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Mike Young: A Very Deserved ACC Coach Of The Year Winner

Virginia Tech’s Mike Young has been named the Atlantic Coast Conference Coach of The Year, and for a minute there, I got a little nervous yesterday about whether he was going to gain the honor or not.

Pockets of people on social media were doing the old “let me dig up statistics and bend them to support my opinion” on social media, and there seemed to be some who thought Georgia Tech’s Josh Pastner was more deserving.

Some of the people saying this I like. Some of them I even admire. Some of them, I've always thought, are totally clueless.

To overlook Young as Coach of the year is to overlook just what the term “coach” means. You can look at it as an X’s and O’s game manager, and if you do, I suppose digging up stats to say your team had more wins on the road against teams ranked in the top 25 while the moon is in its waxing Crescent phase and Jay Bilas is involved in the ESPN broadcast might mean something.

But to me, a coach is more than a basketball strategist. Don’t get me wrong, it’s important. But he’s also a teacher, psychiatrist, talent evaluator, cheerleader, mentor, salesman, tough love kind of guy and second Dad. Young was all of those things, and he needed every skill he had to pull off the miracle that is Virginia Tech basketball finishing 3rd in the conference this season.

It was less than two years ago that Young took over a program that had been rebuilt by Buzz Williams, but after reaching the pinnacle of his 5 years in Blacksburg, he left the cupboard bare. Many coaches also find similar situations when taking over a program, but the Hokies weren’t even a couple of good leftover players and 5 guys from the Y. In fact, they didn’t even have 5 guys on the roster.

Buzz did a masterful job in his 5 years in Blacksburg, but he sold recruits on himself. Play for me, Buzz said, and you will be noticed by the NBA. Play for me, and I’ll teach you the game that will get you to the next level. That’s not a criticism of Buzz by any means, but it did mean when Buzz left, players left too. The reason they came to Blacksburg wasn’t UT Prosim and Hokie, Hokie Hi. It was Buzz Williams, who was now in Texas.

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Dave Fulton

Great Choice

A great choice and the best choice.
Monday, 08 March 2021 12:46
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As No.3 Seed, Hokies Will Now Participate In The Late Show

As I’ve always known, the best way to jinx something you’d like to see happen is to write about it.

So yesterday, when I wrote this about not wanting to play in the 9 PM game Thursday or be in the same bracket as Florida State, I just about guaranteed those two things would happen. And indeed, the two things that needed to happen to force that scenario occurred within hours of me saying it.

The first was Notre Dame’s shocking 83-73 upset of the Seminoles, throwing them into the group of teams at the top of the standings with four losses (the other three at the time being Virginia, Louisville and Virginia Tech), then Virginia excused the Cardinals from the group by handing them their fifth league loss of the season.

When the smoke cleared, Virginia was in first by virtue of having played two more games than Florida State, so their .765 winning percentage made them the top seed, while the Seminoles .733 percentage dropped them to second. The Hokies moved up to the No. 3 seed, which ties for the highest seed the Hokies have ever claimed in the ACC Tournament (Seth Greenberg did it in the 2006-2007 season), while Georgia Tech filled Louisville’s vacancy to take the 4th seed.

Louisville, by losing, got drop-kicked all the way down to the 7th seed. Virginia Tech WILL now be in the 9 PM (or later) game Thursday night and they WILL be in the same bracket as Florida State.

But it’s not all bad.

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I'm Pulling For The 2:30 Game And Avoiding Ga. Tech

Today is not the regular-season finale kind of day I thought it would be for Virginia Tech’s basketball team.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s been an incredible and surprising season. Remember that feeling after upsetting No. 3 Villanova right after Thanksgiving? And wondering who this Keve Aluma guy was? Or beating Duke AND Virginia at Cassell? Or being ranked every week of the regular season like a big dog with the exception of one week, where pollsters punished the Hokies for losing to lowly Penn State?

I expected few to none of those things to happen in November, so no matter how the season finishes, it’s already been a great one. But with such flashes of potential during the season, today was suppose to be the day we all were locked in our chairs, watching every other ACC game to determine tournament possibilities, and hopefully ending the regular season on a high note.

Instead, it’s kind of lonely. The regular season ended with whimper, not a bang. Finishing in the top 4 and getting a double bye into the ACC Tournament should have been cause for celebration. Now it’s cause for concern.

We all know the story about how sitting on the sidelines affects a team, because we heard it often enough back on Feb. 23, when the Hokies played their first game after 3 postponements and 17 days of inactivity. The Hokies not only know the story, they lived it, showing the same rust everyone else did in losing 69-53 to Georgia Tech.

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NC State Game Cancelled, Hokie Regular Season Is Over

Looks like the Virginia Tech men’s basketball regular season is now over.

The Atlantic Coast Conference announced that not only is tonight’s previously scheduled game with Louisville cancelled, but the season finale on Saturday against N.C. State has also been cancelled. On its website, the ACC said “The canceled game follows quarantining and a contact tracing review within the Virginia Tech men’s basketball program. The team is adhering to the outlined protocols within the ACC Medical Advisory Group report.”

You now have to wonder if the COVID issue is to the point that the team might not be able to clear contact tracing protocols in time and thus not be able to play in the ACC Tournament. The good news/bad news scenario for the Hokies is by not playing the final two regular-season games, they will finish with only four league losses, which puts them in the top 4 of the standings, and clinches a double bye in the ACC Tournament.

That could provide the time for Virginia Tech to clear up its COVID issues, but would also mean the team would once again go almost two weeks without playing a game. Such a long layoff occurred just ten days ago, and the team looked rusty from that layoff in a 69-53 loss to surging Georgia Tech.  

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Virginia Tech's Game With Louisville Wednesday Cancelled

Well, it looks like Virginia Tech’s streak with Louisville won’t end tomorrow night.

That’s because the game won’t be played. According to the Atlantic Coast Conference, the Louisville at Virginia Tech men’s basketball game scheduled for Wednesday, March 3 has been canceled.
 
The canceled game follows a contact tracing review within the Virginia Tech men’s basketball program, the ACC Site said. The team is adhering to the outlined protocols within the ACC Medical Advisory Group report.
 
So now, the Hokies have only one game left in the regular season, which is scheduled to be played at 2 PM Saturday in Raleigh against North Carolina State.

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It's Time To Pay Louisville Back The Debt It Is Owed

Tomorrow night, the most pivotal game of the Virginia Tech basketball season will come down to a matchup between the Hokies and Louisville.

Of course it will.

Much is written about the rivalry between Virginia Tech and those neighbors to the East in Charlottesville, but when you are discussing a pure and intense rival for another team in basketball, nobody stokes the fires for me like Louisville. I'm sure there's a better and more diplomatic way to say it, but I just don't like them.

Should you be too young to remember, it was the Cardinals who led the movement to cast the Hokie basketball program into the desert to wander around in search of a permanent home for many years back in the mid-1990s. Virginia Tech had joined what was then the Metro-7 in 1978, sharing a league with the likes of Cincinnati, Georgia Tech, Louisville, Memphis, St. Louis, Tulane and Florida State.

Georgia Tech had just left the Metro to become the 8th member of the Atlantic Coast Conference after South Carolina had left, and the Hokies took their place. Eventually, South Carolina would join too in 1983 and as basketball conferences went, it was a pretty stout league.

Louisville, because they would win national championships in 1980 and 1986 under Coach Denny Crum, thought they owned the league. Much like Duke and North Carolina have always pushed the non-tobacco road schools in the ACC, Louisville held the role in the Metro. What they wanted, it seemed, they got.

But not in the Hokies’ first year in the league. Virginia Tech finished 4th in the Metro that initial regular season, then beat Cincinnati in the first round of the Metro Tournament. Dale Solomon was an imposing force for the Hokies in the middle, but in the second-round game against Louisville, he did not play due to a death in the family. The 13th-ranked Cardinals, with players like Darrell Griffith and Scooter McCray, expected to breeze past VT on the way to winning the tournament.

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Dave Fulton

Academics

The ACC really breached both its academics and ethics standards with the admission of Louisville to the confetence. Integrity stil... Read More
Tuesday, 02 March 2021 14:54
Dave Scarangella

We're going to have to find so...

if you're going to keep making comments like this
Tuesday, 02 March 2021 15:02
Dave Fulton

Meds

Tho' I'm currently taking post surgery pain meds, I have been known to stand up for Virginia Tech previously. When UVA guys & VT g... Read More
Tuesday, 02 March 2021 18:46
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Final Week Is The Real March Madness For Hokie Fans

Today is the first day of March, and starts off the final week of the regular college basketball season.

A week, which to Virginia Tech fans, is usually the real March Madness.

It’s the week when a great season can be completely erased by having a poor last week, and it’s not just the Hokies. Many a team has had a nice season only to lose the last two games of the regular season, then carry that funk into a conference tournament and get eliminated in the first round.

Despite a good record and some nice wins, your team goes from “you know we’re dancing” to on the bubble.

So having been a Hokie fan for 50 years, my first instinct this week is to look at the standings and try to figure out which scenario will be the biggest dagger in my heart, so I can prepare myself. And as the life coach in the Geico commercial tells his group while they’re in a home improvement store, “we all see it. We all see it.”

In first place with only 3 losses in the ACC is Florida State. Since they finish with two teams with losing records – Notre Dame and Boston College – I’m going to concede first place to the Seminoles because they’re not losing this week. Three teams are technically tied for second with 4 league losses: UVA, Virginia Tech and Louisville.

If you’re an optimist, you could look at the scenarios where the Hokies win their remaining two games with Louisville and N.C. State. Beating Louisville reduces the tie to only two teams, and if UVA and VT finish with only 4 losses, VT beat the Wahoos in their only meeting. I’m not sure how the league would treat this because UVA played more games, so you’d have a 13-4 versus an 11-4, and if you went on winning percentage, Virginia would win the tie.

But that still casts a worst-case scenario of being in the top 3. Now look at it as a pessimist.

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Dave Scarangella

Only 12 hours after I wrote th...

Nothing is predictable in this league. Virginia did beat Miami as expected...
Monday, 01 March 2021 21:48
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Hokies Unleash The Fury In Rout Of Wake Forest

When Mike Young wins the ACC Coach Of The Year Award at the end of the season (and if he doesn’t, we all need to call the FBI and report a crime), there will be people who ask what makes him such a great coach.

I offer today’s 84-46 win over Wake Forest as exhibit A.

Young seems to know how to fix things when his team plays like a car with four flat tires. Three other times the Hokies have laid an egg at center court, and next time out, all three times Virginia Tech did exactly the opposite of what ailed them in that previous loss.

After a surprisingly loss to Penn State, the Hokies bounced back to beat No. 24 Clemson; they took a beating from Syracuse, then outplayed Notre Dame on the road and No. 8 Virginia in succession; a pitiful effort against Pitt was followed by a near-miracle overtime win over Miami.

So when the Hokies tried to shake off the rust of a 17-day layoff and played poorly in the second half in a loss to Georgia Tech, it didn’t take advanced crime scene analysis to find the problem. The team didn’t shoot well. They didn’t penetrate to the basket. They played tentatively. And by not providing any real reason for the GT defense to come out and guard the backcourt, they negated any advantage they might have had down low with Keve Aluma and Justyn Mutts.

They also allowed Georgia Tech to shoot 61.5 percent from the floor in the second half.

I don’t know what buttons Young pushed, but the Hokies took the floor this afternoon like they were in the movie Road Trip and Tom Green was yelling “Unleash The Fury” at them. They hit their first five shots from the floor, looked cool and relaxed, and they never looked back. Aluma couldn’t miss, finishing with 23 points on 9 of 11 shots, Tyrece Radford was back to his normal self, nailing his first four shots and aggressively driving the lane, and the Hokies shot 67.9 percent from the field to quickly turn the game into a rout.

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Remember, There Is No Such Thing As A Stupid Question

Earlier today I wrote a story based on an Andy Bitter mailbag column in The Athletic. Which of course led to this question that was asked by a friend of mine.

“Why don’t you have a mailbag?” came the predictable text from the friend.

“For the same reason I don’t have a yacht,” was my reply, “because neither of them would get much use.”

But then I got to thinking about all the questions people would like to ask. Not of me, but of Doug Doughty. I’ve got a few I’d like to ask him right now, like why are groups who don’t perform Rock & Roll in the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame? Or why he didn’t have Lawrence Taylor ranked in his Top 25 High School Football Prospects in the state of Virginia when it ran around Christmas time in 1976?

Or maybe a question regarding if he had to choose between his two dogs and a close friend, and could only pick one, does the close friend even have a chance to survive?

So starting next Friday, we will start running a regular mailbag column. The questions can be to any of us involved in the site (which would be Doug, Dave or Maggie) and we will do our best to answer these questions in an honest and entertaining way. The email address to send them to is This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. I’ll start asking for them by Wednesday of each week so we have time to make stuff up answer them.

So hit us with your best shot. And remember, there is no such thing as a stupid question.

Well, except for Twitter 😊

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Dave Fulton

Mailbag Question

Is it best to address Hallmark movie mailbag questions to Dave or Doug? I'm aware of the Hallmark knowledge Dave has surely soaked... Read More
Saturday, 27 February 2021 06:50
Dave Scarangella

While I'm Sure Doug Is Just As...

I'm not sure he's been forced to watch as many as I have
Saturday, 27 February 2021 20:06
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This Story Was So Good, Friends Woke Me Up To Read It

It is rare that I sleep in these days, but while peacefully dreaming of being on a sandy beach somewhere, my phone made the sound of a text arriving, waking me up.

It was from Doug Doughty, asking if I had seen Andy Bitter’s mailbag story in The Athletic. No, I said, but now that I’m awake, I’ll go look at it, because you wouldn’t have texted if it wasn’t good. Moments later, another friend sent virtually the same text.

It was as good as advertised, and it touched on subjects I think about often in regard to Virginia Tech’s football program. One, as you would expect, involved the most often-asked question of the year for VT football: Is Justin Fuente the right man for the job? But this time it was prefaced with Darryl Tapp’s huge praise for Fuente versus the somewhat grumpy guy the public tends to see more often, and wondering where the disconnect was.

This situation, and how Virginia Tech has handled this, is something I wonder about all the time. When the Hokies hire a coach, I will - like everybody else - judge that coach on wins and losses. But I’m also blessed with a number of friends who are just ordinary Joes in Blacksburg, and I will usually call a few just to see if that coach is a good person. Blacksburg is such a small town, it's tough to pretend to be something you're not. The real you will be seen sooner than later.

Within 24 hours of Mike Young being hired as the basketball coach, for example, I was hearing “you’re really going to like him” from people I respected. I didn’t like the hire at first, but the comments were so strong on what a good person, leader and teacher he was, I had to switch to a wait and see attitude before arriving at my current “I couldn’t have been more wrong” stance.

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Dave Fulton

PR Person's Place

Thanks for pointing out the value of a good PR person steering coaches and others around icebergs. I always had a sense of warmth ... Read More
Saturday, 27 February 2021 07:16
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Worst Fears Realized In Tonight's Loss To Georgia Tech

I’d like to tell you Virginia Tech’s 69-53 loss to Georgia Tech was a huge surprise.

I’d also like to tell you they made a mistake and delivered a pizza with everything to my doorstep and I’m about to eat it.

Neither would be true.

Instead, the Hokies took the road more traveled for teams who have had long layoffs in the ACC, looking rusty, tired and at times disoriented. ACC teams this season that have had layoffs of 10 days or more have ended up scoring in the 50s in their first game back, while getting beaten like a drum. Clemson had issues with COVID and after sitting out 11 days, lost to Virginia 85-50; Louisville was off 19 days and upon their return got pole-axed by UNC 99-54; the Hokies hadn’t played in 17 days and scored a season-low 53 points in losing by 16.

The game marked the return of Tyrece Radford to the lineup from what had been an indefinite suspension, and that may have added at first to the lethargic play on offense. The Hokies are at their best when they move the ball around quickly, finding either an open 3 or going down low and attacking the basket, and it’s usually done in a decisive manner.

Virginia Tech, however, started out as if some of the players had just met. Radford seemed more content to let the game come to him, and over the first 10 minutes, it did not seem as if anyone other than Nahlem Alleyne wanted to shoot the ball.  Alleyne hit several of his first few shots, which opened up things for Keve Aluma and Justin Mutts as the teams tied 24-24 at halftime.

But then the two teams just went in different directions. Georgia Tech shot 61.5 percent from the floor after intermission, and when not hitting 3-pointers, the Yellow Jackets were pounding the ball inside to Moses Wright, who finished with a game-high 26 points.

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