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Pitt vs. Virginia Tech: Q&A with Gobbler Country

Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

Had a chance to do a Q&A with Chuck over at Gobbler Country, SB Nation's excellent Virginia Tech blog. See his answers to my questions below and be sure to head over there to see my answers to his questions.

It's been a frustrating year to say the least for Virginia Tech. Can you elaborate a little bit as to what's gone wrong?

When Seth Greenberg got fired, it was unexpected, even to the AD who fired him. Seth had been difficult to work with and had alienated a couple of his top players in his final year and the AD had had enough. Unfortunately he decided a little late in the 2012 post-season hiring rush. Fearing more player attrition, the AD pushed the panic button and hired back Greenberg's top assistant James Johnson, who had taken the top assistant job at Clemson just 8 days earlier.

We lost Montrezl Harrell to Louisville and Dorian Finney-Smith to Florida where the Pitino clan(s) are making good use of our former top 50 national recruits. How grand for them. VT also lost two more players off that roster after last season, and had to start completely anew. Johnson brought in an average recruiting class in 2013, one that has the potential to blossom into some nice pieces, but they aren't ready to contribute every night in the ACC. The youth coupled with some academic woes, once again left us short (in the back-court particularly). The Hokies have also had a couple of serious injuries to the remaining backcourt regulars, and those have proved insurmountable.

On the court, we're forced to give a true freshman PG Devin Wilson as many minutes as he can handle, with no secondary ball-handler. And because Wilson is so tired from being hounded on the offensive end, he has no energy to play passing lanes. Consequently, both his youthful turnovers and lack of defensive impact are contributing to a turnover margin in the 330s (D1 only goes to 351 teams). We've resorted to starting walk-ons multiple times.

Up front the Hokies are all arms and legs, but I personally have hope for the future. They block shots, do a good job attacking the glass (or maybe that's just our inaccuracy), and dunk when they can. A couple even have been developing these nice little baby hooks. But if you need a putback desperately, it's not falling. Such is the overall vibe surrounding our program.

The Hokies have suffered a lot of close losses. Four have been within three points or less and three others have been by only six or seven points. Those things typically even out a bit but Virginia Tech has only come out on the winning end of one close game, beating Miami in overtime by a point. Do you get the sense that this team isn't quite as bad as its record ... or are things really that bad?
You're too kind, but things are worse. If you look at the recent track record, Johnson has lost the team. His "star" player Jarrell Eddie isn't quick enough to defend the better swingmen in the league and has trouble getting looks from three. Earlier in the year we were able to knock down threes above the break and in transition before defenses got settled. A little film study and moments later it's easy to formulate a response for us. Give us the defensive rebound and send your whole team back on D. We will get an OK look one out of three times, take a bad shot once, and turn it over the third time. As a Pitt fan you have to like those odds. And I generally don't bet against Jamie Dixon being prepared.

With the recent struggles, it's easy for outsiders to forget that this team isn't all that far removed from being a respectable one in the ACC, regularly winning about 20 games in most of the Seth Greenberg era. Are better days ahead in the near future for Virginia Tech?
We hired a new AD just last week, former Cincinnati AD Whit Babcock. He didn't hire Coach Cronin at Cincy, but he helped foster his growth, and the Bearcats are a top 15/20 team now, after up and down years after Bob Huggins left the program. My advice to Mr Babcock is to go ahead and bite the bullet and buy Johnson out. It'll cost less than Johnson is costing us in lost attendance figures. Folks the Cassell, where we play, is moribund right now. I doubt I could walk 500 yards across the quad to a dorm where 1,400 young men live and convince a third of them to go across the street to watch if I offered free pizza afterwards. It's a sad commentary on the state of our program, but in order to get past it, we need to be honest and finally spend a bit of money on basketball. I cannot criticize the former AD enough for his allowing both of our basketball programs to atrophy so badly.

What are the early returns on head coach James Johnson? It's early but the program hasn't had much success - and after dismissing Greenberg, do some fans think the firing looks foolish in hindsight?
Johnson never had a shot, Anson. He never had the fans' support, he hasn't had his players' support, and he didn't even have the AD's support really. He just fit a line item cost in the budget...nice and cheap. More money for football. If I was Johnson I'd have had a hard time turning down the raise, but he had to have an inkling that this wasn't a good marriage from the start. Definitely not the kind of first job experience most coaches look for.

Do fans think it's foolish?'d be hard pressed to find a fan base more entitled for having accomplished so little. We hated Seth for his continual playing to keep the score close, that cost us at least two NCAA bids. We hated Seth for his tendency to make enemies with influential people (i.e. The Selection Committee)...but i daresay that we'd all bite our tongues to get him back right now. (YOU HAVE NO IDEA HOW MUCH THAT PAINS ME TO SAY)

Going off of his stats, Jarell Eddie strikes me as the type of player that must be frustrating to watch. He's the team's leading scorer, but after dominating in the non-conference schedule, has been wildly inconsistent in ACC games. Six points against Syracuse, three against Clemson, two against Notre Dame, two against Maryland - not to mention some downright awful shooting performances. What gives?
I used to liken Jarrell Eddie to a poor man's Allan Houston, kind of long for a two guard, not enough bulk to play the three with regularity, has a pretty stroke but takes a European minute to get it off. Turns out the comparison is only in body type and shot. Eddie has always been mercurial, if he's feeling it early, he could make a night of it. He also rebounds the defensive glass well, and has four double-doubles on the year. But since ACC play, teams have keyed on him and there's a heckuva match-up for him every night. He's faced Joe Harris, CJ Fair, McDaniels of Clemson, McKie of Wake. All those guys are just better. He did play Rion Brown of Miami OK. It's a shame we couldn't take the pressure off of him somehow this season, but as I said up top, this avalanche started long ago.

Give us a player to watch out for that might be in line for a big game against Pitt.
Ben Emelogu, a 6'5 two guard is our captain. He is also a freshman. Now that the season is in the tank, he'll have a green light to look for his offense. He's coming off of a 21 point game against Maryland, our only bright spot really. He has had his moments this year, but has suffered through a concussion and an ankle thing. He may finally be healthy. He won't be enough to throw a scare into Pitt.

Do you see the Hokies making a game out of this one?

I don't see us making a game out of it. Pitt, like UVA, is very patient and efficient. The methodical way they play is sometimes boring but it wins games. The more patient a team is against VT, the bigger the margin of victory. VT's body language is so bad right now, that an 8-pt deficit feels like 20. I predict Pitt wins 71-47.

Thanks for having me Cardiac kids! Best of luck knocking off Syracuse and spoiling their season.

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