Virginia Tech hasn't played a postseason game since the 2011 NIT, their fifth straight season of postseason basketball and only a year before Seth Greenberg was fired. What was the story there, and is it fair to assume that he's dearly missed?
Prior to getting fired by the AD, Seth had virtually his whole assistant staff walk on him. He was also perceived as high-strung and abusive by some. He had created an atmosphere that didn't mesh with the southern sensibilities of the former AD. Some might say though that Seth was painted incorrectly, that his ambitions were merely to get the program on par with the rest of the competition. At Tech money is tough to come by unless you work in football, so the assistants all were heading for raises in their new jobs. But what was inexplicable is that when we did attempt to match, that they'd rather go work at Charlotte, or Clemson.
At this point, with all the transfers/attrition and precipitous drop, many would like to turn back the clock. I think he brought us to a certain level with his recruiting, but I never trusted his on-floor acumen. Mainly because he never had confidence in himself. He preferred to keep the game close and try to win it late. No matter how many times we built a double digit lead he'd let it get whittled down. And there was likely nobody worse head-to-head in timeouts in the league. Roy Williams must've personally batted 1.000 on timeouts against Seth. I was fine with letting him go, so long as we had a better plan than James Johnson. There is no reason a school like Tech with its large student body can't support both major sports. It often times seems VT is going out of it's way to stink at basketball, just so they can spend justify a larger spend on football.
Virginia Tech's last road win was before their winter finals week, in Coral Gables against Miami. Is location a noticeable issue for this team, or do they play similarly whether at home or not?
A group of five of us could go to James Johnson's driveway and win a game. Our home attendance is down 43% since Seth left. So, the Cassell is often empty or full of opposing fans like with UNC last Saturday. I think certain teams have problems in certain buildings, and that doesn't change with the personnel for some reason. VT struggles tremendously at BC's Conte Forum, Clemson hasn't won at UNC in 56 years. But to the core of your question, this team has struggled so much, geography isn't even a concern.
The middle part of the ACC schedule was rough, but in the past month, Virginia Tech has suffered some really close losses. They've lost to Pitt in 2OT, beat Miami by 7, and lost 5 straight games since, although 4 were by 7 points or less. (Duke did their thing in Cameron in an 18 point win.) Are fans at least seeing the silver lining in the team playing better?
Every player on the team has value. But we have to conserve energy in an injury-depleted backcourt. This team hasn't quit on itself. I think Johnson gets too much credit for that, because I think he is often at odds with players and has a ridiculous doghouse (that such a losing coach can't afford to have) which has cost us games. This team is a few close games from the NIT bubble. So no silver lining, regrets more than anything. I treat each season separately. Were we to talk again next October, I'd be optimistic for a large turnaround.
If you could change one thing about this team, what would it be? Better shooting? Better FT's? Fewer TOs? That is to ask, if this team could do one thing better and see significantly better results, what would it be?
The one thing I'd like to see is an offense that can execute in the halfcourt. And that might involve a few of the things you allude to with percentages and eliminating turnovers. Right now we stand around too much, don't cut toward the ball, and we don't put the bigs in scoring position, because they are a liability on screen and rolls. I'd say that on 80 trips up the floor, 15 wind up turnovers, 50 wind up in FG attempts (of which far too many are late in the clock and out of comfort zones) and then another 15 trips to the FT line. Even when our offense moves it's not in concert with the ball, so it can be translated as wasted effort.
James Johnson was an assistant for Greenberg, and is now 22-39 (4-29) in his first two years. Are fans still behind him or are they calling for a firing squad?
He is overmatched. He means well, but he never had the backing of one single person who isn't suiting up. The AD was lame duck and budget conscious. The fans mad at the AD for how he handled the firing. He got too long of a contract because the AD had painted himself in the corner with the ill-timed dismissal. The realist in you says give the guy one full recruiting class, but his lack of creativity and inability to adapt has been enough for me to see that he isn't cut out for an ACC job. His recruits have been decent, but not spectacular. If our new AD, formerly of Cincinnati were to stomach the buyout (probably north of $1.5MM) and hired someone new, I'd be pleased. But that hasn't typically been the Hokie's MO.
We haven't played this year yet, but two of the last three games between these two teams went to OT. Will this one?
I could see the game getting to OT. Georgia Tech is its own brand of frustrating from what I've seen.
What should we be afraid of from this team?
Be afraid that you play down to VT's level and beat yourselves. If anything, we might be able to out-rebound you and intimidate the paint with shot-blocking. It would be wise for GT to stick whoever is guarding Devin Wilson on him at the 3/4 court or full court. Make him turn an extra time or two before crossing the time line. It'll eat into the precious shot clock, which we already have trouble managing. Plus it'll tire him out. He's already likely to play every minute of the game.
I have the Jackets winning.....let's go with 61-56.
Thanks to Charles for the insights! Go check out my answers to their questions and all of the other great coverage those guys are doing at Gobbler Country. Today's game is at 2pm on ESPN2/WatchESPN.