Duke has dominated the early part of the season, at least in terms of publicity and praise, but it's about time to give Virginia Tech some props. Not only are the Hokies, other than Duke, the last undefeated ACC team, but on Sunday they knocked off Oklahoma State.
Led by a remarkable freshman point guard, Marcus Smart, and NBA-bound (this year if not next) Le'Bryan Nash, Oklahoma State is a talented and tough team.
Wasn't enough against the Hokies. They outrebounded OKU 37-29, led by Eddie Jarrell, who pulled down 12 boards.
The teams basically broke even shooting wise, but Virginia Tech hit two more threes and just dominated from the foul line, 27-11.
Perhaps most impressively, the game was very close down the stretch and Tech didn't just win but pulled away.
It's a statement win for James Johnson, who promised to run despite a thin bench. Yet we note that in the biggest game of the year, Johnson got 64 minutes from his bench and his team had enough energy to stretch a thin lead out. It's really very impressive and should force most observers to revise their opinions of the Hokies.
Their next game is against West Virginia. If they manage to pull that one off, they have Bradley at home and BYU on the road. They could conceivably enter conference play undefeated, which would be very interesting indeed.
We saw Miami's game with UMass as a classic trap game, and UMass played their part until Miami pulled away in the last eight minutes.
Reggie Johnson had 19 points and 13 boards and just two fouls. Miami placed four starters in double figures and held UMass to 28.6%.
Richmond continues to be a nemesis for Wake Forest, having defeated the Deacs three straight times. Wake could have won this one, but youth likely had its way, with the Demon Deacons missing a lot of second-half shots. Down one point, 50-49 with 5:42 left, they gave up six potential points in less than a minute, missing two shots and two free throws.
Although Green Bay hung around for a bit and was down just four at the half, Virginia began to pull away early in the second and never looked back.
Considering their injury problems, Virginia has adapted fairly well.
On the bright side, Jontel Evans is working his way back. The point guard put in 23 minutes and had seven assists.
Akil Mitchell and Joe Harris combined for 40 points on 17-26 shooting. Mitchell pulled down nine boards, while Darion Atkins added 11.
Maybe it's time to point out that after a rocky beginning, Virginia has won the last five games by an average of 24.6 points. Wisconsin was a six-point win, but otherwise the Hoos have romped.
They get Tennessee next, and if they manage that game, their next four are certainly likely wins. They could easily enter conference play with UNC at 11-2. Seemed highly unlikely not long ago.
Speaking of UNC, although the Heels won by 18, this was a six point game with just over 10:30 left. UAB was a tougher team than we expected.
But not tough enough to win.
Despite a rash of injuries - Reggie Bullock (hand), PJ Hairston (knee) and Marcus Paige (shoulder) were all questionable and Paige did sit. Bullock ended up playing 37 and Hairston 23.
Leslie McDonald finished with 24; James Michael McAdoo racked up 15 and 12 boards, while Dexter Strickland managed nine assists as the fill-in point guard.
Mark Turgeon is not happy about attendance at Comcast, saying this: "We play in a big arena that's been fairly empty quite a bit this year, to be quite frank. I'm hoping it's a great crowd. I'm sure George Mason is excited for the game. I hope our fans are excited after Tuesday night. But we've been through that a lot. To me, our arena is almost as big as [the Verizon Center]."
Should be packed for Nebraska and Northwestern.