Saturday, February 28, 2009

Meet the Hokies

And, at long last, we come to the end of this 11-part series. I was traveling for the first game, so I didn't get to introduce everyone to Virginia Tech before (although I have previously wondered what to make of them). In that post, I wondered whether the Hokies' strong offensive performance was sustainable. There's been some drop off since then, but the answer is largely yes. The Hokies still don't turn the ball over and still shoot pretty well. Plus, they've accomplished this against the toughest schedule of opponent defenses in the league this year.

Once again, their point/wing/post trio of Delaney, Vassallo, and Allen carry the team. They've scored 697 of the team's 961 points (72.5%) and have largely done so in an efficient manner. Malcolm Delaney is probably having the best season you don't hear too much about - he's averaging over 21 points a game, consistently using 25% or more of the team's possessions, and producing a 117.34 offensive rating. Delaney is a penetrating guard who lives at the free throw line (100 FTAs in ACC play) and shoots well from everywhere on the court (.464/.419/.840). His numbers compare very favorably to the other guards tossed around for all-ACC - Douglas, McClinton, Henderson, Lawson - and yet you don't hear his name in the conversation as much. If he can lead his team to an upset over Duke or UNC in the next couple of games, you might.

AD Vassallo has had a very solid, if unspectacular, senior year. He's accepted a second banana role to Delaney, and has rejiggered his game just a bit, focusing inside more often than outside, and to good effect, as he's hitting 55% of his 2s against just 35% of his 3s. He's still a dangerous shooter who can get hot at any moment, and he loves taking clutch shots down the stretch.

Allen has been the least efficient of the three, struggling with turnovers, poor free throw shooting, and less than ideal field goal percentage from a big man inside. He's also struggled with his attitude at times - court misconduct has earned him suspensions in each of the last two seasons, and opponents can clearly get into his head. Still, he's a versatile big man who can score back-to-the-basket, facing up, and on the perimeter. He's also a strong rebounder - the best the Hokies have at either end. Allen's usage numbers have been too high for his performance - he uses the highest share of anyone on the team, but has an offensive rating stuck around 100. In raw terms, Vassallo has used only 13 more possessions (in many more minutes), but produced 47 more points.

The trouble for the Hokies this year has been finding help outside the big three. Except Cheick Diakite and Lewis Witcher (both of whom rely largely on put-backs for their points), all the other Hokies have poor offensive ratings, and no one has contributed as many as 5 points per game. JT Thompson has been unable to recapture his strong performance from the end of last season, hitting double figures only twice in conference play (and doing so inefficiently, with offensive ratings of 91.5 and 80 in those games). He's also been victimized by a turnover bug, which will quickly limit your playing time on a Seth Greenberg team. Victor Davila showed some promise early, but his numbers have dwindled of late. Aside from Clemson (where he's averaged 20.5 minutes in the two games), he's played just 45 minutes over 7 games, and scored just 2 points. He has size, but hasn't yet translated it into strong rebounding, shot blocking, or efficient scoring. Hank Thorns takes over a lot of the point play when he's in the game, and has racked up strong assist numbers by feeding the ball to the big three - he assists nearly 30% of his teammates hoops, good for 4th in the conference. He's not at all a shooting threat, though, posting a .365 efg%, comfortably the worst on the team. Dorenzo Hudson and Terrell Bell get limited minutes to round out the rotation, and both struggle putting the ball in the hoop - .415 efg% for Hudson, .420 for Bell.

As a team, the Hokies stand out in just two areas - avoiding turnovers, and getting to the line. This is the second year running that VT has led the conference in free throw rate, and they're traditionally stingy giving the ball away. One problem they've had, though, is that they don't convert from the stripe - only 67.4% as a team in conference, and aside from Delaney and Vassallo, no one is above 60%.

The Hokies are playing for their tournament lives, needing a statement win over Duke or UNC to bolster a largely unimpressive resume. They're also looking to redeem themselves from the 44 point stink-bomb they dropped in Cameron to open conference play. Cassell will be rocking and rowdy, as it always is when Duke comes to town. Today's game, I think, should look a lot like Wednesday's - tight throughout, high energy, generally strong levels of execution, and (hopefully) a late Duke pullaway for the win.

1 comment:

The ACC and SEC Blog said...

You touched on how dependent VT is on their starters for points. Kinda similar to Duke. If Duke's bench can out produce VT's bench then I think Duke has an excellent shot on the road.