For the first time this season Cassell Coliseum saw a good turnout by the student body. The students that showed up today (myself included) saw Virginia Tech defeat their first ranked non-conference opponent since 1995. Those in attendance also saw Virginia Tech move to 7-0 with an 81-71 upset over Oklahoma State. The Hokies, one of only two remaining undefeated teams in the ACC, are off to their best start in 30 years. People need to take notice – exciting things are happening in Blacksburg right now.
The game got off to an auspicious start as Erick Green got called for his first foul just a mere 10 seconds into the game. Not much later, he was called for his second foul and was forced to come to the bench. This is where I need to applaud first-time head coach James Johnson. The job he did managing Erick Green in the first half was nothing short of masterful.
For prolonged stretches in the first half the Hokies ran a combination of Marquis Rankin, Robert Brown, Jarell Eddie, or Will Johnston with Green on the bench in foul trouble. It’s no secret that the offense is markedly different without Green on the floor – the man is instant offense. Despite this, Virginia Tech was able to stay within five points of Oklahoma State going into the half. When Green was on the floor, Johnson called on the Hokies to play a 2-3 zone in order to take some of the defensive pressure off Green. Not only did this accomplish its goal (Green entered the half with only two fouls), but it caught Oklahoma State off guard and forced the Cowboys to play tentatively at times.
Following halftime Green came out like a man making up for lost time scoring 10 points in the first four minutes of the second half. Green’s performance today, specifically in the second half, prompted Oklahoma State head coach Travis Ford to claim Green as a top-5 guard in the country. High praise from a man who has a projected lottery pick for the 2013 NBA Draft on his team starting at point guard.
Having to work against the officials at times, the Hokies came out with a re-tooled gameplan in the second half and purely out-executed a very skilled Oklahoma State team. That Cowboys team is one with two to three future NBA players on the roster, mostly at the guard positions. Erick Green came out and took them to task and won. What does that say about his caliber?
But moreover what does it say about this team’s caliber? Projected to finish 10th in the ACC by the media during the pre-season, Virginia Tech already has two statement wins in their first seven games. Looking at the schedule, it was going to be considered a success if the Hokies could win one or two of the three games during this stretch (Iowa, Oklahoma State, and West Virginia). The Hokies are on the verge of sweeping this stretch and moving to 8-0 on the season. A tough test in Morgantown still awaits though so let’s not get too ahead of ourselves.
But I digress.
I truly believe that the starting five of this team can play with almost any team in the country and compete, as was evidenced by today’s performance. This is a team that clearly believes in themselves and who the hell am I to do any differently? Johnson and company have certainly made a believer out of me.
This team should be extremely proud of themselves and it really is refreshing to feel the excitement surrounding Virginia Tech basketball. The coaches are excited, the players are excited, and I can feel the excitement growing among the student body as evidenced by the turnout today from the students. There’s a buzz around the program that hasn’t been felt for some time and I feel very lucky to be experiencing it first hand.
I implore you – if you haven’t made your way to Cassell Coliseum yet to see the team play, do it. This team is worth the price of admission (essentially free if you’re a student) and they know how to put on one hell of a show.