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Men's Basketball Midseason Report

By Kyle Beene | January 21
photo by Will Trent

Hokies Tame the Wolfpack in Raleigh 84-78

It wasn't pretty, in fact it was a pretty ugly. But it didn't need to be.

The Hokies turned the ball over a whopping 20 times on the road in hostile PNC Arena against an NC State Wolfpack team that is off to one of their best starts in recent history. Sounds like a recipe for disaster, and at times it was. But the Hokies kept tough, avoided the scoring droughts that have plagued their offense, and were able to pull away to a 6 point win on the back of a masterful 51 point offensive second half. It was hectic, it was sloppy, it was the opposite of what Hokies basketball has been at its best under head coach Mike Young.

But Young knows how tough it is to win on the road in the ACC, especially when your team is desperate for it.

"Tremendous. Needed it," said Young in his postgame press conference. "There's nothing like winning, there's nothing like clearing the air and see a team come together and compete together and win together."

Hunter Cattoor was as efficient and timely as you could ask for on Saturday, coming up clutch with 16 points in the final 11:53 of the game to help the Hokies pull away to an 84-78 victory. He tallied 19 points in total, with the help of 8-10 shooting from the FT line.

Sean Pedulla was...Sean Pedulla. He had some bad moments, but when the Hokies needed him most he made the big play. His 9 assists were the product of the Wolfpack collapsing hard on the slashing guard, opening up the aforementioned Cattoor and winger Tyler Nickel. Nickel, who has slowly been coming into his own as a Hokie, was 3-5 from three point land on his way to a dozen points.

Down low the Hokies had to deal with a very physical Wolfpack duo in DJ Burns and Mohamed Diarra. Neither are stat stuffers, but they do a good job at taking bigs out of games and making the opposing guards make shots in order to win. That might have caused the Hokies to not get the volume they wanted from their bigs, but Lynn Kidd, Robbie Beran, and Mylyjael Poteat were all efficient enough to make an impact. The real damage was done on the FT line, as the three Hokies bigs combined to go 12-14 from the charity stripe, dismantling any Wolfpack hopes at bully ball or fouling late to extend the game.

The Hokies had every reason to lose that game. On the road in a hostile environment, you're coming off back to back losses, you're turning the ball over every other possession...things could've gotten ugly very quickly. But this is why veteran teams win games, and why the expectations were as high as they were with this Hokies team coming into the season.

"It's one of those games where it's back-and-forth again and we really had to go out there and take it," said Cattoor postgame. "We couldn't just let the time keep ticking and then go, 'Hopefully we win'. We went out there and we went and took that game."

Midway through year five under Mike Young, I don't think anyone though the Hokies would be where they're at right now. Every performance feels like a grind, and the roster doesn't look to have the star power and depth we thought we'd see. Even still, the Hokies are "in position to be in position" as the college basketball saying goes. But in order to get over the hump, the Hokies have to play to their full potential, something we haven't seen much of this season. It's the same feeling we've had since the Hokies won the ACC tournament and then lost a close game to a tough, veteran Texas team in the tournament: the Hokies are very close to being very good.


Performing Under Pressure

The pressure has been building on the 2023-24 Hokies team over the past several weeks since disappointing results at the hands of top 25-caliber teams Florida Atlantic and Auburn back in late November. Since then, the Hokies had only managed one meaningful victory, albeit a big one against Clemson, and started 2-4 in ACC play. Unfortunately that kind of start has become a bit of a pattern.

Before Saturday's win vs NC State, the Hokies were 6-14 in the month of January since the 2021-22 season. That has some underlying reasons, but it's caused the Hokies to start three consecutive ACC slates in a hole that's tough to dig your way out of. The Hokies have done their best at that, but time can run out on you very quickly in this league.

Screenshot 2024 01 21 at 10 14 50 AM
MBB win % by month from 2021-22 season to Jan 19, 2024

Whatever the reasons may be, it shows how just a few bad weeks can dismantle a season. The Hokies were able to save the 2021-22 season in the ACC Tournament, where a buzzer beater 3 from Darius Maddox propelled the Hokies on a magical run to the ACC Championship before being ousted by a very good Texas team in the first round of March Madness. No such magical run happened in last season's ACC Tournament.

The Hokies don't want to be put in that position again, and Saturday's win went a long way to stop the bleeding. Frankly, it's not a position the Hokies should be in at all. The team is loaded with veteran players, returning the entire starting backcourt and bringing in two veteran transfers who played at high levels last season for their respective schools.

How'd we get here? Well, for starters the Hokies lost a star-potential guard in Rodney Rice right before the start of the season. Rice was on tap to give the Hokies a dynamic burst off the bench, and that was going to be a necessity for this year's team.

Transfers Robbie Beran and Mekhi Long have brought improved the defense in the front court, but largely underwhelmed in most other aspects of the game. They weren't brought in to be stat stuffers, but the lack of offensive production from the forward position has hamstrung the Hokies into being one dimensional on offense, leading to inconsistencies and long scoring droughts.

It's safe to say this is not the full roster the coaching staff thought they'd be working with a few months ago.

That's why Saturday's win was so massive. This team is still trying to find itself. Even after a slow start to ACC play, the Hokies have a path to crawl their way back towards the top third of the ACC standings and into NCAA Tournament position.

Tourney Resume

The Hokies have two massive non-conference wins under their belt with neutral court victories against Boise State (#51 in NET) and Iowa State (#10 in NET). Both should find their way to being Quad 1 wins at the end of the season (top 50 on a neutral court). The Hokies also had a dominant home win against perennial tourney team, Vermont (#125 in NET), who has won 6 of their last 7 since playing the Hokies.

In the ACC, wins against Clemson (#39 in NET) at home and now NC State (#67 in NET) on the road may both prove to be Quad 1 wins. Other potential Quad 1 games for the Hokies include:

- Jan. 29 vs Duke (#14 in NET)

- Feb. 3 @ Miami (#63 in NET)

- Feb 17 @ UNC (#9 in NET)

- Feb. 19 vs UVA (#56 in NET)

- Mar. 2 vs Wake Forest (#46 in NET)

The NET rankings are a moving target, so much of this is will change, but in summary the Hokies will have 3-5 Q1 games remaining on the schedule to bolster their current 1-4 record against such teams (Iowa State, Virginia, Florida Atlantic, Auburn, Wake Forest). The good news is the Hokies are yet to lose a Quad 3 or 4 game. They'll need to keep that record clean throughout the season if they're to have a shot at a tournament bid.

The Hokies are currently on the outside looking in in every major bracket projection. However, that could change very quickly.

Coming Up for the Hokies

A much needed return to Cassell is on deck for the Hokies as they host Boston College (#87 in NET), Georgia Tech (#117 in NET), and Duke (#14 in NET) in a three game home stand. Mike Young is 0-5 vs BC as Tech's head coach, so a win on Tuesday may be both a sigh of relief and a cathartic experience. Georgia Tech has lost 6 of their last 7, but has wins against Duke and Clemson on the year. As for the Blue Devils of Duke, they've had a rocky year. Losses to the aforementioned Yellow Jackets, Arkansas and more recently Pittsburgh have shown a vulnerable squad, but outside of those games Duke has looked like...well Duke.

If the Hokies can take care of Boston College and Georgia Tech, then they would be 5-4 in conference with a chance to get their best win of the season at home against Duke. The Hokies have beaten Duke in each of the past three seasons, twice at home and once in Brooklyn. It's setting up to be a massive game for Mike Young and his program, but first things first they need to get past those pesky Eagles and Yellow Jackets.

Me Ronnie

Born into a family of Hokies, I can remember watching Frank Beamer and Tyrod Taylor on Saturdays with the family, so attending VT was always the dream. 


In 2020, I began my time at Virginia Tech in the Sports Media Analytics program and eventually joined the Sons in January of 2023 as the softball beat writer. Now, I’ve got football, basketball, and baseball coverage, plus you’ll see some of my photographs in articles throughout the website. 


Graduation is on the horizon, but I can’t wait to come back in the fall to begin my Master’s and continue working with the team!


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