Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Hokies Woes Start on Bench

After last season’s roller coaster of a season, where inexperience seemed to cause problems late in the year, many thought this year could be what many saw in the beginning of 2008. With Malcom Delaney and Jeff Allen returning this season, there was no doubt that the starting lineup would be a force to be reckoned with.

However, with Victor Davila and Terrell Bell thrust into starting roles, the Hokies bench has struggled to hold its own when coach Seth Greenberg tries to give his starters a few minutes of rest.

Through two games, Coach Greenberg has used an eight or nine man rotation with JT Thompson being the first to come off the bench. While that would appear to show depth, the truth is the exact opposite. This is because after Thompson, the experience level drops immensely with freshmen Ben Boggs and Erick Green being the next two players, who are both trying to adjust to the speed of a college game.

Because of a very shallow and inexperienced bench, the Hokies have had to rely on their starters to do more and more. Tech’s starting five has accounted for 89 percent of its offense this season and Delaney is averaging 36.5 minutes a game.

In last night’s 59-46 victory over the UNC Greensboro Spartans, the bench continued to show that it struggles to hold its own while the starters got a break. In the first half, with Allen and Delaney on the bench, the Hokies went more than four minutes without scoring and the Spartans went on a 7-0 run to take a 22-18 lead before Greenberg had to call a timeout and put the duo back in. Overall, the bench contributed eight points off of 2/13 shooting.

Last season, Greenberg mixed up the lineup several times by using Hank Thorns, Davila, Thompson, and Bell as starters, as well as from the bench. However, the one constant was production. The bench averaged 14.6 points a game and it seemed like every night, there was someone that would step up and add to the trio of Allen, Delaney, and A.D. Vassallo.

With Vassallo and Cheick Diakite graduating last year, people new that Tech would be losing valuable points because Vassallo would no longer be there to snipe from beyond the arc. What many didn’t know was how it would affect the bench.

The loss of those two meant that Bell and Davila were named starters. While they have done a fine job in their new roles, no one has filled in as the bench contributors they were last season.

Many people thought that this would be Thompson’s new role on the team, but he has gotten off to a slow start. In the first two games, he 2/11 and averaging just four points a game.; a significant step back from his 6.5 a game off of 53 percent shooting last season. Even though he still exhibits the same aggressive style as last year, it hasn’t converted to points so far.

In two games, Tech’s bench is scoring only 7.5 points a game, while shooting an abysmal 21 percent from the field. Many of the problems scoring have been in the half-court offense.

One of the reasons the bench has struggled has to be the loss of backup point guard Hank Thorns, who transferred to Texas Christian University over the summer. Thorns stats were never the kind that would jump out at you, but he was the perfect point guard because he made everyone else look better. Without him to run the offense when Delaney is on the bench, the Hokies have struggled to get good scoring opportunities.

While it isn’t a big deal to let Green and Boggs work through their problems in the beginning of the season, their improvement needs to be significantly noticeable when conference play begins.

The Hokies believe that the two will eventually be able to control things while giving Delaney and Hudson a break, but from what they have shown, they are a long way off from that goal.

Both have struggled to score and help manufacture points from the half-court offense meaning that right now, the only points Tech can score with Delaney on the bench are the result of a fast break.

This isn’t a huge issue now, but it will be come January 10 when the Hokies go to Chapel Hill to begin their Atlantic Coast Conference schedule. Teams in the ACC won’t turn the ball over nearly as much and if Tech is having trouble in the half-court now, things will only get worst against the superior defenses in its conference.

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