The 2006-07 Hokies may not have all the chips, but they've got a great hand heading into season
    The Roth Report
    October 9, 2006
    By Bill Roth

    Virginia Tech basketball coach Seth Greenberg admits he isn't much of a card player. Most college basketball coaches, Greenberg included, focus on full-court presses and defending the flex cut, and not the odds of drawing a backdoor flush.

    But for the first time since his team joined the ACC, Greenberg feels he's got a good enough hand to sit at the big boy's table and compete. He may not be in 'high society' just yet, but Greenberg feels he's getting closer.

    "To use a poker term, 'we're all in,'" he said. "The schedule says it, the expectations say it, and the five seniors will say it. This is the first time we can say that we want to be one of the elite teams in the country."

    "We're all in" is the term and mindset Greenberg has used over and over during this preseason with his team. Tech finished 14-16 last year during a tumultuous season filled with excruciating, last-second losses and off-court tragedy and distraction.

    But with five starters returning, Tech is the trendy preseason pick as a 'team to watch' in the ACC this coming year.

    "Everything about this season says progress," Greenberg said. "The talent level of our players is better across the board. Our depth is better. Our schedule is tough as nails. We've been invited to play in three made-for-television events. That's never happened before - one in New York, one in D.C., and one in Orlando."

    The Hokies will face Seton Hall at Madison Square Garden; George Washington at the Verizon Center, and play three games in Orlando in a Thanksgiving-week TV event.

    "They don't invite bad teams to play in those events," he said. "Where we are in that regard shows we're making steps nationally. We'll have more television games than ever before here. Now we need to win these games."

    To do so, the Hokies will have to get better across the board, starting with the most basic of skills: shooting the ball.

    "We need to improve our free-throw shooting and 3-point percentage," Greenberg said. "We were last in rebounding and second-to-last in free throws [in the ACC]. And we've got to make more 3's."

    Last year, Tech shot 64.5 percent from the free-throw line. In ACC games, that percentage dropped to 63.6 percent. Meanwhile, Tech foes shot 74.8 percent from the charity stripe. That was a difference in a lot of games. Tech made fewer 3-point shots than any other ACC team. And on the glass, Tech had a minus-4.6 rebounding margin.

    "I told the team today that rebounding is tenacity and toughness. Free-throw shooting is repetition. We'll work on both hard during this preseason," Greenberg said.

    Leading the way is No. 22, one of the most dynamic players in the ACC: guard Jamon Gordon. One of the league's top defenders, Gordon also averaged six rebounds per game. He's clearly this team's leader.

    "We've worked hard to get to this point over the past few years," Gordon said. "We've had some tough moments on the court and with our families, but it's made us tougher and stronger. We want to take that next step and win some of these big games on national TV and get to the (NCAA) Tournament and do some damage. We've been through a lot, but I think it's made us stronger."

    Gordon personally says he wants to be an even better leader this year, and he wants to improve his 3-point shooting. He shot just 19.2-percent (5-of-26) in ACC games last year.

    "Absolutely I'll be better this year in that area," Gordon promised.

    Teammate Zabian Dowdell made a team-high 54 3-point field goals last season and had a team-best 70 steals. He teams with Gordon to give the Hokies one of the ACC's most experienced backcourts.

    "We're ready to have a good season," Dowdell said. "Everyone's worked hard to get better. We can win some games the way we play defense and take care of the basketball. We just have to be consistent on the offensive end."

    From Greenberg's perspective, the offensive focus is on his post players this preseason.

    "We need consistent production from our frontcourt, and we need to defend the post and rebound consistently with our big men," Greenberg said. "Also, this team has to deal with the highs and lows that come with playing this schedule. Each game is a separate entity. You're going to win some big games and you're going to lose some tough games. That's the way it is."

    Greenberg is hopeful the return of center Robert Krabbendam from a knee injury will help. The 7-footer has gained 40 pounds since he last played in 2005. Freshman Lewis Witcher should also help up front.

    "Lewis is way more developed than I thought he'd be as a freshman," Gordon said. "He is a good defender and can score with either hand. And he's a good shot blocker."

    That will take some heat off Coleman Collins, who enters his final season as Tech's primary post scorer and defender. Collins averaged 14.5 points and 6.8 rebounds per game during his junior season. If the perimeter game improves, that should make life easier for guys inside.

    "Teams packed it in on Coleman last year," Dowdell said. "We have to make teams respect our threat to hit the outside shot. We didn't do that last year."

    Greenberg feels his team is better at the small forward spot, where Deron Washington and A.D. Vassallo will battle for playing time.

    "Those two guys have worked really hard. They're both much stronger. Lots of time in the weight room," Greenberg said.

    The coach says his team is better and deeper and he plans on using his full deck this year.

    "I know what I have to do," Greenberg said. "We have to play our bench. We need to have eight or nine guys involved so we can be an attacking team. If we're playing Jamon and Zabe 36 minutes per game, we're not accomplishing what we need to accomplish."

    Greenberg has big goals for this coming season. Regardless of where the team finishes in March, signs are clearly pointing to progress. In its schedule, in its recruiting, in its television appearances, Virginia Tech's basketball program is entering new territory.

    And it's got a coach who's about ready to bet the house his 2006-07 team will be one to remember.

    New piece of art a must-get
    Local artist Brian Hart has penned a fantastic new piece of art depicting the updated Lane Stadium. Hart specializes in limited edition prints on colleges and universities. His first Lane Stadium print was produced in 1999 and featured the "fighting Gobblers" fašade. The original is autographed by the 1999 squad and coaches, and a copy of it hangs in the VT trophy room.

    From his studio in Rocky Mount, Va., Hart has penned prints of over 25 different schools and athletic facilities, including one of the Duke campus that hangs on the wall behind Coach Mike Krzyzewski's desk.

    His new Lane Stadium drawing is certainly one to add to your Hokie art collection.

    The Voice's Mailbag
    Bill,
    I really enjoy your work on the radio, on Virginia Tech Sports Today, and in your weekly report. I have a question about the tie-breaker formula the ACC uses in determining which team plays in the ACC championship game. Is there any scenario in which the Hokies could represent the Coastal Division in the championship game if they end the season 4-1 in division play (with the lone loss coming to Georgia Tech) and Georgia Tech also finishes 4-1 in division play?

    Let us assume the Hokies run the table and finish 7-1 overall in ACC games, and Georgia Tech loses two games (let's say, one to Miami in the division and one to Clemson outside the division) and finishes 6-2 overall, 4-1 in division play. Under that scenario, would the Hokies' better overall conference record (for the sake of this hypothetical, the Hokies obviously would have beaten Miami and Miami has already lost a game, to Florida State, so the 'Canes would have at least two conference losses as well) give them the chance to play in Jacksonville, or would Georgia Tech (even with one more loss in the conference) get the nod by virtue of an identical record within the division and the head-to-head win?

    Just curious. Hope you can provide the answer, and best wishes and keep up the good work. Brendan, Woodbridge, Va.

    Brendan,
    Thanks for your note. Under your scenario, Virginia Tech would win the division by having a better overall conference record. A 7-1 team would get the nod over a 6-2 team, regardless of the intra-divisional record.

    Bill,
    Thanks for the good job you and Mike do each week on the Tech radio broadcasts. My question has to do with scheduling. I know there has been offers made by Bruton Smith to have Va. Tech and Tennessee play at the Bristol racetrack. This game would draw 100,000-plus fans and the payout for both schools could possibly exceed $1,000,000. I understand Tech has been cool to the idea, so what is the chance that we might see that happen in the not too distant future? R.J. Danville, Va.

    R.J,
    Thanks for your note. No such offer was ever made to the schools. The 'offer' was simply a publicity stunt to draw attention to the race in Bristol. There has been no official contact between Jim Weaver and Mr. Smith at the speedway, although Jim's tried! You can be sure of that!

    Bill,
    Is the coaches' show that is on TV on Sunday after the Saturday game available on the Internet? It is not broadcast in our market in Greenville to my knowledge. Larry, Greenville, South Carolina.

    Larry,
    Yes, you can see the show online every week at this link: http://www.wdbj7.com/Global/category.asp?C=84099&nav=menu368_19

    Bill,
    You've been to plenty of noisy stadiums over the years. How do you rank our good ol' Lane Stadium to others around the country? Be truthful! Keep up the good work with Mike. And by the way, LETS GO HOKIES! Jake, Culpeper, Va.

    Jake,
    Lane is right at the top, no doubt. The Orange Bowl at night comes close, Oklahoma came close, and FedEx Field, when the Hokies played USC, was close as well. The loudest single moment ever, however, was when Syracuse pumped in rock music over the P.A. system at the Carrier Dome (a practice which was subsequently ruled illegal). The music echoed off the field and roof and was really deafening. Imagine blasting a boom box in a racquetball court and hearing that reverberation over and over. I'm looking forward to experiencing LSU next year to see how it compares to Lane.

    Mr. Touchdown Tech! aka Bill Roth,
    So, we finally lost. Not a big deal. But when our so-called fans start calling for the head of Sean Glennon, that's ridiculous. It isn't his fault that our blockers allowed Ramblin' Wreck defenders in the backfield all day long (although I will say on his second fumble, he held on to the ball too long)! So with seven games left to go, and a very physical Boston College team coming up, how do you assess Glennon's progress as a passer and a field general? You and Mike keep up the good work! And LETS GO HOKIES! Jacob, Midlothian.

    Jacob,
    Glennon's terrific and he's going to get better. First of all, he's gotten the Hokies into the right play on nearly every snap. Secondly, in his first five college starts he's 78-of-136 (57 percent) and has thrown seven touchdowns and three interceptions. He's averaged 223 yards passing per game. You'd be hard-pressed to find a better opening five games from any quarterback in school history. He'll get better, too, which is encouraging. I think you'll like what you see of Glennon during the next month. The kid's good, and he's a tough guy, too.

    Hey Bill,
    I love the broadcasts. Touchdown Tech! My question regards out-of-conference scheduling. A lot of people I speak with agree that we schedule too many weaker early-season opponents that don't prepare us with 60 minutes of football. Then when conference games come by, our opponents are more prepared. GT played ND in the first game and was more prepared than we were. One of our best seasons started with a loss to USC, but prepared us to play the rest of the season. Can we find a better balance between guaranteed money/victories and more challenging opponents to better prep for conference play? Thanks, Jeff, Fairfax.

    Jeff,
    You won't be saying that next year! The schedule will be tougher than ever.

    Hi Bill!
    You and Mike are the best broadcasting duo in college football (in my opinion), and Hokie PlayBack is the greatest invention since the Turkey Leg. Bravo sir! I'd like your thoughts on something. I was a bit disturbed by all the Orange Bowl and ACC Championship promos during the game. Is it really a good idea to blast that stuff all over the HokieVision when we're playing the co-leader of the ACC (especially when we're down by 21 points)? It seems like we'd want to do that during a non-ACC game, when it wouldn't give the opposing team more motivation (as if GT needed anymore).

    I saw GT players watching the screen during those ads, and I'm sure it got them fired up. To me, it came off as a little smug and overconfident on our part. I know that FSU won the ACC with three loses last year, so anything can happen. But it's bad enough that we have to be deluged with Hokie Respect ads all game long (at least those ads are funny!). Just talking about ACC Championships and bowl tie-ins this early seems a little premature. Can't we just play Enter Sandman all game long? Thanks! Linwood. Sterling, Va.

    Linwood,
    Well, thanks so much! Thank you for listening and watching. The Orange Bowl has purchased advertising opportunities from all ACC schools this season. That includes radio, television, videoboard advertisements, and more to promote the league's new partnership with the Orange Bowl. The exact same features ran in Chapel Hill when the Hokies were there in November, and you'll see them at BC, Miami, and Wake Forest. Remember: the ACC Champion goes to the Orange like Big 10 goes to the Rose Bowl. Exciting times.

    Bill,
    My husband and I love to listen to you and Mike call the games even when we're sitting in Lane Stadium. My question - do we need NIKE to pony up some more Tech attire for you? What was up with the purple shirt during the Georgia Tech 'orange effect' game? I don't want to say it was a jinx, but ... Thanks for the great job you, Mike, and everyone at ISP does. GO HOKIES! Stephanie, Blacksburg.

    Stephanie,
    Thanks for paying attention! No, Mike Burnop and I do not have a NIKE deal like the coaches. Besides, we wear suits and ties to the games. Oh, and according to my fashion guy, that Robert Talbott shirt was 'lavender', not purple!

    Dear Bill,
    Do you know why Hokie fans can't purchase official Virginia Tech basketball, soccer or baseball jerseys? There are Duke and UNC basketball jerseys everywhere, even on our Blacksburg campus, which serves as free advertisement for their respective programs. Here's hoping that we see [Patrick] Nyarko or [Coleman] Collins jerseys in the near future. Thank you and keep up the good work. Matt, Blacksburg.

    Matt,
    According to NIKE, they will introduce Virginia Tech basketball products to the marketplace in time for the 2007-08 season. However, there are replica jerseys available now at various bookstores throughout Blacksburg.


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    The Roth report appears weekly in hokiesports the newspaper and is posted for the general public on hokiesports.com.

    The opinions expressed here are solely those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Virginia Tech Athletics Department, hokiesports.com, or it's advertisers.
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