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Virginia Tech Basketball Season in Review: Recap, Analysis and a Look Forward

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Hello folks, I'm glad to be back among the Chicago Maroon and Burnt Orange bleeding bloggers on this site after a long hiatus due to taking a position with the Norfolk Tides. However, this post among others (expect them soon) is one that has been in the works for quite some time. Although I fought with myself over its relevance, Manny Atkins' recent decision to transfer pulled this post back into the realm of relevance and I ran with it. So even though it may be a little late, I think it's fitting to have a post-mortem on this season.

Well, what can I say? I picked the Hokies going 23-6 (12-4) and winning the automatic bid out of the ACC. Of course I couldn't have predicted the dearth of injuries we experienced even after our pre-season injuries. Granted we weren't playing well enough even with the group of bodies (even though some were damaged goods) to even reach that record, but nobody could have guessed after our loss to Duke in the ACC semi's that the NCAA would've kept the longest-running joke in college basketball going by not including us (after every recognized bracketologist SAVE ONE (if you're counting that's 80 of 81!)) predicted our entry into the field the day of the selection process. But we shouldn't expect anything less, as this is Virginia Tech basketball, and as is required by the basketball gods, every moment of our existence as Tech basketball fans must be as gut-wrenching and unbelievably painful as is possible.

So still staying glass half-full, let's look into each player's performance and how they stacked up against my Pre-season expectations.

Malcolm Delaney- I know it seems like I'm incredibly hard on Malcolm, and I hate to harp on the guy who was our team leader and best player this year (and the third-leading scorer in school history). But, I have to say, Malcolm at least appeased me by doing better SOME of the things I had highlighted as needs for improvement in my pre-season expectations.

In the pre-season I asked Malcolm to become a better shot selector and a better caretaker of the rock. He met me halfway as his shooting percentages shot up drastically, but he was poorer on the ball than I ever remember him being. Delaney shot career highs of .420 from the field and .408 from 3-point range (both figures MORE than respectable for a guard that takes as many shots and is responsible for as much of an offense as he is). However, Malcolm faltered from the FT line a little, as he missed a few clutch FT's (and those that he missed looked uncharacteristically ugly). But a pass need be given to Malcolm in that department. Playing as many minutes a game as he did and being such a great free throw shooter for four years means we shouldn't focus too much on that. His legs weren't in it at the end of games sometimes and that's a product of his high minutes and high involvement. Still hard to explain though, for a guy I surmised was pretty clutch before the year.

He also fell in love with Isolation and contested "hero" shots at the end of games. I don't disagree that he should have the ball in his hands at the end of the game, but you still have to run a set, and if there are 3 guys charging at you, don't fire up the contested shot falling away 30 feet from the basket (UNC, where we also didn't need a 3). Instead find the open guy (basketball fundamentals says there are two of them).

As I expected, Malcolm's production overall dropped, but unlike my prediction, it wasn't because there was more production around him for him to fall back on. I attribute this somewhat to the lack of run-outs the Hokies had from the defensive end that created fastbreak opportunities. The '09-10 year saw the Hokies truly DOMINATE that stat category, whereas in '10-11, as a function of their reliance on zone defense to prevent foul trouble, those opportunities dwindled. Malcolm usually had the ball in his hands in those situations, meaning he was getting himself a shot or he was getting to the line. Also the zone indirectly effected the amount of offensive possessions we got, and with a slow-developing offense, you can kind of start to get a picture of why Delaney's points dropped.

Also, by taking the ball out of Delaney's hands and moving him to the off-guard spot, two things happened. Delaney's need and propensity to create for himself on the ball were taken away, and he was given the ability to have plays run for him where he got better looks=his increase in percentage. But, he didn't have the ball to drive the lane to the rim as much as normal, which accounted for lost shots, free throws and ultimately points. But again, this wasn't a bad thing. We need Erick running the offense for this team, not Delaney. That is evidenced in part by his career-high and unconscionable 103 turnovers! So that is the part Malcolm failed to improve on, and his decision making was the largest reason for that. It's not like he had a bunch of 3-4 turnover games like in years past. Malcolm had an extremely high amount of 6, 7, and even 8 turnover games. You just can't have a point guard handing the ball over that much and win games. Hence the move of Delaney to the off-guard was a two-fold benefit.

Overall, Malcolm had a tremendous season. But again I feel like there were a couple of glaring weaknesses in Malcolm's game that he failed to improve on. Malcolm's not the reason we were sitting at home again this year, but he didn't put us over the top either.

Overall Grade: A-

Dorenzo Hudson- It's definitely hard to evaluate Hudson on a 9-game season. It's even harder to evaluate him on a 9-game season in which he was injured throughout those 9 games. So I'm not really going to try to. Much like the Hokies' season, any kind of evaluation like that wouldn't be worthwhile. Instead I'm going to focus on the bigger picture.

From my sources close to the program, Dorenzo came back to school overweight and unmotivated and didn't ever really look like the Dorenzo of '09-10. However, they also attribute him not looking as good on the floor to him carrying an injury all throughout fall which was the eventual cause of his lost season. Although I do have pretty reliable sources, I have to take that with a grain of salt, as I didn't see it in person. If it is true, I hope that Dorenzo recovers, not only physically, but mentally as well so that he can be a better teammate, leader and the dominant offensive force he was in 2009 for this 2011-12 team. Part of that also falls on the coaches who didn't seem to run the plays for him that they did at the end of 2010, most specifically the foul-line screen play where Hudson would run from the base-line towards the top of the key, around the screen and just catch and shoot (there was a lot of examples of this, but this is the play-call we used on our last offensive possession to beat UConn in the NIT last year). He's automatic from there, and we should call that play a lot as he should be our top offensive option next year.

Overall Grade:N/A

Terrell Bell- In my previous article, I asked Terrell to be the team's most versatile player by defending in the post, keeping our offense from stagnating by penetrating, by rebounding and by increasing his scoring production. Bell did an OKAY job in the post, he failed miserably at penetrating, doing as little of it as I ever remember him doing in a Hokie uniform. He didn't rebound quite as well as the year before. He didn't increase his scoring to either of the numbers I had hoped for in my original article, including the conservative expectation of a 2 ppg. increase despite a significant increase of minutes.

On top of all those things, Bell was less active defensively and was less of a factor on that end of the floor. This may have been due to the zone defense, or the minutes he was playing all year long. At any rate, he had a drop-off on that end of the floor as well as in his ball-handling. He also showed a penchant for picking up silly fouls, especially lifting into the air and hitting people on pump fakes, something he never struggled with before. He didn't handle the ball as well as a year ago, and despite the statistics suggesting otherwise, he didn't protect the ball as well it seemed. He was much less of a playmaker as a passer as well. This is unfortunate, because these are all areas that Bell was already good at and we expected him to either play at that same rate or improve upon those areas.

The one area Bell really improved was his shooting percentage, particularly from 3 pt. range. To be honest, he was just deadly in the corners. But he wasn't a poor percentage shooter the year before either, so I would have much rather have Terrell adding offensive punch in lieu of efficiency, which I believe he could've done if he was a driver and not a spot up 3 pt. shooter.

Overall Grade: C+

Jeff Allen- Jeff Allen turned in a pretty phenomenal senior year. Unfortunately for him, his senior year (and really, much of his career) was the case of him either being phenomenal or phenomenally bad. However, after Jeff got his fouling under control (as he fouled out 5 of his first 11 games, often contributing largely to our losing effort as we had no post players) he only fouled out twice in the remaining 23 games. But he was still plagued by committing stupid fouls and having his reputation cause him to get called for a lot more than he actually committed. I remember telling a friend close to the program after a farce of officiating directed at Allen in one game, "He must be the biggest A-hole in the world to get calls like that." To which he responded "he's actually a pretty nice guy, so it beats me."

Jeff's foul troubles aside, he did increase his minutes, effort, and rebounding as I asked him to, and ALSO eclipsed the 13 ppg. mark I had mentioned I would like to have seen him get back over, but that those three things above were more important. The bottom line is looking at the whole product and not how awful the start to his season was, Jeff put together a stellar senior season. After all the criticism, tournament snubs, and errant and blatantly wrong whistles, the ACC saved one more for last (although you could argue the pisspore officiating crew against Witchita State holds that honor by ejecting him on two frivolous calls) by knocking him down to the Second Team All-ACC team. I believe that he became the only player in ACC history to win 3 ACC Player of the Week awards in one season and to not be selected to the first team. So there you have it, his career was basically a Greek tragedy, but Jeff Allen exceeded ALL my expectations his senior year.

Overall Grade: A

Victor Davila- Vic has very quickly and quietly become one of our programs best players. He's the kind of guy you love to have on your team, because he doesn't demand the ball, he gives you consistent effort, AND he knows his role and what shots he should be taking. In the preseason I asked Victor to basically continue to do what he does best: bang down low, increase his stats marginally, to increase his FT % and to not let passes skip off of his stone hands.

Vic responded by being a monster down low for us at times and disappearing at others, however, a lot of that fault must fall on our guards' reluctance to feed him when he had worked himself into good position. He did bang in the post, he increased his stats, and he was playing 31.5 minutes per game to boot, which for a long time was top-10 in the ACC...FOR A CENTER! The bad news is he did significantly increase his turnovers, including a lot of those passes that went off stone hands. Though he did very well at times preventing that from happening, he did struggle mightily at others. Those drops seem to be mental lapses, and so let us hope that he can iron those out. The good news in that department is he became a competent passer for a 5, so we have that to look forward to. He also shot a HORRID percentage from the FT line, decreasing his % drastically. It's also a cause of concern that it looks like it's a confidence-based problem.

Vic did manage to put together a VERY good season, and became almost automatic when the Hokies did go to the post to him and let him turn and hook. His hook shot is definitely his go-to move, and we need to feed him more and make him more of a focal point in our offense next year. I really truly feel like Vic is a fringe-NBA camp invitee if he puts together a good senior year, and could potentially average 12 ppg. if we fed him enough. But basically on the whole, Vic had a terrific season.

Overall Grade: A+

Erick Green- Erick has completely done an about face from his freshman campaign, where he looked okay and showed flashes of good play and what he could be, but also had a shooting drought so big that it made Hokie fans cringe when they thought about his future. Now, I don't know if there's a player in this program that we feel more positive about. It's surprising to me as a Tech fan, as we've had players (even under Greenberg) who have been ready to take that leap and then continued to look the same way over the next few years. It's surprising but refreshing to see guys like Erick, Dorenzo and Terrell Bell, who have carved out a name for themselves by heading in the right direction and kind of coming out of nowhere versus the converse of fizzling out. So let's go over my pre-season expectations for Mr. Green, also known as the Winchester Rifle.

I expected Green to be able to run an offense better, including better knowledge of the sets. That's a BIG check. Erick was also phenomenal handling the ball and running sets, limiting his turnovers (only committing 38 to 86 assists, a stellar rate that at one time was the top margin in the ACC). I also asked that he spell Malcolm at times and also play point a lot when Dorenzo was on the bench or playing up to the 3 position so that we could move Malcolm off the ball. I guess the first part of that was a check, although 9 games in Dorenzo was permanently sidelined, so really there wasn't enough to say there. However, when cast into the starting lineup, Green obviously helped to move Malcolm off the ball and make our offense flow much better. It was seriously the difference between night and day.

I implored him to increase his shooting percentage, which he pretty much did, increasing his FG and FT percentages by more than .100% and .98%, although his 3 pt. shooting % dropped as a result of him falling in love with the 3 ball. It's clear now the sample size is large enough to know he's not a very gifted 3-point shooter, and that's okay. At his position, all he needs to do is be an average 3-point shooter just to the point where a defense will have to respect his ability to make an open shot. I also to improve his scoring and assist numbers by over a point more per game and up to about 1.5 apg. Obviously, he saw MUCH more playing time than any Hokie could have imagined with the Dorenzo Hudson injury, but he improved to 11.6 ppg. and 2.7 apg., giving us officially or unofficially the most improved player in the ACC two years in a row. He also added 56 steals for good measure (the result of his guard-hounding, aggressive defense. He reminds me of Russell Westrbook defensively), which was a bonus I didn't see coming.

Overall Grade: A

Manny Atkins- Manny, Manny, Manny...what can I say? As for your performance this previous year, I asked him to protect the rock more as he dribbled, keeping it closer to his body, rebound more and to improve his FT %. Manny failed to do the first thing I asked, becoming a liability when he put the ball on the floor. He also dipped in assists, causing his dismal 7 to 19 assists to turnover ratio usually reserved for bigs. He did rebound a bit more, but it seemed like it was a more drastic increase as the stats indicate, as Manny ALWAYS seemed to be around the boards scrapping with the big boys for the 'bounds (lovely alliteration, no?). He also completely stood his 2009-10 FT % on it's head, going from 46% to 91%. It's all an indication of just too small a sample size/freshman nerves, as I had predicted an substantial increase as he is a good shooter and good shooters always find a way to hit from the line. But 91% just blew me out of the water!

Unfortunately, if you hadn't heard, Manny is taking off and transferring to Georgia State. I don't really understand this at all, except from the standpoint that he's from Atlanta. Manny is an incredibly intelligent kid (just look up his high school GPA and SAT scores and try not to drool on yourself), he was now a proven commodity for Tech, and I along with many others believed Manny was in line to be the starting SF at the beginning of next season. So again, transferring because he didn't believe he was going to be a big enough focal point in the offense/not get enough playing time is pretty asinine to me. But to each their own. And certainly we will wish Manny good luck in helping to turn around a Georgia State program which has been in the cellar of the CAA, although we could have definitely used his outside shooting and FT shooting (which has been historically poor for Tech teams, at least during my lifetime).

Recommendation to Manny: Manny, if you were to be reading this, I would say that I love your game, and there's not much that you should change, but you still need to work on keeping the ball closer in your pocket as you dribble, to develop more of a consistent drive to the basket and use it more often, to focus on consistency on defensive possessions, and also to not put up shots like our second-to-last possession (if you're counting Delaney's half-court, no-foul called heave) when you came down the floor, got the ball and just popped, out of rhythm and with a defender closing out in your face. We didn't need that and you know you're better than that shot.

Overall Grade: B (and is it too late!? Can you PLEASE decide to stay Manny?)

Ben Boggs- Ben transferred over Christmas break and he hadn't really played at all to that point. Obviously, Ben may have missed out on a big opportunity to play when everybody and their mother went down with an injury for Tech (so egg on yo' face!), but he was probably right in transferring and it benefited both parties long-term.

Overall Grade: N/A

Paul Debnam- Like I said in the pre-season, my expectations for Paul were off the court, being a leader in the huddle, the locker room and on the bench. That's where the results were, and he was exactly that guy.

Overall Grade: A

Jarell Eddie- Now to the polar opposite. It may be too early to write Jarrell off, and too hasty to judge him for the crime he's accused of, but I'm not coming at it from that angle. If you are a freshman, ESPECIALLY a heralded recruit, ESPECIALLY if you are playing poorly and even, -ER on a team where you are being called upon early to play big minutes due to injury, the last thing you need to do is to not show up at game-time, go through the motions and then get caught and arrested for possessing an illegal substance. You want to endear yourself to your coach, your fans and your team. Jarell Eddie did not do that. So again, I'm not going to comment on his future, but doing everything on and off the floor the wrong way doesn't help. Jarell didn't even begin to meet my pre-season expectations for him, and we'll leave it at that.

Overall Grade: D-

Tyrone Garland- Tyrone was a pleasure to have on the team at sometimes and a headache at others. At the very least, Garland was named to the All-ACC Academic Team, even though he was suspended one game by Greenberg for an academic issue (probably missing class, which hey, I mean we all did that in college at least once). As I said in the preseason, Garland is simply a scorer, he is not a point, anything he could give us this year would be in the way of scoring. I was correct for the most part, as Garland did come up with a couple of timely buckets from time to time, but I have to say he surprised me with his defense and his grit/toughness and his desire to mix it up although he was usually the smallest player on the floor. He should never run the point and be a ball-handler or a passer, because again he's not a point and his assist to turnover ratio makes me cringe (13 assists to 18 turnovers). He has a penchant for making bad across-the-court passes that usually end up as buckets for the other team (so sort of an assist!). He did a pretty good job on the whole this year, and showed an okay amount of poise for a freshman.

Overall Grade: B-

Cadarian Raines and Allan Chaney- Cadarian was on the floor for all of 21 minutes this year in 4 games, and again had his season shortened at the beginning and ended several games later due to injury. I believe he will receive a medical hardship waiver and be eligible for 3 more seasons of college basketball. As for Chaney, he already used his redshirt year when he sat out the '09-10 season due to being ineligible per the NCAA transfer rules. Although if there were ever a more likely candidate for a medical hardship waiver, I have not seen him. At this point, to see either of these guys suit up again for us may be unlikely. Just to have them on the floor should be our expectations at this point.

Overall Grade: N/A (I feel like I'm saying this a lot)

With an eye towards the future, we do have the top class coming in Tech's basketball history, so although expectations for next year should probably be tempered a little, I'm expecting to see us still be competitive next year with the Erick Green, Dorenzo Hudson, JT Thompson and Victor Davila core. And it's not altogether impossible to see us tourney bound either next year or the year following...that is, unless you believe my assessment of the program's history in such matters at the top of this post, in which case the religious apocalypse that is supposed to happen tomorrow will definitely happen and will kill off all human life. However, it will still manage to be less painful than the plight of a Virginia Tech basketball fan (okay, half-joking).