UMass 68, Virginia Tech 59
Saturday, January 24th, 1998

This team is struggling folks, make no bones about it.  Most of the struggles can be attributed to youth, but not all of them.

Problems due to youth:  Tech has a hard time running their half-court offensive and defensive schemes properly.  On offense, our passing is not crisp, and as Coach Hussey has said, our screening is not good, so any Hokie player who receives a pass generally has a defender in his face, not an open shot.  This leads to long half-court possessions that end in a player forcing a shot.  Not all offensive possessions end this way, but a lot of them did against UMass.

Coach Hussey keeps saying that we're not a bad team- we're just not executing well.   He's right.  As soon as the offensive execution improves, the open shots will be there, and we'll start shooting better.  But until these guys mature and get comfortable, it's going to be a bumpy ride.

Bobby has threatened to open the game up offensively, with a little more running and gunning.  Tuesday's 9:30 game with LaSalle is on ESPN2, so tune in and see if Coach is true to his word.

On defense, Tech isn't playing good ball denial defense, and the Hokies are often out of position.  Although UMass is not impressive at the guard position, their inside players - Ketner, Weeks, Babul, and Basit - are very big and very good.  UMass did an excellent job of delivering the ball into the paint to post players who were in good position and could finish the play from there with a nifty move.  By contrast, Tech struggled with getting the ball to Russ Wheeler and Rolan Roberts in good scoring position.  This is because we're young, and still learning.

On the positive side defensively, I did notice that the Tech players are doing a better job of rotating over to cover the open man in double-team situations (remember, Colin Ducharme of UVa looked like Shaquille O'Neal against us because we were doubling on Norman Nolan and forgetting to rotate and cover Ducharme).

Problems not due to youth:  a lack of shooters, and players playing out of position.

I think Tech has a nicely rounded team - with one or two exceptions.  We don't have a big two-guard who can shoot the three consistently.  In a perfect world, Tech would play Grindstaff at the point position, and Kenny Harrell would be having a strong freshman year and would be shooting the three very well.

In this world, though, Harrell has tendonitis and is taking a medical redshirt year.  We have two good point guards in Grindstaff and Dunlop, but our only alternative at two-guard is to play Myron Guillory or Eddie Lucas.  Myron shoots the three well when he's open, but if he's guarded - and remember, he usually is because our execution isn't sharp - he can't create an open shot or get his shot off.  And Eddie Lucas is either lighting it up like he's unconscious, or he's tentative and is not getting off his shot (I'd be tentative, too, if I didn't have a scholarship, and everybody else on the team did.  Eddie won't be on scholarship until next year).

So Coach Hussey winds up starting Guillory and Grindstaff, and from what I can tell, Guillory usually plays the point.  It's hard for me to tell, actually, because I'm not much of a basketball tactician, and sometimes, I have trouble figuring out which of the two players is playing what.  Sometimes Grindstaff brings the ball up the floor, and other times, Guillory does.  But the result is that generally, only one of them - Grindstaff - is producing in double figures.

Another problem we have is that our small forward - Andre Ray - is not a scorer.   He's a great rebounder and defender, in the mold of Dennis Rodman, and he's one of my favorite players on the team, but he's not a scorer.

So we have two positions that aren't giving us much point production - one guard slot and small forward - and this puts all the pressure on the other three players to score.   It's not working well enough at this point to produce victories.

I realize that this is general commentary, and not a game report on the UMass game, but this game was a microcosm of everything I've talked about here.  Check out the stats for any other info.

USA Today Game Summary (includes stats)

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