Virginia Tech suffered another road loss and missed opportunity to improve their resume as the Hokies lost to Dayton 62-57 despite a 12-1 run after they were down 47-29 early in the second half. While there's no doubt that the Hokies have the skill and experience to turn things around, these missed opportunities are starting to add up even if these aren't necessarily bad losses.
So with that said, here are three thoughts after Tech's loss to Dayton.
1. It's Time For More Sean Pedulla Over Storm Murphy
There has been growing talk from fans and some analysts about the need for Virginia Tech to play Sean Pedulla more at point guard over current starter Storm Murphy and while Murphy hasn't looked great, Pedulla had only one strong performance against a high level opponent to date.
After yesterday, the dynamic has changed.
In his second game with double-digit minutes against a high level opponent, Pedulla once again looked the part with 5 points and only 1 turnover in 11 minutes while Murphy struggled with 3 turnovers in 26 minutes though he did have 8 points and 5 assists.
While those stats were decently solid for Murphy, the offense just didn't look the same with Murphy on the floor or seem to have any rhythm. Meanwhile, it didn't seem like a coincidence this time when Tech had their big run with Pedulla on the floor similar to what we saw against Xavier. There was a surprising level of comfort for a freshman being the guy and though Dayton didn't use nearly as much full court press which helped also, this seemed more than due to the lack of that.
The best stat to show this from yesterday might be the plus/minus numbers.
Dayton may have taken their foot off the gas a little during the #Hokies run in terms of the press but a +10 for Sean Pedulla compared to -17 for Storm Murphy is massive. And it's not the first time either. Mike Young needs to get Pedulla more minutes and Murphy less https://t.co/7nmPHY0ybc— The Tech Lunch Pail (@TechLunchPailD) December 12, 2021
Yeah, a 27-point difference between the +10 for Pedulla and the -17 for Murphy is rather jarring and significant in the grand scale of things. Compare those two to the rest of the team and while there are some varying circumstances, the gap still is clear and states an obvious fact that Pedulla was playing at the higher level that Tech needs at PG against Dayton.
Beyond the eye test especially from the Xavier and Dayton games, the advanced stats back this up even more as the box score plus/minus average per 100 possessions is 9.2 for Pedulla compared to -0.9 for Murphy. It's interesting to note that in the Dayton game, Murphy's was actually positive at 6.4 though Pedulla's was even better at 13.8.
While there are more stats that show this but also a slight skew due to Pedulla's minutes still being primarily against weaker competition, that large of a gap is a massive statement that Pedulla is deserving of a larger role consistently ASAP.
Of course, there is definitely a risk playing a young freshman who has made some freshman mistakes including his errant pass in the second half that was his lone turnover. However, Murphy's play continues to be a problem for the Hokies and given what we've seen from Pedulla against high quality opponents like Xavier and Dayton, it's time for him to get 15 consistent minutes per game at least and give him the chance to make a greater push to earn the top PG spot away from Murphy.
2. Nahiem Alleyne is in an Offensive Funk
Nahiem Alleyne had a strong start to the season, but Alleyne's third season with the Hokies has entered into an offensive funk in recent weeks with his 1-10 shooting against Dayton being the culmination of that.
Unfortunately, this been a trend throughout the season for Alleyne who is shooting 34.5% from the field which is quite concerning though his 38% from three and 96.2% at the free-throw line show what he can do. However, Alleyne has struggled heavily over the past six games with four shooting performances where he shot under 30% from the field as he was 4-14 against Memphis, 3-11 against Maryland, 1-7 against Wake Forest, and 1-10 against Dayton.
While there's no doubt that this is outside of the norm for Alleyne who shot around 39% in his first two seasons in Blacksburg, this poor shooting form is definitely concerning especially given how important of a role he plays on the offensive end.
Alleyne has shown plenty of growth in other areas averaging career highs in assists and rebounds so it's not like Alleyne is having a bad season overall, it's simply his shooting that hasn't been up to his standard.
However, if Alleyne can't get his shooting turned around soon, Mike Young may need to lean more on Darius Maddox for playing time when the Hokies need to make second half comebacks.
3. Pressure is On For a Must Win Against St. Bonaventure
There's no doubt that this was another missed opportunity for the Hokies that they very much needed given the way the ACC has looked so far especially with the conference potentially for 4-5 bids in a shocking down year across the board.
While Tech still may be the third or fourth best team in the conference, the lack of big time non-conference wins is a concern for their resume whether they are comfortably in the NCAA Tournament for seeding purposes, or if they are on the bubble. Maryland seems to be righting their ship after a win over Florida while Navy had a solid NET in the first NET rankings of the season, but that's a weak non-conference resume even if the non-conference strength of schedule is solid.
Tech does have one more big opportunity that feels like a must win when they take on St Bonaventure this Friday in Charlotte.
The Bonnies are 8-2 with some big wins over Marquette and Clemson from their time in Charleston where they won the pre-Thanksgiving down there, and though they've suffered losses to Northern Iowa and UCONN, there's no doubt that the Bonnies are a solid NCAA Tournament and could be a very high seed after winning the Atlantic 10 last year and returning almost everyone.
The fact is that a win over the Bonnies on Friday would be a signature non-conference victory and probably jump Maryland as the most important one. The Bonnies have been without their biggest star on their veteran-laden team in Kyle Lofton and his status remains unclear for this Friday though if he's back, the Bonnies should be back at their preseason top 25 level.
While this game wouldn't be a bad loss if they came up short, this would be another missed opportunity with none remaining. In many ways, the failure to get a win at Dayton has created a must win for the Hokies' resume this Friday in Charlotte.