In a disappointing effort, the Hokies fell to NC State in a game that was never close. They allowed 100 points for the first time in over six years, as NC State shot over 64% in the game. For comparison, against The Citadel where the Hokies scored 113 points, they shot 60.9%. Needless to say, it was a dreadful performance all around. No one looked sharp on offense, whether that be a product of turning the ball over or simply missing their open looks. This game will surely go into Buzz Williams’ teaching handbook.
1. I don’t even know where to start. But I know where Buzz will, and that’s on the defensive side of the ball. Virginia Tech seemed downright allergic to playing help defense, which is contradictory to the style they have been known to play under Coach Williams. The multiple efforts by multiple players that were omnipresent against the Blue Devils were absent against the Wolfpack. When you have athletes on the other side like Smith Jr., Henderson, and Dorn, you have to be ready to help the on-ball defender. The Hokies did not do that and paid the price.
2. This was the second game where the Hokies really looked incredibly vulnerable in the paint. Against Texas A&M, the twin towers of Tyler Davis and DJ Hogg allowed the Aggies to outrebound Virginia Tech 49-30. Last night, Abdul-Malik Abu and BeeJay Anya controlled the paint, making life difficult for the Hokies, who love to take the ball to the rack. They failed to get LeDay, Clarke, and Robinson going consistently who are generally the three players Virginia Tech needs to feed the ball to have success.
3. The Hokies seem to have caught the injury bug. Kerry Blackshear likely won’t see the floor this season. Minutes before tip-off, Khadim Sy injured his ankle during shootaround, which meant he was dressed in street clothes on the bench for the entire game. At 6-9, he would have likely made a difference in the paint in defending Abu, who went an absurd 9-9 from the field. NC State likely had 15 to 20 dunks which simply cannot happen. And during the game, Seth Allen may have suffered a concussion. The Hokies have been using an eight-man rotation this season, but that number dwindled down to six by the end of the blowout. Sometimes being healthy is better than being good. The lack of depth in the front court was apparent tonight, and will no doubt be a weakness teams will exploit over the course of the next 16 games.
4. Virginia Tech had not played a game as a ranked team in 2,241 days. However, the results were (unfortunately) the same. In 2010, the Hokies lost to #3 Kansas State by 16. Last night’s result was a little more on the extreme end. Since the Hokies are not used to success, it is difficult to evaluate how they perform with a target on their backs. Some underdog teams fail to adjust from the hunters to the hunted. Obviously, we will have to wait and watch a few more games before we can get a sense of what the psyche of the team currently is. From what we saw last night, it was not encouraging.
5. Virginia Tech’s primary issue over the course of the first thirteen games was taking care of the basketball. The Hokies made sure to remind everyone that it is still a problem by virtue of turning it over a whopping 20 times against the Wolfpack. You don’t have to do extensive research to figure out that teams don’t win when they turn it over that much. The Hokies were getting away with murder against non-conference teams with this issue, but this is a flaw that will be exposed in conference play. Against Duke, the Hokies turned it over just twice in the first half which led to a 16-point halftime advantage but faced a large deficit last night due to all the extra possessions they simply gave NC State. The Hokies are not good enough yet where they can beat themselves and still expect to win. No team can do that consistently. And every single one of those mistakes becomes magnified when you are on the road.
6. The ACC this season is really something. When every team is competitive, there are no nights off. Similar to the NFL, anyone can beat anyone. Just look at who’s beaten who in the last week during conference play. Georgia Tech beat UNC. Virginia Tech blew Duke out of the building. Pittsburgh and Florida State both defeated defensive juggernaut UVA. Notre Dame beat #9 Louisville. It is mind-boggling how unpredictable each of these games are. This is why I am not all that concerned about the loss itself. Virginia Tech, at 1-1, is in the thick of it. There will be nights like this in a conference as topsy-turvy as the 2016 ACC.
7. Virginia Tech has really struggled getting off to good starts on the road. At home, this is a non-issue – the Hokies know how to blitz teams early and continue to attack. But on the road this team is completely lost. The Wolverines took a 23-8 lead over the Hokies during their visit to Ann Arbor and the Wolfpack led 39-20 at one point. Teams talk about weathering the early storm in an opponents’ building, but the Hokies are getting run over in the first half of these road games. Buzz Williams has only won four road games in his time in Blacksburg, which needs to change considering his team has much more experience and talent than when he arrived in Blacksburg.
8. Home court advantage has become a theme in the first week of conference play. When at home, ACC teams this year are blowing opponents out. Here’s a stat for you: home teams are 11-5 during conference play so far this year. But in those 11 wins, they sport a +201 point differential – which means on average, home teams are winning their games by about 18.27 points. The Hokies are neither the first nor the last team to get absolutely embarrassed on another team’s floor. It was bound to happen eventually.
9. Justin Bibbs, after draining four of his five three pointers against Duke, was a complete no-show against NC State. He easily takes home the Least Valuable Player award from last night’s game. The numbers are obviously not pleasing. In his 31 minutes, Bibbs was 1-5 from the field, scored just 3 points, turned it over twice, and had a horrifically low -32 plus/minus. Not only were the numbers bad, Bibbs seemed invisible when he was on the court. He just has not looked as confident as he was last season. The Hokies really need Bibbs to start contributing, and not just as a pure shooter.
10. Even in blowout losses like this one, you can usually find one bright spot or one individual performance that was not horrible. However, looking over the box score time and time again yields none of those positive performances. Statistically, Justin Robinson had the best game – he was 3-5 from the field, 2-4 from deep, and energized a 10-0 run to begin the second half. Unfortunately, Robinson fouled out minutes into the second half because he was careless (and had some questionable fouls called on him). NC State just obliterated this team in every facet, and to be fair, they deserve all the credit. This loss was the equivalent of rock bottom. Nowhere to go but up.