Before they joined the conference, a lot of ACC fans weren't real clear on just who Virginia Tech was. We got our introduction a few years prior when we visited a family in Southwest Virginia and found they had a huge passion for the Hokies and, what's more, a hell of a lot of people around there did as well.
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We have to say, we weren't thrilled when Virginia Tech joined. We felt like they brought football, but not much else. And truth be told, they've been average in basketball at best. But that's just their team. Their fans are well above average and they make Cassell a very tough place to play. We seriously admire their passion.
It hasn't been an easy year for Tech, though.
Start last spring when Uncle Fester was fired; Seth Greenberg didn't go gracefully. Happy to Twitter- wish James Johnson well when he left/fled to Clemson as an assistant, Johnson didn't hear from Greenberg after he took the empty job at Virginia Tech. We don't know if he's spoken to him yet or not.
Then Dorian Finney-Smith, a highly useful freshman, transferred. We loved him: the guy could basically do anything except shoot fluidly.
Then Victor Davila and Dorenzo Hudson graduated.
Newly hired, James Johnson committed Tech to run and just as importantly, Erick Green committed himself to Johnson.
For a while, things were great: Virginia Tech got off to a tremendous start, racing out to 9-2Â including a win over Oklahoma State.
Then they fell to 10-6, and they're currently on an eight-game losing streak.
They've been forced to rely heavily on Green, who is leading the nation in scoring at 25.3 ppg.
Things thin out quickly after Green though, with Jarell Eddie a capable sidekick at 13 ppg. Robert Brown isn't necessarily a big threat (8.8 pg) and Cadarian Raines manages 7.0 ppg and 6.8 rpg but at times disappears.
The best news lately for Tech lately is the return of Marshall Wood. Wood, who missed seven games and nearly a month, has been back since January 24th and had a huge game against State with 14 points and 16 rebounds which kind of got lost in the shuffle.
He's a freshman if you didn't know.
Still, Tech is significantly down from their recent standards of talent and experience with Green the very considerable exception.
Of course that just means that the current players, like Wood, get to prove themselves.Â Freshman Joey van Zegeren has had his moments and could turn into a solid player. Brown has had some solid games as well.
Still, against State, the Hokies played Will Johnston 28 minutes, van Zegeren 14 and Marquis Rankin 13. In a more normal year they no doubt would have preferred to bring them along more slowly.
Most teams take on their coach's personality and that was true for Virginia Tech last year and this year as well.
We have to say, we find Johnson's imprint a lot nicer than Greenberg's. He was confrontational and abrasive, and his teams usually managed to get up for big games but not for the lesser ones.
His dismissal circumstantially backed up our critique: his A.D. pretty much called him a difficult personality and he specifically pointed to turnover on the coaching staff as a reason, although not the only one.
Johnson is still new, but we like the way his team plays. They're competitive, tough and hard-nosed, but not dirty. Greenberg's teams had a habit of doing some nasty things.
This has been a difficult season, but we could see Johnson becoming a significant success at Virginia Tech. He's had some adversity this season but his team has never given up. We admire their guts.
For Duke, the Maryland game came after a grueling stretch. They've had several days to rest and catch up, and they're usually very sharp after a loss, so we expect they'll be ready.
One wild card worth mentioning: during his career, Seth Curry has always wanted to do well against his parent's alma mater but hasn't always gotten his wish.
As a sophomore, his first time out, Curry fouled out in 15 minutes and didn't score. In Greensboro, he scored 10 on 3-5 from the floor.
Last year, he was 2-7 in Blacksburg for 11 points and in Durham he scored 19 on 7-15.
He's gotten better each time out though and here's an anomaly worth noting: while his team appeared tired against Maryland, Curry, who has had his practice time severely restricted due to his shin issues, played very well. This is his last chance to do well in Cassell.
Something to keep an eye on.
Something else: Mason Plumlee has been a bit off lately. No doubt this is partly due to being the focus of the opposing defenses, but he had a very subpar game against Maryland. We expect he'll be motivated as well.