[Ed. Note: Promoted from Fan Posts]
So here we stand 20-4 (7-3) (in the ACC nonetheless) and until yesterday via his skype chat, ESPN's premier bracketologist did not have us making the Big Dance. Talk about an insult. But despite this team's critics, they don't seem to be paying too much attention...they continue to play hard and somehow find ways to win...20 times. And we still have 6 regular season games remaining. This is a special team, because although they're are rarely pretty (statistically speaking or to those who have to watch Bud Foster-esque defensive basketball for 40 minutes), they JUST WIN! As a son of a religious Oakland Raiders fan (yes, I know, there are not many left), I am familiar with the old Raiders' mantra...JUST WIN BABY! And that seems to be what Tech is doing. And there is where the Raiders and Hokies similarities end. So let's look at why the Hokies were successful against UVA and what work is STILL left to be done.
The Hokies chances of getting into the NCAA tournament or getting admitted into the NIT (the National Invitational Tournament, or the Non Invited Tournament as I call it) depend on one thing. Wins. Here's my equation regardless of opponents.
- 1 more win- We cannot be feeling too good without a deep ACC Tournament run, and may possibly even be required to win the tournament outright to get a birth. Without that, Seth's lobbying begins again, and the experts will grill us on 1. Our weak out of conference schedule, 2. Our lack of signature out of conference wins (which has a lot to do with reason #1), and 3. our fairly manageable ACC slate with few major wins against ACC Powers (UNC apparently doesn't count anymore). So even if we are 21-9 (8-8), usually a good indicator of a tourney team in the ACC, this will probably have us on the outside looking in if we don't win at least 2 ACC Tourney games. If we find ourselves in this plight in 3 weeks time, I'd suggest praying to your deity of choice.
- 2 more wins- It's difficult to appreciate the difference in one win. Each of the last two years, one more win might have helped to tell a different story. Certainly in the case of the 2007-08 team, one more win would have done the job. Again, I'd have to say that at 22-8 (9-7) we would have to be in the discussion. But once again, we might be sweating it. Which teams those wins come against goes a long way in determining this, but just on our improving RPI, I'd say we'd have punched our ballot with 2 more wins. But I wouldn't go as far as to say that you still shouldn't inquire about help from religious/spiritual beings.
- 3 more wins- Locked, loaded and headed to THE BIG DANCE BABY! I'm just going to go with history here and let you know that there has NEVER been an ACC team with 10 conference wins kept out of the tournament. NEVER! And that resonates with the committee. Even a second round exit from the ACC Tourney (assuming we'd have a bye with a 10-6 conference record) I think 3 wins absolutely seals our ticket. At 23-7 (10-6) we meet pretty much every criteria to make the field. I think the ONLY chance in the world that we don't get in with this is if our RPI drops because of our competition doing poorly in conference play (once again, this is unlikely), or if we have a bad loss. This might be pretty tough to do with 6 ACC games remaining, but if we were to stumble at BC or to lose at home to NC State, that would certainly complicate this formula.
- 4 or more wins- TAKE IT TO THE BANK AND BET ALL YOUR FRIENDS WHO ARE STUPID ENOUGH TO DOUBT YOU! (I know of a couple)
Here are the situations that can alter the equation I have laid out...
- Wins over Duke, GT, Wake or Maryland could reduce the win total needed by 1.
- Losses to BC or NC State could require us to win 1 more than listed above.
So having said that, what do we need to do to get those wins? I'm glad you asked, because below I have the answers to that question.
1. SHOT SELECTION, SHOT SELECTION, SHOT SELECTION!!!- To be able to be a competitive team in March you have to be able to shoot the ball well. To be able to make it to March you have to TAKE good shots. I can't think of a team this is more true for, as the Hokies have found ways to win games despite struggling mightily from the field. Not many teams are at or near the bottom of their conference in shooting percentages and at the top in wins. There is certainly correlation between shooting well and winning games. So even though Tech has done many of the small things to get the W when they aren't having good shooting nights, the simplest thing they can do is to TAKE BETTER SHOTS! Yes, I'm talking to you MALCOLM! Despite the fact that Delaney hits some ridiculous shots, he doesn't need to make that his calling card. Otherwise he can settle for a contract playing AND-1 Ball. He has the talent and the physical skills, and he is leading the league in scoring.
So you may be saying "why are you being so tough on him!?" Well, as much as I love Deron Washington, Malcolm took his worst trait and committed it to memory: THE FLINCH. I love how aggressive Delaney is, but driving the lane to flinch and try to trick the ref's eye is not smart basketball. We saw this a lot in the UVA game. Malcolm drives the lane, gets some contact, throws his body in the air and flails like a newborn, pretty much just throws the ball up in the air and doesn't get a call. While he may have been fouled, there is NO GUARANTEE that you're going to get a call doing stupid stuff like that, and it is pretty much guaranteed that you WILL NOT make that shot. So, do the smart thing, drive the lane, put up a shot that you have a chance on, and if you get fouled, you get fouled. Hopefully the refs will see it and reward you for your smart play and send you to the line.
Once again, if it seems like I'm being overly critical, it's because we may have won to this point on what we do well (i.e. defense), but we are not going to be able to beat the heavyweights (Duke, Wake, Maryland and GT) if we don't improve. Malcolm's .393 shooting percentage is abysmal and his .314 percentage from 3 is looking worse by the game. So improvement with the shot selection (and it's not just Malcolm, it's Dorenzo, Jeff, JT, and Erick too) is the number one concern going forward.
2. REBOUND- We reached the midpoint of the ACC schedule rebounding like a lion, but we've reached the 2/3 juncture of that same schedule rebounding like a lamb, being out-rebounded handily by our last couple opponents. This is mostly the case on the defensive end, allowing WAY to many offensive rebounds. We have faced some talented bigs in recent weeks, but boxing out and hitting the glass are things that we HAVE to do, and we've proven that we CAN do it. UVA stayed in the game simply by getting rebounds and having second and third chances on a possession. I don't care how good our defense is, if we give people 2 and 3 chances to make a shot, they are going to. This is just something we have to focus on and devote more effort to and it should sort itself out.
3. JEFF ALLEN- In my opinion, the win against UVA was Jeff Allen's best game this year, maybe as a Hokie overall. Jeff may have only played 2:30ish in the first half (because he was mis-assessed a foul that should have gone on Victor Davila on the Cavs' first possession), but he made up for it in the second half. Jeff was clutch, hitting big-time shots when we needed them the most, and putting the ball on the floor and being an absolute beast going to the basket. Simply put, Jeff was the difference for us against the 'Hoos. He doesn't have to score 20 points a game, or even hit his average from last year if he is playing as efficiently as he did against UVA and giving us as much effort as he did. Solid game from the Big Donut.
4. PASS OFF OF PENETRATION- If you'll remember reading my post-Miami synopsis or remember watching that game, the commentators harped on the fact that we got little to no penetration. Make no mistake, it was a duly deserved criticism, and it looks like we took it to heart. JT Thompson responded by driving hard to the basket instead of being a jump-shooter. Malcolm has driven the lane more and more (albeit half of the time to flinch midway or put up a ridiculous one handed leaning floater). Dorenzo has taken people off the dribble as often as possible. Jeff has often relied on that facet of his game to give him offense (even too much). But there are TWO things you look to accomplish by penetrating the ball, and we have only been using one. The first aspect of penetration is looking to score by penetrating the lane and going to the hole. The second aspect is that if the lane closes, or if you draw in a defender, you kick the ball to your guy that defender just left wide open. These are equally important tenets of penetration, and we are not doing the second one...a big reason we assist on so few of our baskets. Well I say we are not doing this...ONLY ONE PLAYER is doing this consistently, and his name is...Terrell Bell! So kudos to mister Bell. The problem is, we need guys with the ball in their hand (namely Delaney and Hudson) to join in on this so that we can become a much more dangerous shooting team. If you struggle shooting as a team, it certainly helps to have nobody closing out at you to block/alter your shot. This is kind of in the same category as the defensive rebounding in that, this is a controllable aspect of the game that our guys know and just gotta remember to do.
And you also might be asking, what have we BEEN doing that we need to keep up?
1. DENYING THE ENTRY PASS TO THE POST- This was our achilles heel last year. We would allow guys to post us and catch the ball 5 feet and in. You just can't so that and expect to win basketball games. And this year, to this point we've done this extremely well (knock on wood). Most notably, Victor Davila has shown marked improvement. This was never more apparent than against UVA, when Jeff Allen (generally considered our best post defender) was out for nearly 18 minutes and we held serve down low. If we keep this up, it will continue to make us hard to beat.
2. CASSELL CONTINUES TO BE ELECTRIC!- The last couple of games have been amazing for Tech fans, and they have come out in numbers to support these Hokies, even though for whatever reason the networks have been cold to the idea of putting those games on TV. So although the nation might not know about how much of a home-court advantage we have had lately, TRUST ME those teams who fell victim to the Hokies in the Cassell are saying "Man, what happened to that place!? It's always been a tough out there since they joined the ACC, but this is UNREAL!" So for all you Hokie fans that have been coming out to the Cassell, KEEP IT UP! And for those of you that haven't, if you have or can get tickets to go see the Hokies play, GO! And absolutely DO NOT under any circumstances give them away to our opponents fans. We have had one of the best homecourt advantages in the ACC this season (if not THE BEST) and to be 13-0 at home so far speaks volumes about that. We may not be on par with the Duke's and the UNC's of the world yet with our tradition or basketball pedigree, so some of our fans are green about the rules of basketball, but the enthusiasm IS there! After all, a lot of the people that are showing up to the basketball games have been to our football games. So we know they can get loud!