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If Fans Could Choose, They'd Sign 50 Players From Portal

At some point, the whole deal with the transfer portal in college athletics is about to turn comical.

Originally created as a clearinghouse to help graduate transfers with a single year of eligibility left find another school to team up with, the effects of COVID have now given college sports true free agency. Everybody got an extra year of eligibility, and everybody got the opportunity to go somewhere else without having to sit out a year.

It has created a combination of Sam’s Club, Costco and Amazon for college football and basketball programs: A one-stop shopping place for everything a coach could possibly want.

Which could be both good and bad.

I have no issue with everyone moving about. My first year at Virginia Tech, I majored in engineering, and while it was a fine endeavor that taught me how to drink so much coffee I could study until 3 AM, I decided after that year it wasn’t for me. I tried business for a quarter (this is why fellow Hokies call engineering “pre-business”) and then found what I enjoyed and was good at: Communications.

Back then, the program was in its infancy, so had I possessed the money or wherewithal, I could have chosen a school like Syracuse or Northwestern to further learn my craft, and no one would have cared. I wouldn’t have had to sit out anything, or be lectured on commitment, etc. I’d have just gone on and lived my life.

Being a relatively poor guy from an Italian family who was told “you can go anywhere you want, but if it costs more than $3,000 for all four years, that’s all we’ve got and the rest is on you,” I stayed in Blacksburg. I’m glad I did, but I had that option, and I think everyone should have it.

Athletes now do. That’s the good news. They have options.

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Bamisile Becomes First Offseason Transfer For Hokies

It wasn’t 24 hours after Virginia Tech lost to Florida Friday that I found myself thinking about what next year’s Hokie team would look like, and immediately thought the team sure had a lot of guards coming back next season.

Too many, in fact.

But rather than write something about who would probably be leaving, I thought “it’s too soon. Let me wait a few days.”

Turns out it wasn’t too soon after all.

Today freshman guard Joe Bamisile announced he is entering the transfer portal, and I seriously doubt it has anything to do with any other factor than Joe doing the same math I did Saturday. There’s a lot of players on the bench fighting for minutes, and there are some who just aren’t going to see as many minutes as they'd hoped to.

The Tech roster right now lists at guard Hunter Cattoor, Bamisile, Wabissa Bede, Nahiem Alleyne, Jalen Cone, Darrius Maddox and Tyrece Radford, which is 7 guards. Storm Murphy will be transferring from Wofford, and the Hokies have signed Sean Pedulla from Edmond, OK. That makes 9.

Bede is probably not coming back, but he can still play another year under the COVID eligibility rules if he wants to. But with him gone, that’s still 8 guards, and Coach Mike Young tends to play a tight rotation where he plays the same 6 players, then works in 2 or 3 more who get 5 minutes or less. Against Florida, 8 players saw action, but two players combined for 11 minutes in an overtime game. The other six saw all the action.

Of those six, four were Bede, Alleyne, Cattoor and Radford. Three of the four are definitely back, and Bede’s minutes will probably be assumed in large part by Murphy, who knows Young’s system and is a much more dynamic scorer. That would leave Bamisile, Cone, Maddox and Pedulla to all fight for whatever minutes remain.

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One Small Step For Man, One Giant Leap For Cutout Maggie

If you've been following the continuing adventures of Maggie The Wonderbeagle as chronicled earlier in the week in this story, I just got a few pics in my email showing her cutout is one step closer to home.

My friend Bonnie (on the left) graciously went over to Cassell Coliseum Friday to rescue cutout Maggie from the shredder due to my own forgetfulness. She then met my old broadcast partner and good friend Tim (on the right) this morning in Blacksburg and the swap was made.

So when Tim gets home, cutout Maggie will be in Northern Virginia. Which beats the heck out of a closet in Blacksburg awaiting a shredder. 😊

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Since It's The First Day Of Spring...

Since today is the first day of spring, I find myself thinking about one year ago.

There was no NCAA Tournament – or live sports for that matter – so we all watched in huge numbers a 10-part Michael Jordan ego-enhancing series on an NBA season not even in this century…just to get our sports fix. Last night, partly because of disappointment over Virginia Tech losing to Florida and partly because of college basketball overload, I didn’t even have the television on.

There was no Major League Baseball season and traditional opening day about to occur in a week. Perhaps it’s the lingering effects of that which make me think when they talk about a minimum number of fans being able to attend, they’re talking about some date way off in the future instead of only 10 days from now.

You couldn’t buy what you wanted when you wanted to, particularly paper products. I handle all the buying of groceries and consumables in my house, and I used to have a pretty easy system. When somebody said we were down to the last three rolls of toilet paper or paper towels, I scanned the grocery ads to see if anyone had them on sale, then went and replenished our stock.

Now, when my wife mentioned the other day that we were down to only two 12-packs of both products and she was opening one of them, I felt like I had to replenish the supply. I did, and there’s an entire corner of the guest room filled with toilet paper, papers towels and tissues. There’s no issue now, as Amazon regularly contacts me asking if I want to buy more and it can be here in two days.

But I was in a warehouse club earlier this week, and I just couldn’t resist all those big 12 big rolls = 137 regular rolls of Bounty just sitting there, secretly whispering to me “one day you’ll wish you had bought one more pack.”

A year ago I actually ran out of the type of coffee filters you use in a device called a Chemex. They were a little difficult to find any way, but when it comes to coffee, I don’t mess around. I discovered that if you were a regular Joe, everyone was sold out, but if you subscribed to the product through a place like Peet’s, they’d find some for you. So I’ve been getting a box of 100 every 8 weeks, even though I only use maybe 50 every 8 weeks.

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Hokies Come Close But Lose 75-70 To Florida In Overtime

Well, it was fun while it lasted.

Virginia Tech saw its men's basketball season come to an end in the NCAA Tournament today, and it was somewhat similar to the way the Hokies saw their time at the ACC Tournament finish: They started strong with great ball movement, tough defense and timely outside shooting to lead at the half, but then hit a stretch in the final 7 minutes of the game where the defense got tired, the shots stopped dropping, and Florida pulled out a 75-70 overtime win.

It was a game of mixed emotions if you’re a Hokie fan. This was only year 2 of the Mike Young coaching experience, and after a surprising .500 season in year 1, this was supposed to be the next step toward establishing an identity that got them into the NCAAs in year 3.

At times – like in the first half – Virginia Tech looked far ahead of schedule. Tough defense caused Florida to act confused, turning the ball over 8 times (Florida would have 18 turnovers in the game), including several on shot clock violations. The Gators just simply couldn’t get their offense going in a timely enough matter to get a decent shot off.

The Hokies packaged that with sharp offensive play that included screens and passes that seemed to find the right man when he was open, and when Hunter Cattoor nailed his third straight three-pointer and Tyrece Radford added another jumper, the Hokies had their biggest lead of the game at 21-11.

The lead would shrink to only 29-25 at halftime, and then Virginia Tech – as it did against North Carolina – morphed back to the second-year type of team most of us expected. Outside shots stopped falling, as they only shot 37 percent from the floor in the second half, and even worse in overtime.

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If You Want To Win, You Have To Take Chances

Over the years, I've come to see a certain personality during the NCAA Tournament.

You know the type. The one who brags "hey, I picked that upset," when a 12 seed surprisingly beats a 5 seed. Or when it gets down to the final four, says he got just about all of the games correct in the early round, but "missed by that much" on a few of the finalists.

Oddly, this person never shows his actual brackets to see if what he's saying is true. Usually it's a good friend who you've known for years, so you don't push it and ask to see them, because you already KNOW he's lying.

So that I won't be confused with THAT guy, here are my picks before the first game is played. I had given serious consideration to spending hours reading up on what all the experts had to say, but then I realized "who am I kidding?" The tournament is unpredictable every year, and when you add in the COVID factor, it's even more of a guessing game.

So I went game for game and just picked the teams I've seen and liked. You never win an office pool picking all favorites, and you never win if you pick too many upsets. I HAVE probably picked too many upsets, but now you have the evidence to taunt me every weekend as my brackets go down in flames.

I'm not going to be THAT guy 😊

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These Shining Moments Brought Back Great Memories

Today, it all begins.

The play-in games are done (Texas Southern, Drake, Norfolk State and UCLA were the winners), and Virginia Tech gets it all going shortly after noon from Hinkle Fieldhouse when the Hokies face Florida.

To commemorate the tournament, the NCAA has released a 3-minute all-time video of the Big Dance, and I have to say, it both made me feel old AND made me feel goosebumps, as it captures just about all the great moments I’ve come to remember about the tournament.

My first memory of the tournament - when it was only two weekends - was the historic victory by then-unknown Texas Western, winning it all at Cole Field House up at College Park. A black and white snippet of the team is in the early seconds, then – to the music of One Shining Moment – the memories start coming one after another.

There’s Dell Curry’s son Steph, showing the world that there is no shot too long that he can’t make, Gary Williams getting his hair tousled after winning a national championship (I have a basketball here in the house signed by Gary), and Jim Valvano, running around the court in search of someone to hug after the "Survive and Advance" miracle in Albuquerque. I was lucky enough to cover that N.C. State team in about a dozen games that season.

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The Cutout Of Maggie The WonderBeagle Lives!

I’m sure none of you ever forget things, but as I move deeper into my senior years, it happens.

Last night, while checking with my oldest friend about tornados and other bad weather moving through where he lives in Mississippi, it hit me of something BIG I forgot. Something that filled me with immediate regret.

My oldest friend is named Doug, and as a Christmas present, he gave money to Virginia Tech so he could place a cutout of someone in Cassell Coliseum. He chose my beloved Maggie The WonderBeagle, and it made me smile every time I watched the Hokies, knowing that at least one member of the family had left the house and was watching in Cassell.

But a few weeks ago, he forwarded an email saying with the season ending, those cutouts had to go. You were given a form to fill out to have them either mailed to you or picked up, and they had to be gotten by March 13. Otherwise, they were going in the shredder.

Last night while talking to Doug, it occurred to me it was March 17.

This led to a thought of “oh no, I’ve killed my dog,” and I took to Twitter to ask if anybody was available to help me try to stop the shredding of an Ashburn Foxhound. Twitter can be a nasty cesspool at times, but it is also filled with good people who will help you if they can. Several offers were made, and I got an email from one lovely person saying she worked at Virginia Tech and would be glad to help grab Maggie if she still existed.

So this morning I started with an email to Terry Bolt, Senior Director of Major Gifts for Intercollegiate Athletics, pleading for clemency. She immediately responded, forwarding the email to the person she thought was handling the cutouts. That person immediately responded, saying she was forwarding the request to Bob Gavagan, Associate Director, Marketing & Fan Experience, as this was his area.

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Not Sure I Understand Controversy Over Young's Remarks

It’s not unusual for me to get up some mornings, look at social media, and immediately get aggravated. Happens more days than it doesn’t, to be honest.

But today’s perusing of topics on Twitter this morning really annoys me. There are some who have taken a harmless analogy by Virginia Tech Coach Mike Young and tried to turn it into something entirely different.

The New York Post, for example, has a headline saying “Mike Young Takes Random Shot At Jehovah’s Witnesses.” TMZ had a headline that said Young “Trashes Jehovah’s Witnesses.” I’ve seen a poster using the “NotMyCoach” hashtag because of this, and I’ve seen comments like “disgusting” replying to this.

So now that you’ve seen what I think is a huge overreaction, let’s look at what Young said. He had been asked about playing Ohio State, assuming the Hokies beat Florida in the first round. Reacting the way any coach would, Young strongly stated they weren’t going to overlook anybody and were only focused on the next team on the schedule.

"We're not playing the Jehovah Witnesses all-star team; We’re playing the Florida Gators" Young said. “We’re playing the Gators, man, we’re playing the Gators. I do know who our next opponent would be if we were lucky enough to win, but there’s not a chance in hell you starting thinking about anything, nothing…I will not give one clip about anything but Coach White’s Gator team, and that’s the same for my team.

“This is it. This is one game and if you play poorly or get outplayed, I’m going to be walking down the hall after talking to you guys via Zoom and there’s going to be an NCAA Representative telling me, ‘your plane leaves in 45 minutes. Good luck to you. Go get your stuff packed and get out of here’.”

To me, Young is saying Florida is not an all-star church league team. He could have said Southern Baptist All-Star team, the All-Presbyterian all-star team or any other phrase to denote a recreational team versus a major college team. There was indeed no malice, and when he was told the phrase might have offended someone – although I can’t imagine how – he immediately apologized.

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Coach Norman Dale, er, Mike Young Focused Only On Florida

There is something special to me about Virginia Tech’s opening game in the NCAA Tournament against Florida taking place in Hinkle Fieldhouse on the campus of Butler University.

Part of it is the tradition of the building, but part of it is the fact I’m just a sucker for old sports movies. I drive my wife crazy when I seem to be watching the same movie for the 47th time, but that’s just how I am.

My favorite, is Hoosiers. And parts of it remind me of this Hokie team.

Hoosiers was filmed in Hinkle Fieldhouse, and the movie is loosely based on the Milan High School basketball team that won the 1954 Indiana state basketball championship in that very same building. A player named Bobby Plump hit the game-winner, became a mythical figure in Indiana basketball, and was created as character Jimmy Chitwood in the movie.

Hokie Coach Mike Young even mentioned the specialness of Hinkle Fieldhouse this morning, as the team arrived in Indianapolis yesterday, noting  "I've been a lot of places, but never been to Butler's campus or been to Hinkle Fieldhouse. As a basketball person and the history of that building, I look forward to that."

This, of course, has evoked comparisons in my mind between Virginia Tech and the Hickory Huskers underdog team that took the basketball world by storm in Indiana in the movie. Young even looks a little like coach Norman Dale (played by Gene Hackman) and has a similar style of coaching fundamentals.

I could just imagine the Hokies getting off a red church revival bus, the team walking into Hinkle, and Young asking John Ojiako to put Wabissa Bede on his shoulders, tossing a tape measure to Bede, and asking him to measure how high the rims are, as was done in the movie the first time Hickory entered the Fieldhouse.

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In Case You Were Wondering...

If you read this story yesterday on Tre Mitchell, you may have wondered – much like I did – how he ended up at UMass in the first place.

His final six including some pretty stout schools, including three from the ACC: Virginia Tech, Georgia Tech and Syracuse. Providence, Indiana and UMass were the other three. His home is just outside Pittsburgh, so none of the schools were nearby.

This story by Matt Vautour of seems to explain the reason quite well. Turns out Mitchell played at Woodstock Academy in Connecticut, and his coach was Tony Bergeron. UMass hired Bergeron as an assistant coach, and shortly afterward Mitchell signed with UMass.

Bergeron is also very close to the family, and he is engaged to Mitchell’s mother.

So that sort of explains why Mitchell went to UMass. It doesn’t explain why he’s leaving, as when asked about it by Vautour, he declined to provide any details.

So who knows what will happen, or how interested the Hokies are. But Bergeron and Mitchell appeared to be a package deal when he went to UMass. Whether that will happen again remains to be seen, and would certainly affect any interest by Virginia Tech.

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