Before the season, it looked like the Virginia Tech-Wake Forest duel would become a meeting of the two worst men’s basketball teams at ACC on Tuesday.
But that has not proven to be correct.
Wake Forest, which was last selected in the ACC media poll before the season, is indeed struggling. The demon deacons are 8-7 in the overall classification and occupy the last place in the ACC with a 1 to 4 league grade.
But the Hokies, which were selected as the penultimate in the survey, are in fourth place in the overall ranking with 12 to 4 and with a 3 to 2 conference record.
“It’s a team. It’s a real team that I think is really fun to compete and fight for the Hokies with,” said tech coach Mike Young at the ACC weekly conference call on Monday. “It’s the way it’s supposed to be.”
The Hokies who will visit the Wake Forest at 9 p.m. Tuesday has two newcomers to Redshirt and four newcomers in their nine-man rotation. But one of these red shirt newbies was a standout.
Redshirt newcomer Landers Nolley II, who finished third in the ACC with an average of 17.9 points, was named the ACC newcomer of the week for the fifth time on Monday.
Nolley gave Tech two wins last week, scoring 15 points in Syracuse and 29 points last Saturday against North Carolina State.
“This performance on Saturday was enormous,” said Young. “He was an offensive elite and I thought he did a really good job defensively.”
Nolley’s five newcomer of the week awards are particularly impressive when you consider that the league also includes Duke newcomer Vernon Carey, one of the leading candidates for the national player of the year award. Carey was named ACC newbie of the week three times compared to Nolley’s five.
Nolley and the rest of the Hokies could cause a sensation in a year when the ACC was brought to its knees.
No. 3 Duke (15-1, 5-0), No. 9 Florida State (14-2, 4-1), and No. 11 Louisville (13-3, 4-1) were the only three ACC teams who cracked the Associated Press Top 25 on Monday. The other 12 teams of the ACC seem to be on a different level.
“Duke broke up, but apart from that I think there is a lot of balance,” said Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim. “Louisville and the state of Florida are exactly behind, but I think the rest are very little separated. A lot of inexperience and a lot of teams … roughly on the same level.”
The only ACC teams in the “Others Get Voices” category of Monday’s AP poll were Virginia and Virginia Tech.
A plus for tech this season has been the tendency not to commit many fouls. The Hokies take second place nationwide with an average of only 12.4 personal fouls.
“You were great,” said Young. “We usually have one or two fouls at the end of each half. It makes me angry when the current team needs to make up for it. NC State has nine team fouls, we have three and there is one that is.” Blown out of nowhere just to make up for it. That burns my tail.
“None of us want to pollute a lot. … You want teams to collect points. You don’t want teams to go to the free-throw line 25 times.”
Tech’s tendency not to lazy could be especially helpful on Tuesday. The demon deacons lead the ACC in free throws (272) and try (366).
“You have a number of people who can really drive it,” said Young. “It is not necessarily the first ride. If you stone it, they will retreat and they will come back to you straight away.
“This is … a team that is not afraid to bow its head and make contact and be fouled. That was cause for concern.”
Tech has also excelled in not turning the ball over. The Hokies lead the nation in the lowest turnovers per game (9.7) and occupy third place in the Assist Turnover Ratio.
“I’m a little surprised,” said Young about his team’s lack of sales. “I don’t know what to put it other than a daily stress … and (Point Guard) Wabissa Bede, luckily in a Virginia Tech uniform as a junior. … He just doesn’t turn the ball over and understand the value of that possession. “
Bede (100 assists, 27 sales) takes fourth place nationwide in the assist turnover ratio.
“Bede is the engine that gets them going,” said state coach Kevin Keatts.
The Hokies lack size, but they were surpassed by only one rebound in Syracuse and only two rebounds against the state.
State shot only 31.9% out of the field with its 72-58 loss at Tech.
“If you can keep people under 40 (%) and bounce like us, you should be in every game,” said Young.
The Hokies faced a government team that had no top scorer and rebound due to concussion, C.J. Bryce.
Tech’s next enemy could be without one of its top players. The junior guard Chaundee Brown, who is in second place in the rating (13.3 ppg) and in the rebound (6.5 rpg), missed the last two games with an injury to the lower leg.
“We miss Chaundee,” said Wake coach Danny Manning. “I don’t expect him to be ready for Virginia Tech.”