Virginia Tech was so bad at the beginning of its 58-55 loss at Wake Forest Saturday, Coach Seth Greenberg has openly wondered whether his team even read the scouting report put together by assistant coach John Richardson.
On the first possession of the game, Greenberg said, the Hokies executed a play going in the wrong direction. Then when Wake Forest had the ball, the Hokies allowed forward Nikita Mescheriakov to catch-and-shoot without taking a dribble and let forward Travis McKie drive the ball to his right.
Both habits were detailed in Richardson’s pregame notes, and it served as a microcosm for an afternoon in which “we didn’t have the sense of urgency our teams normally play with,” according to Greenberg.
But now that Virginia Tech is starting ACC play 0-1 for the seventh time in eight years, the coach had a warning for his team as it prepares for its first conference home game against Florida State Tuesday night at Cassell Coliseum.
“If we don’t play well, they’re gonna smack us in the face,” Greenberg said.
Greenberg expected such inconsistencies from this team, especially since six of the nine players in Virginia Tech’s rotation had little or no college basketball experience heading into this season. But it has been the uneven leadership of Greenberg’s few veterans – both on and off the court – that has caught him by surprise.
Senior Victor Davila has finished with double figures in consecutive games just once this year and his numbers in both points and rebounds per game have regressed from a year ago. Classmate Dorenzo Hudson, who has battled through a knee injury this year, had been coming on strong heading into Saturday’s loss, scoring at least 15 points in three of his previous four games. But the former third-team all-ACC selection two years ago may have struggled more than any other Hokies player at Wake Forest.
Hudson finished the game with eight points on 4 of 13 shooting, including an 0-for-5 mark from three-point range. Virginia Tech has not made Hudson available for interviews since his apartment was broken into during an alleged home invasion involving Virginia Tech place kicker Cody Journell, but Greenberg didn’t hold back in his assessment of Hudson’s play on Monday.
“He did not play well the other day. He knows it,” Greenberg said. “It disappoints him, but that’s the great thing. He’s not the only one who did not play well on Saturday for Virginia Tech and in college basketball. . . . You don’t just discard people because they had a bad game. You believe in them, you care about them and you help them navigate the rough waters.”
Guard Erick Green has been Virginia Tech’s best – and most consistent – performer this year, but even he has had his issues. Averaging a team-high 15.7 points per game, the Paul VI grad has already been held out of the starting lineup one game for not being a good leader and took the blame for not having his younger teammates ready to play in Saturday’s loss.
“Erick is part of our senior leadership, in my opinion. He’s started a lot of basketball games,” said Greenberg. “They needed to be an extension of us as far as our preparation and our enthusiasm.”
The Hokies will certainly need all of their veterans if they hope to avoid an 0-2 start to ACC play for the first time since 2005 facing the Seminoles, a matchup Greenberg described as, “They’re probably the most mature team in the ACC; we’re probably the least mature team.”
Florida State is coming off its own disappointing setback to begin conference play – a 20-point loss at Clemson. The Seminoles are currently No. 86 in the RPI; Virginia Tech is No. 40.
Florida State began the year ranked after a run to the Sweet 16 last year, but Coach Leonard Hamilton’s squad has once again struggled to score at times this season — back on Nov. 25 the Seminoles had 14 points at halftime in a loss to Harvard. Florida State (9-6) has also lost to No. 6 Michigan State, No. 17 Connecticut, No. 19 Florida and Princeton this year.
Guard Michael Snaer leads the team in scoring at 13.2 points per game, and forward Bernard James anchors a frontcourt that features as much length as any in college basketball this year. For a Hokies team that got badly out-rebounded on Saturday at Wake Forest, it could be the defining battle Tuesday night.
“The season is a marathon, it’s not a sprint, and whether it’s early or late you’re gonna have games you wish you had back,” Greenberg said. “It’s just time to move on. That’s what it’s all about.”