Defend That, Digger is on hiatus this week. The bandwagon carrying the Big Ten crashed and burned, killing 127 people in a fiery death off a cliff thanks to the new love for the ACC and Big East. We don't even have Indiana to make fun of. The Hoosiers are undefeated and starting to look like a competent basketball team again. They even get Boston College in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge, which is basically like playing a Special Olympics team at this point.
Our beloved conference has done very little to benefit us of late:
Virginia 87, Minnesota 79
Connecticut 70, Michigan State 67 (vaulting the Huskies to #7)
Richmond 65, Purdue 54
Notre Dame 58, Wisconsin 51
UTEP 65, Michigan 56
Long Beach State 78, Iowa 72
At least Richmond, Notre Dame, and Connecticut are good teams. The rest are bad, bad losses, topped off by Minnesota gacking at home just as they jumped way up in the rankings.
That is what makes tomorrow's visit to Virginia Tech so important for us. We have given the national media a reason to write us off by playing like they expected us to play against Richmond. Sure, it may not have been a win even with Robbie Hummel because of the shots we missed, but the issues of a stagnant offense and poor rebounding were there. Against Virginia Tech, we have a chance to put these arguments to rest on a national stage.
The Hokies are the toughest game left on our non-conference schedule. Since the regular season is all about playing for a good seed in the NCAA's so you can have favorable matchups it is the closest we have to a must-win game this early. We're #18 in the highest poll right now. People will lose in front of us over the next several weeks, while we shouldn't lose another game in December if we beat Virginia Tech. The time is here for us to make up ground toward that coveted seed. A good performance on national TV against a good team will be a major boost and erase some doubts created by the Richmond loss. A good run by the Spiders would also help.
2009-10 Record: 25-9 (10-6 ACC)
Postseason Result: Lost to Rhode Island 79-72 in NIT quarterfinals
2010-11 Record: 4-2
Blog Representation: Gobbler Country
Series with Purdue: Virginia Tech leads 2-0
Virginia Tech started the season in the top 25, but has lost games to Kansas State and UNLV, who are both pretty good teams. I did some chatting with Gobbler Country via text on Sunday night and they were not as confident as some of the media in this team. Essentially, he said they had the same team as last year. That team was just on the wrong side of the NCAA bubble. In fact, they likely would have been in had the new 68-team field been in play. I guess that makes them perfect for us to play since some people think we're a bubble team at best.
They have a three-headed scoring machine of Malcolm Delaney, Dorenzo Hudson, and Jeff Allen. Delaney is a dynamic guard that is a lot like E'Twaun Moore. he shoots better than 45% from long range and he is averaging better than 20 points per game. If we still had Chris Kramer, I would love to unleash him on Delaney. Like E'Twaun, Delaney creates shots for other since he averages almost four assists per game.
Hudson is a big guard at 6'5", but not nearly the 3-point shooter that Delaney is. His scoring is down four points per game from last year. He could be a trouble for us to handle because of his size. Allen, at 6'7", is their main post presence and leading rebounder. He can step outside and shoot the three, however, with 32 made 3-pointers in his career. After these three, the scoring drops off significantly.
This is a game where we need to rebound better because we will have an advantage in the post. Even with Hummel, I saw us having trouble this year in games where we couldn't rebound. My dream scenario with a healthy Hummel was with the Travis Carroll, Sandi Marcius, and Patrick Bade troika contributing as rotating RRD guys. So far, that has not been the case, and it makes Hummel's loss even more glaring. Coach Painter does not trust them yet, and as someone in the comments said, we simply need one of them to step forward and play like a Division 1 post player. Otherwise, we have three Tom Pritchards. Bade has disappointed and played timid. Marcius is solid, but still reckless. Carroll is a rebounder, but he lacks the strength and experience he needs. It frustrates me because we need them on the floor gaining experience, but they have been liabilities when they have been on the floor. Even with Hummel we would struggle if they continue to play as they are playing now. With Hummel, we would still need them to do more than they are doing right now.
Virginia Tech ranks 238th in the nation in rebounding. They are also 208th in assists at 10.8 per game. These are areas where we have shown we can be dominant in the past. I don't care that it came against the poor competition of the first five games. The fact is that it was there. It has been there before, and it can be there again.
Against UNLV Delaney had 30 points, but the Runnin' Rebels beat Va tech because the Hokies only had 25 rebounds and Hudson was a non-factor with no points. The Hokies also shot 42% from the line in that game. They are just 65% from the line on the season, and they have more turnovers than assists.
This has to be a win for us. We're the better team, and we're only getting bashed because we happened to have our worst half of the season in our highest profile game against our best opponent. This is our chance to show that we can turn things around.