A look at the calendar reveals there are seven weeks left in the regular season for Virginia Tech’s basketball team during which time the Hokies will play 14 ACC games. We already know some things about this team, but this is only the second week that head coach Seth Greenberg has had his entire roster available. Injuries to forward J.T. Thompson (groin surgery, then a foot injury) and guard Hank Thorns (knee) had left the Hokies short-handed in November and December. Now with a healthy roster, both practices and games look a lot different. Tech’s won six of its past seven and has momentum heading into the stretch run. So, heading into tomorrow’s home game with BC, what questions will be answered?
- Can the Hokies make the NCAA Tournament? Last year as you might remember, Tech just missed. The Hokies finished the regular season with a 9-7 mark in the ACC and finished 19-13 overall. Tech, however, was just 1-7 against top 50 teams and its RPI (Ratings Percentage Index) was No. 52 on “Selection Sunday.” That spelled “N.I.T.” However, the Hokies are actually one win ahead their 2008 pace following Wednesday’s win over Richmond. Tech finished 10-4 in its non-conference slate and will take an RPI of 57 into the BC game. Although the Hokies are 0-3 vs. top-50 teams this year, they’ll have at least seven such games during the remainder of the regular season to improve on that record. The ACC is the top-rated conference in the RPI, and if the Hokies can get to nine conference wins, including two or three over top-50 teams, and then get one more win at the ACC tournament in Atlanta, they’ve got a shot.
- Is Jeff Allen in a slump? No, although he’s missed some shots inside that he probably finished last year. Jeff’s a different player this year because he’s playing with a different body. He’s lost a ton of weight and he’s a lean, low BMI guy this year. But a slump? Check out the stats and judge for yourself.
Season PPG RPG FG% FT% 3-PT% Assts/game Mins/game 2007-2008 11.8 7.6 49.1% 61% 21% 0.9 28.1 2008-2009 12.8 8.9 46.9% 66% 43% 1.6 29.0
Allen is fifth in the ACC in rebounding and has been terrific on the defensive boards. Can he play better? Of course. And if Tech is to play in any postseason tournament this year, Allen is the key guy.
- We’re in motion? For the love of Henry Iba (Bob Knight?), was that a motion offense we saw on Wednesday night from the Hokies? Greenberg has been tinkering with the concept in practice throughout the season and “we did it for a couple of possessions, but not very well,” the head man said after the Richmond game. It’s a nice concept and certainly when you watch Bill Self at Kansas and Mike Krzyzewski at Duke, they make their motion offenses look easy with versatile post players and unselfish guys who screen and pass well. Plus, they’ve got great skilled guys to begin with, but keep an eye on the Tech offensive attack in coming games. This is a nice way to create mismatches and let guys ad-lib a bit on the offensive end.
- Is Tech catching BC at a good time or bad time? Speaking of motion offense, here comes The Flex from Chestnut Hill. BC's flex is really unique since Al Skinner’s get his kids all bunched up in the paint. While you’d think that congestion would make running an offense really hard, in reality, BC does it well. Boston College won at North Carolina, then went home and dropped three straight: Harvard, Miami, and Wake Forest. Is BC a sinking ship or wounded dog?
Coverage of Tech-BC: Saturday’s game is on ESPNU, which is not available throughout much of Virginia, but you can hear the game on our Virginia Tech/ISP Sports Network (3:30 airtime) and on XM Satellite channel 191.
• Mike Burnop, our resident Tech Hall of Famer, will join me on Saturday’s broadcast, of course. Mike’s niece, Brenda Espinet, is a flight attendant for Delta and thus we’ve always had a soft spot for FA’s on our team flights and charters. Wednesday’s USAirways crash in New York served as another example of the great work flight crews do every day. In November, our flight to Miami for the Hokies’ game with the ’Canes was forced to abort takeoff when it – ironically – hit a flock of birds just as it was about to lift off the ground. Our pilot did a terrific job of stopping the plane on the runway and returned to the gate where we de-planed. The flight crew that day was great and everyone got to take pictures of a 767 with plenty of feathers in the left engine. Nobody was hurt (other than the birds, of course.) But the bottom line is those flight attendants often have a thankless job, and more than ever, we’ll be keeping in mind they aren’t really there just to pour drinks.
• Football signing date is coming up on February 4th and Jim Cavanaugh who serves as Tech’s whips and rovers coach as well as the program’s recruiting coordinator will be holding his annual ‘recruiting nights’ throughout the Commonwealth in the coming weeks. Here’s the schedule:
Monday, February 16 in Richmond; Tuesday, February 17 in Roanoke; Thursday, February 19 in Northern Virginia; Friday, February 20 in Culpeper (lunch) and Charlottesville (dinner); Monday, February 23 in Lynchburg; Tuesday, February 24 in Hampton Roads.
Events in Charlotte and Pulaski are still in the planning stages. Contact the Hokie Club office in Blacksburg for exact locations and times, or check out hokieclub.com.
• Three Tech recruits from last year’s class have enrolled at Tech and will start classes next week. ‘Greyshirts’ Ben Barber, Tony Gregory and Eric Martin will be around for winter workouts and spring practice. Barber is the brother of former Hokie safety Willie Pile from Alexandria, Va., and played both quarterback and receiver in high school. Gregory was a running back at First Colonial High School in Virginia Beach and prepped last fall at Fork Union. And Martin played tight end at Hylton High School in Woodbridge. Martin added about 10 pounds since the end of last season and is up to about 250. He took some classes in northern Virginia as well to get a head start on the 2009 spring semester at Tech.
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