December 14, 2009
    Tech basketball team building momentum heading into New Year

    Virginia Tech’s basketball team is off to its best start in 13 years, and if you’ve seen the Hokies play this year, there are some solid reasons to get excited about this 2009-2010 team.

    With its 66-64 win at Penn State on Saturday night, the Hokies are now 8-1 on the year, which is the program’s best start since the 1996 team opened the season 11-1.

    “It’s a good start, but there are so many areas where we need to get better and where we will get better,” head coach Seth Greenberg said following the dramatic win over the Nittany Lions.

    Malcolm Delaney is living up to his preseason billing as one of the ACC’s best. Delaney, who scored 27 at Penn State, is averaging a league-best 21.6 points per game. But where the Hokies are showing their merits as a team are the various contributions up and down the roster.

    “Where we’ve been better is that we have more guys contributing,” Greenberg said. “Against Delaware, Manny Atkins came in and did a great job. We don’t win that game without Manny. Then at Iowa, [Terrell] Bell stepped it up and we won a huge road game. We come home and Victor [Davila] plays so well against Georgia and we win, and then ‘Zo [Dorenzo Hudson] and Jeff [Allen] have huge games against VMI.”

    Against Penn State, freshmen Erick Green stepped up and did a terrific defensive job on PSU’s explosive Talor Battle. And fellow rookie Ben Boggs has played exceptionally well during his first month as a Hokie. “Ben is our best post feeder,” Greenberg said. Boggs has also hit several huge 3-point shots in the past few games.

    Greenberg knows it’s a long season. “We’ve got 31 games to play and we’ve played nine,” he says. But with upcoming home games with Charleston Southern, UMBC and Longwood, the team has a chance to build some serious momentum heading into the New Year.
    The Hokies will face Seton Hall in Cancun, Mexico on January 2 in what will be a huge ACC-BIG EAST clash. Not only will the game mark the Hokies’ first game in Mexico, but it also will serve as a tremendous challenge. Seton Hall is 8-0 heading into its exam break. The Pirates play Temple this upcoming Saturday.

    The Hokies, who break this week for exams, will welcome Charleston Southern to Cassell on Saturday at 7 p.m. It’s a good opportunity to see an improving basketball team continue to build on its momentum as we approach the new year.

    Football tidbits
    Tech’s football returns to the practice field this week in preparation for the New Year’s Eve game with Tennessee at the Chick-fil-A Bowl.

    Our Virginia Tech Sports Today bowl preview television show will air on stations throughout the region on Sunday, December 27. You can see the show on these stations and on line via Hokies’ All-Access.

    We’ll also have three Tech Talk LIVE! radio shows from Atlanta at this year’s Chick-fil-A Bowl. Each show will run from 7-8 p.m. Eastern time on Virginia Tech ISP Sports Network radio affiliates. Here’s the schedule:

    • Monday, December 28: Coach Beamer, Bill Roth, Mike Burnop and other guests.

    • Tuesday, December 29: Cody Grimm, Cam Martin and other guests.

    • Wednesday, December 30: Jim Weaver, Billy Hite and other guests.

    On December 31, our radio coverage begins at 6 p.m. You can hear the game at the Georgia Dome at 99.1 FM.

    Bowl bits
    As you know, the coaches that Virginia Tech faced in its past two bowl games, Kansas’ Mark Mangino and Cincinnati’s Brian Kelly, are no longer at those respective schools.

    Mangino resigned under pressure on December 3 following an investigation into his treatment of his players at Kansas. Kelly resigned from Cincinnati on December 10 to take the head coaching job at Notre Dame. Both have outstanding offensive minds and were very gracious with their time at the past two Orange Bowls when we had the chance to visit with them at length in Miami.

    Mangino, who has Pittsburgh ties with several ex-Hokies, including Nick Rapone, was one of the most interesting head coaches Mike Burnop has encountered over the years. He was driving an ambulance in western Pennsylvania before he got back into coaching and seemed tremendously humble, egoless and gracious when we visited. He downplayed his celebrity status in Kansas, claiming that his high school buddies who were doctors and surgeons were the real heroes. Thus, when the allegations surfaced against the KU coach, it was quite surprising to hear.

    Kelly was similarly gracious and came across (along with Cal’s Jeff Tedford) as one of the most cerebral coaches we’ve encountered. Kelly is a sharp guy who talked about his political background as well as his offensive system. He calls his own offensive plays and gets a feel for the game, and his offense, like few other head coaches.

    Mike and I had about 20 minutes to visit with both coaches in Fort Lauderdale the past two years and it was obvious that both have great football minds and are tremendously creative and intelligent when it comes to offense.

    In the past two weeks, their careers have gone in exact opposite directions. It will be interesting to see if/when Mangino resurfaces.

    In another ironic twist, with the retirement of Florida State’s Bobby Bowden and the changes with Mangino and Kelly, there will be only two head coaches still coaching at the schools that faced Tech in bowl games.

    Yeah, you read that right.

    Tech has gone to 16 straight bowls – the Tennessee game in Atlanta will be 17. Yet only two coaches, Cal’s Tedford and Georgia’s Mark Richt, are still coaching at the same school that faced Tech in a bowl game. The other 14 teams (Indiana, Bill Mallory; Tennessee, Phillip Fulmer; Texas, John Mackovic; Nebraska, Tom Osborne; North Carolina, Carl Torbush; Alabama, Mike Dubose; Florida State, Bobby Bowden; Clemson, Tommy Bowden; Air Force, Fisher DeBerry; Auburn, Tommy Tuberville; Louisville, Bobby Petrino; Kansas, Mangino; and Cincinnati, Kelly) have all made coaching changes.

    TV tidbits
    While Georgia Tech’s 39-34 win over Clemson in the 2009 ACC Championship game was a real thriller, the television ratings for the game were surprisingly low. The game drew just a 1.6 national rating, down 38 percent from the 2008 game between Virginia Tech and Boston College.

    Those aren’t the numbers the ACC had hoped for, not with two exciting offenses playing a high-scoring game. It’s of note, of course, since the ACC is entering a crucial television negotiation period with its television partners.

    Here are the ratings of each of the five ACC Championship games.

    2005 Virginia Tech vs. Florida State ABC 5.1
    2006 Wake Forest vs. Georgia Tech ABC 3.6
    2007 Virginia Tech vs. Boston College ABC 4.1
    2008 Virginia Tech vs. Boston College ABC 2.6
    2009 Clemson vs. Georgia Tech ESPN 1.6

    In total, about 2.5 million viewers were tuned into this year’s game between Clemson and Georgia Tech. By comparison, the SEC championship game between Alabama and Florida drew an 11.8 overnight rating. That’s the highest SEC title game overnight ever, and the highest overnight for a non-bowl college game since Ohio State-Michigan in 2006. Clearly, the ACC championship game got romped by the Big 12 title game that ran in the same time slot on ABC. That was a great game in Tampa, but it didn’t deliver a ratings winner.

    Keep in mind that, in 2005, the Hokies and Seminoles delivered a 5.1 on ABC in primetime. That number was a higher rating than the 2005 SEC championship game and the 2005 Big 12 championship game played that day.

    Bill:

    During last night’s VT/VMI broadcast, you and Mike were keeping tabs on Harvard’s win over BC. Did you know that Harvard’s second-leading scorer in that game was Keith Wright, a 6-foot-8, 240-pound sophomore forward from Suffolk, Va., by way of Norfolk Collegiate School? — 21 points and 4 boards. 7-5-7 kids even make an impact in the Ivy League! I really enjoy you and Mike on the football and basketball broadcasts and I always tune in to Tech Talk Live on Monday nights. Keep up the good work! Gary Daughtrey - Suffolk, Va. VT Class of ‘86.

    Gary,

    Thanks for the tidbit. Keith looks like a terrific young man who is having a really good season for Tommy Amaker’s team. The Norfolk Virginian Pilot had a nice story on Keith last year. And thanks for listening.

    Hi Bill,

    Happy Hokie Holidays! Assuming Tyrod and all of our running backs will stay healthy for next season, what do you think of the idea of installing our own triple option attack? I am thinking that it might be a good way to get most, if not all, of that speedy talent on the field at the same time. Much thanks! Patrick McConnell, Fredericksburg.

    Patrick,

    Interesting question. It’s quite possible the Hokies will have formations in 2010 with Darren Evans, Ryan Williams and David Wilson all on the field at the same time. Tech’s coaches have said as much on Tech Talk LIVE!. However, it’s unlikely it would be in a true triple-option formation. Tech’s receivers are too good, and Tyrod’s deep-ball skills are too advanced to abandon now.

    Secondly, to run the triple option, a team has to commit to the philosophy full time. That means working on timing and perfecting the operation day after day in spring ball, in preseason and each game week. As the coaches have said, it’s not something a team ‘dabbles in.’

    The Hokies want to have a balanced offensive attack that can run and throw the ball. I think we’ll see more of that next year. Happy Holidays and thanks for writing.

    Hey Bill,

    The W&M b-ball game was in the Coliseum about 1966. Paul Long made what would later become an NBA 3-pointer. Lou Bello was the referee and called a foul away from the ball; some W&M guy shoving John Wetzel under the boards. Buzzer went off when Long’s shot was in the air, and Wetzel made both ends of a 1-and-1 with 0:00 on the clock to tie the game, and we won by 13 (I think) in OT. Steve Stacy, Little River, S.C.

    Steve,

    Thanks for remembering! For those who don’t know, Steve was listening to the Hokies’ basketball game at Campbell when Tech had a ‘five point play’ in the second half. Malcolm Delaney hit a 3-point basket as the baseline official called a foul on Campbell away from the ball. The Hokies made the free throws and ended up with a five-point possession. I recalled reading about Paul Long’s shot and how the Hokies beat William & Mary in one of those old media guides from the 1960’s. Good stuff from long ago, and Steve filled in the blanks.

    Bill

    Maybe it was my TV, but it looked like Coach Beamer and the other coaches were wearing UVa colors (blue and orange). Can you solve the mystery for us? Also, great work covering the Hokies. Jesse Gardner ‘80, Baltimore, Md.

    Jesse,

    Gotta be your TV! I went in and looked at the new NIKE gear in the football equipment room. Those new jackets are gray with an orange stripe. There’s no blue on it. I assure you that Lester Karlin, Tech’s legendary equipment man, wouldn’t allow anything blue on our sidelines.

    Bill,

    The following “Letter to the Editor” was in yesterday’s Bluefield Daily Telegraph. Can you respond?

    "Does Virginia Tech have no shame? The University of Virginia’s official colors have been navy blue and orange since 1888. This fact has been well publicized in official university publications such as the ‘Media Guide,’ as well as the wearing of the same and game day programs for decades. Virginia Tech’s colors have been maroon and grey for decades. Recently Virginia Tech has added the University of Virginia’s color orange to their uniforms. This is an outrageous act on their part of trying to infringe upon a century-old tradition of the University of Virginia. University of Virginia alumnus Z.D. Christian Bluefield, Virginia

    Bill, how much of this is true? And how much “fluff?” Thanks, Wayne Massey, Bluefield.

    Wayne,

    I did get a chuckle out of Mr. Christian’s letter. I’m actually surprised the paper printed it. Virginia Tech’s official university school colors – Chicago Maroon and Burnt Orange – were introduced in 1896. So the Hokies have been wearing orange for about 113 years. A committee chose the colors because they made for a ‘unique combination’ not worn elsewhere at the time. Also, good work by Tech alum Erin Murray who set the record straight in her letter to the Bluefield paper.

    For updates on Virginia Tech Athletics, follow the Hokies on Twitter (@hokiesports).

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