[Ed. Note: Bumped from FanPosts. Also, thanks to CM for quality FanPosts throughout the basketball season.]
I know this is a little late, but I have been periodically trying to put this together while trying to graduate from college and land a job at the same time. So even though this is long overdue, I think that this should have some nice little tid-bits of information for you Tech basketball junkies who were looking for some closure on this great season that never really came. ENJOY!
MVP: Dorenzo Hudson- This is a no-brainer to me. Where would we be without Dorenzo Hudson today? This kid increased his scoring average by 10.6 ppg! That's right, he went from 4.6 to 15.2 ppg! That was tops in the ACC. On top of that, 'Zo hit 44% of his shots, a more than respectable percentage for a guard. He showed the ability to take over a game (UConn, Seton Hall), hit a game-winner (UConn, BC), and really what would we have done without 'Zo's 41 points against Seton Hall!? Nothing. Nada. It was an MVP-like performance. It was exactly what 'Zo needed to get going, and from then on, the 'Zo show WAS ON!
In addition to establishing a compliment to Delaney in the backcourt, 'Zo played very good defense, not accumulating stats, but sometimes those are misleading. You could even argue that 'Zo was the #1 offensive option at the end of the year for the Hokies. I would. Disagree? Who did Tech run a play for at the end of the UConn game? 'Zo. In previous years, that was an opportunity for Delaney or Vassallo to throw up a bad contested shot and for Delaney to try and draw a foul. But they ran it for 'Zo and 'Zo hit it.
If you had told me that 'Zo was going to score 500 points this season I would have told you that you are in need of a brain scan or that you aren't a very good comedian. That's how good 'Zo was for us this year. I'd like to say Malcolm for those of you who still aren't sold on 'Zo, but he shot 39% from the field and 31% from 3 (both figures were rounded to even make it to that point)! Too many bad shots and flops in midair by Delaney to give this to him. He didn't show up in crunch time and crumbled down the stretch. I just couldn't call that an MVP-like performance.
Defensive MVP: Terrell Bell- Bell was just a hawk out there on D. He is rangy, he covers ground exceptionally fast (especially in air), and he knows how to bait people into taking the shot he wants them to take and then throwing it right back in their face. Terrell was phenomenal this year! He showed shades of it before this year, especially in the first couple of games last year, but this year was the first time that Terrell actually became a defensive stopper. He finished second on the team in blocks with 38 (just 4 behind Jeff Allen), third on the team in steals with 27, and finished second on the team in rebounding with 208. You know how I said that the stats can lie? Well they didn't for Bell this year.
Freshman of the Year: A jumbled mess, but since I have to...Manny Atkins...- This was a race that it seems like nobody wanted to win. Nobody played consistently good, and I think that is because save Erick Green, nobody played consistently. Green obviously logged the most minutes, he helped get us that crucial win against Seton Hall in his first start (which we thought was going to be the tournament sealer if we TCB in the ACC), and you just can't say enough about his performance there! Yeah he fouled out, but was mis-assessed a foul and really was very good the entire game. But, then Green laid an egg the rest of the way, finishing sub-.30 percent in both 3-point shooting and shooting from the field, including a stretch of 17 straight missed shots (maybe even 18, I can't remember). Granted Green's shots looked good form-wise, and I think he will recover to be a good shooter (knock on wood), they just didn't go in, and I question his legs. Often times a freshman will have a problem adjusting to the pace and length of an entire college basketball season, and I'm thinking (and hoping and praying) that that had something to do with his horrid shooting. But in good faith, I can't award this to a guy who played 427 minutes and was as inefficient as he was...especially because he really only played one half of the season (the other half you wouldn't even know he was out there without consulting the box score because he just disappeared).
As for Boggs, he was arguably the most ready to come in and contribute from day 1, which is a lot to say for a guy who suffered a compound leg fracture just under a year beforehand. However, Ben's game is kind of geared to coming off the bench and being ready to step up. He's a guy you can count on to do the small things whether he's completely cold (action-wise) or has been out there playing for a while. But, having said that, I can't remember a guy that has been in and out of Seth's doghouse so much his freshman year. Of course there were some nagging injuries that limited his playing time (I can think of two), but it seemed that Seth was back and forth on him, loving him, then hating him, then loving him...and so on. To tell the truth I could see Ben taking a redshirt year next year, especially if Debnam returns (laugh if you want, but tell me you wouldn't like to see him in Ben's minutes if he can do just as much or more). I like Ben, but his game is not without flaws, and obviously Greenberg's silent treatment of Boggs' playing time (which I read into, he never said anything other than matchup issues) means he's got some work to do. Best to redshirt.
Cadarian Raines really could've helped and developed some more had he not suffered an injury in training camp that required surgery and then had two nagging injuries that kept him on the bench at the end of the year. Going forward, he is UNDENIABLY the Hokies most physical presence inside, and that should bode well if he continues his progress. Many people have been critical of Seth for not redshirting Cadarian after the injury and the missed time, but I will defend Seth here. Not knowing how we were going to be inside, especially if injuries had stricken us, it would be a nightmare to bring Cadarian in without any action say in the bulk of the ACC season while chasing a tournament bid. Hindsight is 20-20, and although looking back a redshirt would have been ideal, Cadarian Raines losing a year of eligibility to an injury-ridden year won't make me lose sleep. Cadarian had his moments, he also had his struggles, but I can't really consider a guy who played as little as Cadarian did.
Manny Atkins...I know. But here is my argument. Manny logged a career-high 38 minutes in a MONUMENTAL game (as far as the Hokies NCAA hopes were concerned) at Georgia Tech. His previous career high in minutes was against UMBC! AT HOME! WITH 19! So double his minutes in a game like this, in his home state with the pressure on and he was pretty clutch, hitting some big shots and at least holding his own, filling in for an injured Dorenzo Hudson. That game and the game against NC State (Senior Night) where he hit that 3 and then passed up on a wide open 3 at the halftime buzzer with a pump fake, drove the lane and got an easy two right before the horn. You're saying so what? It's a 2!? What's one measly 2? Well, it helped to break up NC State's mini-run going into the break, and helped to sway momentum in Tech's favor. I watched that and I said wow! That's mature. That's called getting it! Do you think Erick Green would've done that at that point in the season? Nope. He would have chucked up a 3. I know he missed a good chunk of the middle of the season because his defense wasn't where Seth wanted it, which is a big determinant of playing time as a freshman for Seth, but when he did get in, he impressed. Especially down the stretch. He was also much more efficient than Green, shooting 44%, 35% from 3, a bad 46% from the line (but for a guy that only visited the stripe 13 times all season, you've got to imagine it's hard to get comfortable shooting in a real game situation as a freshman...because trust me, it IS different in practice and during a game), but a positive assist-to-turnover ratio and 14 steals for a wing in only 198 minutes. For my money, it's Manny.
Most Improved: A toss up...Dorenzo Hudson/Terrell Bell- It's hard not to give it to Hudson, especially citing the stats above, what with the 10.6 point per game improvement. But Terrell Bell really came into his own this year, filling a role that we really needed filled to become a complete team. In actuality, 'Zo was the most improved player in the conference, so it's probably 'Zo under that logic. But, I don't want to take away from Terrell Bell's progress. He really became a more complete player, and would you believe it that he LED us in 3-point percentage this year if you applied a qualifier to root out the guys like Debnam who only took two 3-point shots or JT who only took 6. So I'm in the giving mood, Christmas or no, both guys are winners here.
Biggest Bust: Gene Swindle- It infuriates me that we even kept this kid. It's not his fault, but I am sick at my stomach to think about a kid who did everything right (save the Mike Gundy jokes) being forced to transfer to free up a scholarship when we had a guy who was at best a project; at best a Chas McFarland (a foul-out addict) that could have filled that role. And in reality, Swindle was more likely to be a poor-man's Robert Krabbendam (not a glowing review for those of you who are relatively green to Tech basketball) Like I said, it's not anything against Gene, but Hank did more for the team than people think. His change of pace was key, and I think he could have really helped us spell Malcolm and keep him more fresh (which could have made a WORLD of difference), improve experience on the floor at the point when Malcolm was out, our ball-handling, assists and just generally making everyone a better player. Hank did that. I know it would have stunted Erick's growth, and maybe it would have led to a redshirt for him (which would have been excellent), but as bad as his shooting was (and that was amplified by confidence issues) he really had potential to be an okay shooter. All things considered, I just feel like sacrificing a team guy with all Hank had to offer to see if a guy who is a complete mystery pans out is a bad idea. At least you know what you had with Hank. The result: 19 seconds played, 0-for-1 shooting and 0 points. Great career Swindle.
Biggest Performance: Hudson against UConn or Seton Hall- Take your pick. Is it Hudson's 41 against Seton Hall? Is it his 27 and his game-winner against UConn? Either way, it has to go to Hudson. I'd probably lean towards the 41 and Seton Hall because of Delaney's absence and the fact that UConn was in the post season and well..., do I have to say it? It's the NIT.
Worst Performance: Delaney against Miami in the ACC Tourney- 7 points in one of the worst shooting performances Delaney has ever had in any uniform against a 12 seed (although the 12 seed in the ACC proved to be better than what people thought, improving the perception of the league. I guarantee you they are the BEST last placed team in their conference in the nation). He just kept forcing shots. Again, and again, and AGAIN! It was agonizingly painful. They were bad shots, but shots that usually go for Malcolm (or at least some of them). Just another reason we needed to rest Malcolm more so that he had fresher legs at the end of the season. But you have to forgive a guy who averaged 20 points and led the ACC in scoring.
Biggest Win: #23 Wake- Obviously looking back at the season, this doesn't look as big now after Wake collapsed down the stretch again, but they did make it to the second round of the tourney courtesy of an Ish Smith buzzer-beater (tell me you haven't heard that before. Speaking of ouch...). But at the risk of sounding like the selection committee, WE REALLY DIDN'T HAVE THAT MANY BIG WINS! Does that mean we should've been left out by the bullies who call the shots regarding tournament berths? ABSOLUTELY NOT! But a win against a highly ranked Wake 2 seasons in a row is at least a small reminder of our success and progress as a program.
Toughest Loss: Maryland in 2OT- Punch in the gut. That's about all you can say about this one. Tough to swallow, and one of the reasons we got another punch in the gut on Selection Sunday. If not for Mr. Vasquez and his ridiculous night, we might've had this one.
Best Play: Dorenzo Hudson Dunk vs. Wake Forest- Not just because it showed up on the Top plays on ESPN, but Dorenzo just took it strong to the hoop like we haven't seen since Deron Washington's name was on the back of one of our jerseys. That play was great to watch, but it meant even more to the game because it completely shifted the momentum in arguably our biggest win of the year.
Biggest Shot: JT Thompson 3-point shot to take Maryland to overtime- Well, it was a painful loss, but much as it was painful, it was every bit as good of a game. A CLUTCH shot to keep us in this one. Not bad for a guy who going into that shot had hit one career 3.
Scariest News: That Malcolm Delaney might not be back- This was no surprise that he would enter the draft and not hire an agent to get a better feel for his draft stock and get some reps against NBA competition. Of course it's never a bad thing to get your name out there either. What I think will happen is that Malcolm will get the news that he still needs some work (39% shooting and 31% from 3 for a guy whose claim to fame is shooting doesn't turn heads), that he's not projected to go, and that he's certainly not a first-rounder. Remember, that in the NBA Draft, only first round contracts are guaranteed, so sometimes just getting the news that you're not in the first 30 is enough to deter a guy from taking a chance. I THINK he's got a good enough head on his shoulders to make the best decision, whatever it may be (I think it is to come back. Not just as a selfish thing as a Tech fan, but as a realist, his game could use some seasoning. And it's hard to walk out on a team with as much talent and potential as next year's squad...especially after 3 straight years of goal unfinished). Bottom line, Malcolm should be back, and I think he WILL be back (knock on wood...PLEASE), but not before giving us all a little bit of nausea while he does his thing. The good news is that he can't pull another April Fool's trick on his facebook this year because it's already passed.
Best News: Marquis Rankin and the Domino Effect- This is just the tip of the iceberg potentially, because with 2 scholarships left, and 7 BIG-TIME uncommitted players left on our recruiting board, it isn't completely improbable that we can even sign a higher profile player than Marquis...the highest commit for Tech since recruiting sites have ranked players. He started what I like to call the Domino Effect, in that after we had already nabbed the #28/78 player in the 2011 class in C.J. Barksdale (Scout.com/Rivals.com) and the #104 on Rivals in Robert Brown, getting the #23/26 player in Rankin with 2 scholarships left turned some heads. It will make guys want to come and be a part of this REALLY GOOD recruiting class. It only took one, and that was Rankin. I believe he is the domino that will set in motion the chain reaction that will be the Hokies greatest basketball recruiting class yet. But, even if we are unable to somehow attract players, just to let you know how big of a get this is for the Hokies, I ran around my house jumping up and down in my boxers screaming with joy at the top of my lungs when I saw this news. My family might have been surprised if they hadn't seen this before, but it had been some time since it was jubila tion of this magnitude. Metaphorically: Rankin may very well represent the arrival of Virginia Tech basketball to elite status. We shall see in the next couple years...but bottom line, it should be fun.