We asked Nathan Reynolds from Gobbler Country to give us some insight into Saturday’s rematch.
In the first meeting, Virginia Tech struggled for 30 minutes and then found a way to score 25 points in the final 10. What was the difference for the Hokies down the stretch?
Tech was coming off it’s toughest day offensively against UVA on the road. That coupled with the Syracuse zone really stunted the Hokies attack and the game looked like it might get away from them before halftime. Then Tech started to get more aggressive on the attack and Jalen Cone had a break-out performance. Those two things really saved the game for the Hokies when Landers Nolley was having an off night.
Jalen Cone is averaging 7.1 points per game but had 19 off the bench against Syracuse. Since that game he’s been in double-digits scoring, did the game against the Orange kick-start his emergence?
Yeah, he had three double-digit scoring performances earlier in the season, but his overall contribution was limited off the bench. Typically he was the 8th man in the rotation, but Mike Young needed an answer against Syracuse that night. Since then he has seen an increase in minutes and continues to be very effective from the 3-point range and at the free-throw line. He reclassed to be able to be a freshman this year, which I think contributed to his slower start than some of the other freshmen on the roster.
Syracuse did a pretty good job on Landers Nolley in the first game. Do you think Virginia Tech will make an adjustment to get him going in this one?
It shows how talented of a freshman he is when a 13-point night is seen as an off night. But in fact, he was his 5th lowest scoring night this season. I don’t think Tech will make any adjustments specifically and instead chalk it up to it just not being his night. Every player has them, especially freshmen - and on the road. He put up 29 against NC State and 21 against Wake Forest in our two games since playing Syracuse, so expect him to be the focus once again.
After all of the departures this off-season, expectations were pretty low for the Hokies. How have they been able to exceed the preseason projections which had them 14th in the ACC?
The media outside of Blacksburg had a very low opinion of the roster heading into the season. Why it’s turned out differently is that people underestimated Mike Young and his ability to implement his system quickly with the roster he was able to put together in late summer. In addition, the freshman class has surpassed expectations. People knew Landers Nolley was talented, but Tyrece Radford has been a revelation. He can score, defend, and is a terrific rebounder, despite not being the tallest guy on the court.
Our basketball editor James Szuba ranked Cassell Coliseum last among ACC arenas he’s been to, which got him some angry replies. What makes Cassell a tough place for opponents to play?
I guess first I’d ask him to elaborate on what he didn’t like about Cassell Coliseum as a college basketball arena. Typically, I find that the best atmospheres are in the 5-7.5k seat range. NC State and Syracuse have these massive buildings, but it feels more spread out. One of the reasons a school like Duke doesn’t want to build a giant dome is the like that the crowd close to the court and the intensity it brings when it’s sold out. Something that Tech can often replicate for ACC games. On-campus, easy to part at, plenty of dining options nearby the arena, the right size (in my opinion) and usually sold-out for conference games - not sure what there is to complain about.
(Ed. note from James: “Glad to see I’m making a lot of friends in Blacksburg. Cassel is fine, I guess. But it feels more like a hangar than a college basketball arena. And before VT fans point back at the Carrier Dome and say the same thing, let me say that I completely agree with you. Other than that, the high walls on the end-lines irk me. Great for keeping fans off the court/away from players, not great for media to get in and out of the media section and down to the court. The baseline view from the media seats makes it difficult to see half of the court. Also, the biggest VT fan in Blacksburg happens to be on the ceiling. What’s with that thing and does it serve a purpose? I now look forward to hearing from all Hokie fans about how much Syracuse sucks and how great their coliseum is.”)
What’s your prediction for Saturday?
Virginia Tech 74 - Syracuse 67.
Thanks to Nathan for his time. Be sure to check out Gobbler Country for all your Hokies sports news.