lot of good shots in the lane. He is obviously working on distributing the ball to the open shooter more than taking his own shot. Think about it. We have a bunch of freshman who need to build confidence in their shooting and a JR PG who is rock steady and plays air guitar after hitting 3's.

During TTL, CMY alluded to Bede scoring more will be something we see in the future, which makes me think this is an intentional approach to get the FR warmed up.

Bede can absolutely get to the rim, he just gets scared of shooting it when he gets there. Cone certainly can get there as well but, he is playing like a high school senior that just joined the ACC right now. We are going to be an excellent team sooner than we think. I'll keep saying it.

CMY has things trending in a great direction (plus he seems like a nice guy). I think we can make more NCAA tournaments than we miss going forward. Basketball builds aren't football builds - they move faster and one or two quality recruits can actually carry your team. Coach Williams turned us into a sweet 16 team from the best basketball conference, and CMY seems to have preserved some of that momentum (not to mention guys like Nolley II and Bede). I believe we can permanently raise the floor for our program, especially with the help of the great equalizer of the 3 ball.

The sample size is indeed small but it appears that this team will be very tough to beat when the threes are dropping and a question mark otherwise. Go Hokies!

"Two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I am not yet completely sure about the universe.” -Einstein

Coach Deel would not approve of your sneaking out of Rector...

I neither confirm nor deny he may have "encouraged" that behavior in the moment. If my memory serves me correctly I think we might have actually followed YOUR bread crumbs to be honest my friend!

And no surprise there, it's Wally Lancaster with an airball that looked gorgeous on its way to nowhere...
2/15/89, VT vs. South Carolina...

Lee

I'll defer comments on the beer sales 'til later in the season and we have a larger sample size

A larger sample size shouldn't take that long, IMHO...

EDIT: I'm glad this will be happening and your off to a great start. Look forward to reading this series, just,..., have a few beers!

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

I think the biggest surprise to me so far is how Tyrece Radford, Wabissa Bede and Isaiah Wilkins are the top three rebounders for this team. Radford is 6'1 and averaging 7 rebounds a game and doing it while only playing 20 minutes a contest. Bede is also 6'1 while Wilkins comes in at 6'3 but each are grabbing 5.4 rebounds per contest. I know as we face stiffer, LARGER competition that this will likely shift somewhat but its good to see the little guys with a nose for the ball.

CMY said they can't keep Radford off the boards in practice either

Outside it's night time, but inside it's LeDay

His statline is hilarious for a 6-1 guard. He's averaging 7 board per game, leading the team in rebounds. And he's shooting 70% from the floor, with 0% for from 3. If you saw his statline and didn't know anything about him, you'd think he was a 7 footer, not 6-1.

Alien Arms

"Don't go to, go through"

He averaged 6.0 and 4.5 rebounds in his senior and junior HS years, respectively. His current 7.0 average is certainly surprising.

I'd assume he was his high school's go-to scorer, so he probably wasn't hitting the glass as hard. For us, he is a purely off-ball player, so he crashes the glass as hard as he can.

CMY made a comment about Horne doing a good job of clearing his guy out. So while Horne may not be getting the rebound he is giving VT's guards a better chance at getting them.

Basically Horne is neutralizing the #1 rebounder from the other team at the expense of his own stats. Our guards are crashing the (defensive) boards with authority and grabbing the occasional offensive rebound as well.

Y'all in the comments keep bashing Buzz but can't seem to keep his name out your mouths, like a crazy ex-gf

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

I think if you read the OP or a lot of the comments, most talk about what Buzz did for us in a positive light.

Some do, including the OP, but it's always entertaining to read the retorts claiming Buzz didn't actually do anything to contribute to this year's squad. Without Buzz, CMY isn't landing 4 star recruits for 2019.

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

Cuz without Buzz, Whit would be coaching this team?

I need me some of your crystal ball confidence. What stocks are you buying now? Got any parlays for the weekend?

These freshman are really confident and poised. Cattoor, Cone and Alleyne are super impressive. Cone has the look of someone who will be almost unguardable. He can step back and drain the 3, blow by and elevate for mid-range J's, catch and shoot and just explodes off the floor. Was good to see him and Bede on the floor at the same time last night.

Going to be real interesting to see how they play against MSU.

'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'

Bede is T4 in assists per game at 8. He is 2nd in assists per 40M with 12.3. Guess who is 1st in that category? Chris Clarke for Texas Tech with 14.4 assists per 40M. He's averaging 7.3 APG, playing about 20 minutes per game.

Anyway, really great to see how well Bede is playing right now. He is also 2nd in country with a 5.0 A/TO.

Our defense has been a bit better than expected so far. If we have a good shooting night and can generate some looks, and if Nolley can do his thing, then we might be able to keep it pretty close against MSU. CMY knows how to take an undersized and outmatched team and make them competitive against a top team.

Haven't thought about Clarke in quite some time until I read your post... now I'm looking forward to checking out some TT games once the season picks up a bit.

Not scoring much, but dishing the ball like a magician. Haven't seen any of their games, but I want to.