The Hokies had their first real challenge last night against the UNC-Greensboro Spartans. Despite trailing by four points late and allowing a 15 point lead to slip away in the first half, the Hokies gave a gritty effort and came away with the 96-87 win.
On the season Virginia Tech is now 4-0 – a milestone which may seem far from extraordinary. However, James Johnson is the first Virginia Tech basketball coach to win his first four games of his inaugural season since Bill Matthews in the 1962-63 season. That’s approximately 50 years since we’ve seen a first-time head coach have this kind of success this early at Virginia Tech. Sure, it’s only four games and there is still a lot of season left. But at the same time, one can’t help but be impressed at the turnaround that James Johnson is putting together at Virginia Tech.
While other teams are playing in early tournaments, Virginia Tech has quietly gone about its business. And, while early, Virginia Tech’s new up-tempo offense is paying dividends. As it stands right now, Virginia Tech is 24th in the country in points per game with 85.0 per game. Moreover, Virginia Tech is doing major damage from the 3-point line.
“Coach tells us to get a lot of shots up. Guys are coming in to get extra shots up, late nights, early morning. We practice our shooting and it shows up for us in the game. … If it’s falling for us, we’re going to take the shot. …. Guys are confident in their 3-point shooting ability.”
–Jarell Eddie, Virginia Tech Guard/Forward
On the season, Virginia Tech is hitting almost 46 percent of their 3-pointers. Virginia Tech is shooting almost 48 percent from the field on the season. I don’t expect that pace to last, but if Virginia Tech can keep up that accuracy from deep, this team will continue to rake in the points. It definitely helps when you have a head coach that supports such a thing.
Last night we saw Virginia Tech’s offense at its best. The Hokies topped 90 points for the second straight outing, something that hasn’t been done since February of the 2010-11 season. And the Hokies topped 95 points for the second straight outing, a feat that hasn’t been accomplished within the last decade. Simply put, this group of players is setting a precedent that we haven’t seen from a Virginia Tech team in a long time.
The bulk of the production is split amongst four players – Erick Green (23.8 ppg), Jarell Eddie (17.8 ppg), Robert Brown (12.3 ppg), and Cadarian Raines (10.5 ppg). But who would have expected a player like Will Johnston, a walk-on, to come in at fifth on Virginia Tech’s scorers list? Johnston entered the game early against UNC-Greensboro last night and promptly splashed three 3-pointers. This team is getting contributions from a wealth of players, and that is proving to be imperative to a shallow team in terms of depth.
Virginia Tech only has one more tune-up game left before they start a tough stretch in their schedule. After playing Appalachian State at home, the Hokies will play currently undefeated Iowa at home, a top-20 Oklahoma State team at home, and then follow up with a road game at West Virginia, an always hostile environment.
The leaders of this team don’t seem daunted by the task though, but rather embrace the chance to see where this team really stands.
“We’re ready for anything they put in front of us. I’m not worried about anybody. … That’s going to test us to see where really we’re at.”
–Erick Green, Virginia Tech Guard
This team is playing with a bit of a chip on its shoulder – projected to finish among the bottom of the ACC this season by the media with generally low-to-non-existent expectations under a first year head coach. This team, however, is playing with intensity, passion, and swagger. I’m know I’m not alone when I say how excited I am to see how the next four games play out.
Virginia Tech basketball is fun again, and I’m loving every minute of it.