First off, before I jump into this post, I would like to congratulate Furrer4hesiman for all of his work on the site. Without him creating this forum, none of us would have ever been able to express our insights and relay our feelings about Virginia Tech sports as we have so openly and completely here. He will certainly be missed. Additionally, we have managed to bring Josh Parcell, a former Gobbler Country editor, back on board. Josh has spent the last two years away from the site running ACC Mania and interning at ESPN, which has recently hired him for a full-time position that he will start in June. Congratulations Josh!
Now to basketball. For those of you that have a sour taste in your mouth about how basketball season ended, you're not alone. But what really was the cause of our poor finish? What did the players/coaches do wrong/right? Well, just as I write a basketball preview post before every season begins, I also write a post after every season ends. Click that button and come see how the Hokies grade out!
Erick Green- People are going to think that I am never pleased with the way that I criticize (some think unfairly) the best player on a Virginia Tech team. But, what I can assure you though is these posts are never intended to be made with malice or hatred for a player's game. They are made to accurately depict a player's strengths and faults, and to outline how he can get better (especially if they are reading this post, which they absolutely should be doing fastidiously). For Erick, yes, he was absolutely, positively our teams best player. But much like I said about Malcolm Delaney a year ago, he "appeased me by doing better SOME of the things I had highlighted as needs for improvement in my pre-season expectations." Erick did the same.
Erick exceeded my expectation of 13-14 ppg. by several points. I also asked for efficiency, which Erick improved on markedly, shooting career highs of 44%/38%/83% from the field, 3-point range and the line respectively. While those are all good percentages for a college guard asked to do as much as Erick is, they are buoyed by his unbelievable hot shooting start (Erick had a 52%/58%/86% line through November) and his meteoric drop-off that left him shooting in the low 40%/30%/80% the rest of the way. Granted nobody expected him to continue that run, but that the drop off was so sudden, steep and long-lasting was a little surprising. Erick also posted a 5-to-3 assist to turnover ratio in the first month, which was not equaled again until he posted a superb 7-to-1 mark again in the last week of the season.
Erick hit some amazing shots this past year, but some of them were really bad shots (he also missed a lot of them...I wonder why?). He also was about as poor in the clutch as a player can be (especially from the FT line). This is not a knock on his ability to hit GOOD clutch shots, but rather more of a representation of the kind of shots Erick was getting. As a result of our isolation, clear out offense at the end of games, Erick put up a lot of contested and difficult shots. Malcolm was poor in theses situations as is pretty much every player in the world who confines themselves to isolation basketball at the end of ballgames, including Kobe Bryant who is statistically one of the worst. Yes he has the most game-winners in NBA history, but he also has far and away more game-winning misses than any other player. According to an ESPN article during the 2010-11 NBA season, Kobe shoots less than 30% in these situations. That one of the best players/scorers in the history of basketball shoots that poorly in those situations should tell you everything you need to know about isolation basketball to end games. I am in no way saying I want one person in particular taking the shots at the end of games over Erick, but I would much rather have a good shot for a lesser player than a bad shot for a good player.
Erick was also unable to stay completely healthy. Much like before, Erick picked up little bangs and bruises all season long, keeping him out of a few games. Far be it from me to knock a guy from being injured, but I think at this point we can certainly say Erick's durability is in question. He also drew the ire of Coach Greenberg on several occasions regarding leadership issues and did not start or was removed from the game. This is disconcerting because before the year I thought he was a good leader. I'm not going to put too much stock in a kid and a coach squabbling a little (especially with Seth who we know can be a demanding and sometimes abrasive coach), but it's certainly something to keep an eye on if it rares its head again.
Unfortunately, Erick's ability to be a true lead guard was called into question some this season. That's a complete 180 from my thoughts in the pre-season when I said, "Erick IS a true point guard and he's pass first. He will set up an offense and handle the ball with care," and "4-6 range in assists per game will be great." I said those things because based on the previous version of Erick we had seen that was true, and as such, expecting an increase of 1.3 assists per game wasn't out of the question. What I did not account for was this team's need for Erick to score so much. But once the season was a month underway, it was clear that Erick's offensive game was coming to fruition and that he would need to be the leading scorer for this team (a disturbing trend of lead guards who are tasked with such on a Greenberg team). I think that led to Erick channeling his inner Delaney and going away from his natural point guard instincts.
I'm not saying that I don't want Erick scoring at the same clip, but I think he is still capable of being both a serviceable scorer AND the guy who runs our offense. I can tell you that the most successful offenses have a good point guard who is willing and able to move the ball, and I can also tell you that no matter the talent on this team, if Green doesn't revert to his point guard instincts at least by some measure, this team will not be much more successful next year either.
Dorenzo Hudson- Dorenzo, much like Erick, fell short of my expectations too. 'Zo looked more like the player he was for the 9 games in 2010-11 than the player he was in 2009-10. I said in the pre-season "He HAS to be this team's #1 offensive option for them to have any kind of meaningful success." I still believe that even with Erick Green's improvement offensively. However, that did not happen for two reasons. One, Dorenzo shot a poor percentage from the field, often taking ill-advised shots that wound up getting him benched for the first time in three years. Secondly, Seth DID NOT RUN THE MOST SUCCESSFUL SET PLAY IN THE HISTORY OF HIS TENURE AT VIRGINIA TECH! That is a reflection of him more than Dorenzo, and is the only reason 'Zo's grade is not lower.
In the pre-season I said "Additionally Greenberg chose not to run sets on offense for Dorenzo that were the main component of our offense closing the 2009-10 season either out of concern for him being able to handle cutting around screens and the overall fatigue of being that much involved in the offense OR out of some misguided attempt to, well...I'm stumped. If it was the latter I've lost my faith in Seth Greenberg's ability to call offensive sets (which isn't at an all-time high anyway). But I'm going with/hoping/praying that it's the former. I mean the guy is a head basketball coach at an ACC school, he's GOT TO see how effective that play was (which is why he ran it so often in 2009-10)." Unfortunately, it was the latter. I cannot recall seeing more than one or two such sets being run all season long. That equates to a big fat FAIL in that department from my P.O.V.
As far as the rest of the things I asked Dorenzo to do, he was hit or miss. 'Zo did improve his 3-point percentage to 33% (well more than the 30% mark I had asked for), but also shot his poorest field goal percentage since becoming a full-time starter, at just under 40% (well below the 45% I had asked for). 'Zo did come up big on several occasions, usually cutting into large deficits against big teams. But he was as enigmatic a player as there was this year. When he was on, you could not stop him, but when he wasn't, he was an absolute non-factor.
'Zo also had his poorest ball-handling and passing season of his career, getting progressively worse from 2009-10 on. Despite coaches saying that was what he worked on the hardest every offseason, it never showed. Dorenzo, though pressed into action at point guard, had a SEVEN-turnover game against Boston College. And despite my high hopes and expectations for Dorenzo as a pro basketball player, he will never be a pro basketball player in the NBA. He did hit some game-winners this year and will still go down as one of my all-time favorite Hokie basketball players, but he just didn't live up to his junior season.
Jarell Eddie- During the first half of the season, Jarell Eddie was a man on fire and looked to be the most improved player on the team. The fair thing to say is I underestimated him and put far too much stock in his freshman season, something I tell myself many times and preach to others not to do. I predicted a 4 point per game and 3 rebound per game season would be a success. I was WAY off. He turned in a 9.1 ppg. and 4.8 rpg. season. In fact, he was the Hokies second-leading rebounder statistically (which is a problem).
Eddie did show a little more effort and desire on the floor, and he managed to keep clean off the floor too (or at least out of trouble with the police). But, I think I know what kind of player Jarell is by this point. Ready? A.D. Vassallo 2.0. Offensively, that's a Godsend. We will need him to fill it up like A.D. could. Defensively? A.D. was a liability. And while Jarell isn't as big of a threat to score 20 but give up 30, he's not going to win any defensive honors either. He may be Vassallo+ on defense.
The part of my pre-season expectations Eddie didn't fulfill was rounding out his offensive game and being a player who drives to initiate his own and the teams offense. He did neither. Though Eddie proved he had range that nobody outside of the VT basketball program knew he had, he also proved himself to be pretty much exclusively still a jump-shooter at this point. It took Vassallo until his senior year to fully put together his entire offensive package. Let's hope Jarell gets there a little sooner.
Dorian Finney-Smith- Okay, let's breathe a little before we think about DFS and his freshman season. The expectations were sky high (too high) for DFS because of his lofty recruiting rankings. But again, I ALWAYS caution people that freshmen just don't become superstars in the ACC. Maybe 1 out of 30 will shatter that mold, but it is truly rare. Finney-Smith was exactly what we should expect a freshman to be: nervous, inexperienced and not-ready to play big minutes in the ACC, which he was forced to do. So before you go labeling him a bust, there are several things to consider.
As far as my pre-season expectations go, he was pretty close to or better than most of them. For one, he scored just under what I would consider to be an acceptable range at 6.3 ppg. (but if you'll remember, some other guys scored well more than I expected, so it took emphasis off this). I said "I would love to see him score 9 a game, but 7 or so would be okay provided he was shooting a good FG% and not forcing shots." Forcing shots wasn't an issue. DFS took good shots almost all the time. Nerves, jitters, whatever you want to call it, that is what caused him to shoot a low percentage. His line of 33%/37%/58% is pretty terrible, I won't try to hide that, and he MUST get better from the field and the free throw line. But again, he is a freshman and we were playing him out of position much like Deron Washington. DFS is way too slight of frame to be playing down there. Hopefully we can eventually make a move to the wing for him. That he went 0-for-25 at one point during the middle part of the ACC schedule stunk, particularly because there were a lot of missed layups and open 3-pointers during that time. But, if you will remember, during Erick Green's freshman season he had an 0-for-17 stretch and finished the season with a 29%/28%/68% line, and look where he is today.
I don't think any of us expected him to be a terror on the glass like he was. I asked for substantial help from him on the boards. He responded by being our leading rebounder by a large margin. DFS was also third on our team in assists, averaging 1.9 per game and having a positive assist to turnover ratio. To get that out of a forward, a power forward the way we played him this year, is uncanny. That is something I certainly didn't know to expect. A lot of his turnovers came off of penetration on the baseline, but DFS lacked the speed to get by his defender. That is where his biggest offensive improvement has to come from. With his handle, he can drive to the basket with ease, and that's what a guy like him should be doing. He just has to be able to beat people there. He also played pretty good defense, shutting some guys down. But that was only when he was on the floor (aka he had trouble staying on the floor because of foul trouble).
I think with DFS it's important when considering his recruiting ranking to remember is that he may not have been an elite scorer, but he is absolutely an elite PLAYER. Looking at all the little things that he helped us with this year, he was able to have value for us without scoring even as a freshman. That is pretty rare.
Victor Davila- I considered throwing Davila into the mix of guys with N/A, as he missed the teams last eight games. But, there was enough action to where I feel like we can really analyze what Victor did...and didn't do. Davila, like the rest met me halfway. He upped his scoring average (although from just 7.4 to 7.5), he increased his FT % markedly (from 46% to 65%). That's the good stuff. The bad stuff? He was back down to his sophomore average of 4.2 rpg. and that's with no Jeff Allen to compete with to boot! That's just unacceptable. He also was on pace for more turnovers and fewer assists than in 2010-11.
So why you ask do I give him a grade of B-!!!? Well, simply for one fact: SETH GREENBERG TEAMS NEVER FEED THE POST! EVER! Davila was one of our top offensive options, and he proved it at times, being on the fringe of absolutely dominating a game. But then our perimeter players would decide to go away from him and take contested 3's and turn the ball over. If I am the coach, I don't care what I have to do to get it through my kids' heads, you have to feed the ball to the post when your post player is going nuts inside! My theory is, you can't fault a guy for touches he doesn't get, and I think it's a pretty good one. If we had chosen to feed Victor when he was on the court this team would have done much better. To me that is a certainty.
Cadarian Raines- Remember when I said Jarell Eddie was the first half of the season Most Improved Player? Well, now you're looking at the second half MIP, Mr. Raines. Cadarian was thrust into the starting center role when Davila was injured, and not only was serviceable, but thrived. The season stats won't tell the story. Raines did average a career-high 5.9 ppg. 3.9 rpg. all while shooting 52% from the field, but over the last seven games (which represent seven of the nine he started) Raines averaged 11 ppg. and 4.4 rpg. That's why many Tech basketball fans are as high on this guy as anyone else in the program.
As I said pre-season, "An absolutely remarkable season from Raines would be 6 ppg. and 5 rpg. while shooting over 40%," which means we got an absolutely remarkable season out of an unknown. I had many questions about his health and being in shape (warranted based on his past), which is why in the pre-season I also said "An ideal situation for Raines would be having him for an entire season injury free." To think that we've come that far with a guy like Raines is pretty fulfilling.
Yes, he does still have to work on his touch around the basket as I outlined in my pre-season post, as well as rebounding the ball at a better clip and shooting FT's much better than he did this year (52%, the same as his field goal percentage). The combination of tools he has and the mentality he now possesses, look for Raines to have a big year in 2012-13 (knocking on wood for health reasons).
C.J. Barksdale- I had ridiculously high expectations going into the season for Barksdale, and I am willing to admit they were ridiculous. First off, I broke that cardinal rule again about expecting too much out of freshman (and I'm always the one preaching about it!), but I'll give you good reason. One of my friends who is a recruiting writer for VAPreps.com (who shall remain nameless) hyped this guy up to me for two straight years. He fed me his stat lines, told me how he played and gave me his recollections of when he had seen him play. Given everything I had heard, I jumped on board, ignored my rule and asked for 6 ppg. and 4 rpg. in the pre-season because of his offensive abilities and as I figured, he would be out there more as Raines struggled offensively, essentially absorbing both of their offensive responsibilities. I was wrong for three reasons. #1. Coach Greenberg doesn't feed the post. #2. Cadarian Raines. And last but not least, #3 HE IS A FRESHMAN! So there you have it folks, a lofty set of expectations if there ever was.
The thing is, while he didn't come near my expectations, Barksdale played pretty well out there, averaging 2.7 ppg. and rpg. in only 11.8 mpg. He banged (or tried to), he scored occasionally and pretty efficiently as a freshman and most importantly, HE COMPETED! I can't say enough about that. That a freshman is willing to go out there and throw it around without hesitation is unique when it comes to demeanor. The main problem with C.J.'s game is his height/size, which is completely adequate at the 4 spot, but we had to play him at the 5 some and he hasn't yet figured out a way to beat taller players other than going straight at them, and John Henson proved emphatically why that wouldn't work. That's probably because he's from an area where nobody was taller than him. That's an adjustment to make, but it's something that if he can do, he can be really successful given his talent. I also like that he can step out and hit some mid-range stuff, which will spread us out more and therefore spread the defense, and I want to see him do that more. So, while I sound like I'm down on him, I am not. Right now I am keeping an open mind and hoping that my peer's predictions are right.
Robert Brown- It's hard to imagine that Robert Brown scored the fourth most points for our team in 2011-12, isn't it? It was for me. I mean we're talking about a player who more or less fell flat on his face during conference season (with very few exceptions). But, then again, he did lead us in scoring several times early and took the third most shots on the team (that's right, more than Jarell Eddie).
Robert like several other of the bench players exceeded most of my expectations. I asked him to score 3.5-4 ppg. Check. He scored 6.8 ppg. I asked him to hound ball handlers and to use his length defensively to play the passing lanes. He did that pretty well, so I'll say check. Now, I asked him to hit AT LEAST 33% of his 3-point field goals. EHHHHHHHH! (Buzzer sound) That didn't happen. Brown hit 32% on 113 attempts, more than half his total attempts from the field! That is an issue, because I also wanted to see him develop an overall offensive game. Brown's mid-range is a little spotty, he can obviously hit from deep, but he can drive to dunk or use his spectacular floater as well! Except, guess what!? HE ALMOST EXCLUSIVELY SHOOTS THREES! We rarely saw the other parts of Robert's game, but what I did see I LOVED! C'mon Rob! Show us some more! Not only is shooting that many threes an issue with shot selection, but when you DO have other ways to score, USE them! Don't just be resigned to sitting out there and letting them fly. Especially when Tech needs a clutch basket of FT (both of which he struggled with mightily in the clutch).
There is one VERY positive piece of his game that I didn't think of in the pre-season though: Robert's ability as a playmaker. Robert was second on the team in assists with almost 2 a game and with nearly a 1.5-to-1 assist to turnover ratio. For a freshman shooting guard, that's spectacular. So while there are positives with Robert, he has a couple things he still has to iron out.
Marquis Rankin- Marquis was pretty much everything I said he was in the pre-season, "he is ALL kinds of fast. His height might be an issue, but his speed and quickness are elite. It seems like he's a poor man's Avery Bradley right now. Great defense right now, superior athlete, but his shot hasn't developed 100% yet." I also correctly predicted he would overtake Garland, which only took eight games to hold true. But, despite all of this, Marquis fell short of my expectations, and I feel like it is fair to judge him harshly because I took his limitations into account when crafting my expectations and they weren't that lofty to start with.
I expected 1.5-2 apg. and 2-3 ppg. for Rankin and for him to come in and run our offense to spell Green. Rankin did hit my points expectation right down the middle at 2.5 ppg., but only averaged 1.1 apg. and had a negative assist to turnover ratio. THAT is unacceptable. When you are an offensively limited point guard who struggles to score and hit shots, you better be able to run the offense and take care of the ball. Rankin showed questionable ability in both, especially during the Boston College game. He was encouraging as a spot up 3-point shooter at times, hitting 39% for the season. His absolutely insane drives to the basket from the 3-point line may have succeeded once, so going to the cup and scoring among the trees is going to be a problem for him.
There was one thing I didn't anticipate that Rankin possesses and that is man-to-man perimeter defense. Rankin earned a couple of starts for that specifically, as Greenberg early on tabbed him as his best perimeter defender. But right now it is a little easy for opposing guards to bully Rankin and to shoot over top of him with his size. The bottom line is this: for Rankin to be out on the floor he has to get better offensively and that means passing and holding onto the ball in particular. He also needs heavy work on his knowledge of the playbook (what playbook!?) if there is one to know the sets (laughing so hard right now) like the back of his hand. Until then, Marquis doesn't offer us a lot of value.
Tyrone Garland- Despite Tyrone meeting or exceeding pretty much every pre-season expectation of mine, I don't feel any need to analyze his play as he transferred out swiftly at the first sign he wasn't going to get minutes. However, I think later in the season he definitely would've gotten some minutes given his proven scoring and penetrating ability. Additionally, moving forward his absence hurts as we only have 3 true guards. Nevertheless, Tyrone gets an N/A.
Joey van Zegeren- Joey was said to have suffered a concussion during practice early in the season and subsequently was kept out of games and will petition for a medical redshirt, and while I don't want to sound like I doubt this happened, I am fairly sure JVZ was redshirted because he was not ready to see the floor. It always bewilders me when coaches put kids out on the floor when they know they're not ready, but then in an attempt to save a year, find a loophole and voila. Therefore, I'm not going to try to evaluate a kid who has seen 10 minutes of NCAA action.
Seth Greenberg- I think this will clear a lot up for those of you saying "We went 16-17 (4-12) and nobody on the team gets lower than a C-?" Well here's your scapegoat. I am widely regarded as a Seth Greenberg homer. I appreciate everything he has done and how he has resurrected this program. I see the difference in even now and where we were 10 years ago, and that's why I am not among the growing contingent of people who have forgotten that we aren't entitled to NCAA tournaments, we don't have a long basketball pedigree and as one hopefully drunk Hokie basketball fan I ran into at an away venue suggested during the height of Seth's success, we are not a "basketball dynasty." But, just because I realize and appreciate those things doesn't mean I will not criticize Seth when he deserves it, and he does.
For many of the reasons listed above, Seth has to take the blame. The refusal to run any sort of offense or set, the refusal to feed the post, the sometimes seemingly haphazard throwing together of personnel out there on the floor. Those things are what Seth must answer for. And though going forward I have lost a lot of faith in Seth in his ability to do those things, it is because we are not the basketball gentry that Seth's head doesn't deserve to roll.
So there you have it, a very bad season for the Hokies, a very poor coaching job from January on and a lot of positives to go forward. I hope you enjoyed my analysis of the season. Stay tuned to Gobbler Country for more Virginia Tech basketball coverage and everything else in the world of Hokie sports.