On a night headlined by the unveiling of Virginia Tech's 2022 ACC Tournament championship banner in the rafters of Cassell Coliseum, the action on the court was up to standard for the Hokies as they cruised to a 94-77 victory over William & Mary after a fast 14-0 start and a 57-point first half.
Here's my postgame on the Hokies' victory over William & Mary.
1. This Team Will Be Able to Score With Anyone
Virginia Tech has loads of talent on the offensive end of the floor and it consistently has already shown through for them regardless of the fairly weak competition that they've faced this season.
This team has everything you want in terms of being able to space the floor with loads of shooters and then have guys who can win one-on-one consistently around the rim with a stretched out floor. This team also has a point guard in Sean Pedulla who can effectively slash and get to the rim along with Darius Maddox being a legitimate three-level scorer who can find his shot all over the floor.
Both Pedulla and Maddox have definitely shown growth in their first full year as starters playing with high level of confidence while continuing to maintain their efficiency even as they take on larger loads, more minutes, and greater defensive attention from opponents. Pedulla's early season scoring totals have reflected that more with 20+ points in his past 2 games including 22 tonight, but both look like guys who have built on strong years as top rotational guys and developed into the high-end scorers and starters that most thought they could.
Meanwhile, Justyn Mutts and Hunter Cattoor continue be talented, known offensive commodities who continue to do well at what they are from Mutts being a versatile scorer and above-average passer to Cattoor being a strong shooter with some ability to get to the rim. Grant Basile has proven himself to be an adept, stretch five who can get it done at the rim and from behind the arc.
You also have good interior scoring options off the bench with Lynn Kidd and Mylyjael Poteat while MJ Collins has shown versatile promise and John Camden is an intriguing shooting threat. Add in a healthy Rodney Rice and you can see how high the ceiling of this offense could be.
Tech is now ranked 10th in offense in KenPom which seems more than fair given the loads of scoring talent along with how well the pieces fit together. Combine that with a Mike Young offensive approach and Tech shouldn't have to worry about their scoring ability much this season if at all.
2. MJ Collins Gains More Valuable Experience
With Rodney Rice injured, MJ Collins has stepped into the top backup role among guards for the Hokies gaining valuable experience so far.
Collins played 16 minutes tonight, his lowest output of the season in terms of playing time compared to 22 minutes against Delaware State and 24 minutes against Lehigh. Collins didn't have the most efficient night, but he had a decent night overall with 7 points on the night including 1 of VT's 16 threes.
Though Collins hasn't the shot ball that well in his first three games, there's no doubt that he's gaining valuable experience for his development. Older teammates like Darius Maddox have also sought to encourage Collins to keep working especially on the little things while also already being confident in what he can do especially on the defensive end and in the upside he has.
"I've been talking to him a lot...just about the little things. I think it said it maybe earlier in an interview, but trying to preach to him, and Rodney, and Darren Buchanan (Jr) just on the little things that some of the older guys didn't tell me. So like today when we were in the locker room and coach was just telling him about the shots he was taking, I told him more to focus on the little things because that's going to really help him play more since we're kind of playing lesser competition winning by 20, 30 points so just having him focus on the little things," Maddox said.
"Offensively, I think the world of MJ. In practice, I feel like he can score the ball in the mid-range area really well. He's really physical too defensively so I feel like there's definitely a lot of upside with MJ."
Veteran leader Hunter Cattoor has also been pleased with what Collins can already especially on the defensive end and sees him being able to grow into a larger and larger role during his time at VT.
"He's been doing a great job. He's got high energy. It's good just me telling him stuff in the game because I remember being a freshman going in there, you're head's spinning, everything is going so fast. So I think him coming in and contributing on the defensive end has been really good for us because his role is going to change each year and as a freshman maybe he's not going to get as many shots as he wants just because we have other guys that have been around here and can shoot the ball," Cattoor said. "As he develops each and every game, and each season, I think he's going to help us a lot."
He's also getting some important live work with Tech's veteran guards that is helping them continue to build rapport, trust, and chemistry with Collins that should be valuable as the games toughen up.
"I definitely feel really good about that mostly defensively. MJ is aggressive. He has a nice frame to him too so he can definitely lock in defensively a little more than I thought he could. I'm confident in his ability on both ends," Maddox said.
With Rodney Rice out, MJ Collins has stepped up as the top backup guard for the Hokies and is showing plenty of potential to develop into a really good player for the Hokies during his VT career while also making a difference especially on the defensive end as a true freshman.
3. Let The Competition Toughen
After three games of Virginia Tech doing exactly what they were supposed to against competition where the highest-ranked team is Lehigh at #282 per KenPom, let the competition toughen to see how good this Hokies' team is starting with the Charleston Classic.
Charleston will give us a good first barometer for how good this team can be starting with Old Dominion before a matchup with either Penn State or Furman, both of whom are ranked in the top 70 of KenPom. Follow that with likely a GG Jackson-led South Carolina or strong mid-major teams like Davidson and Colorado State, and we'll find out how good Tech really is before the toughest pre-2023 portion of the stretch kicks off just over a week later with Minnesota.
That's a needed step up in competition to see if this is a legitimate top 25 team like several metrics see along with what the eye test has proven even against weak competition to date. Tech's offense definitely can score with anyone but the question is can their defense do enough to allow them to control some games in a tournament where they should be the best team in the field, or will they have to outscore teams in general this season?
There's not a lot more to say other than let's see if the Hokies can prove that they are a top 25 team and win the Charleston Classic? If they can, they should have no difficulty earning a spot in the top 25 following next weekend's tournament.