Erick Green, Markel Brown

Virginia Tech moves to 7-0 with upset of No. 15 Oklahoma State

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We love Oklahoma State here at CBT. We love the team’s grit, the soaring athleticism of LeBryan Nash and the ferocious dunking of Markel Brown. We’re waving the banner of Marcus Smart, who has lived up to his name and his pre-season billing as a fabulous freshman. We haven’t paid much attention to Virginia Tech, a team that fired long-time coach Seth Greenberg and hired relatively unknown James Johnson May 1 of this year. Top recruit Montrezl Harrell fled to Louisville shortly after, and the Hokies seemed to be in full-on rebuilding mode.

Now that Tech is 7-0 with an upset of a strong Oklahoma State team on their resume, is it time to take a second look?

Obviously. Rhetorical questions are so ten minutes ago.

The future does, indeed, still look somewhat shaky for Virginia Tech. The recruiting groundwork laid by Greenberg has been compromised. But Johnson has taken the leftovers and forged a team that could see some postseason play. Maybe not the Big Dance, but still.

The good news in Blacksburg starts with Erick Green. The senior guard stayed put, and has been spectacular for the Hokies. His 28 points against the Cowboys — a season high — included 57% shooting from behind the three-point line. Green can rebound, shoot, handle and pass, and he’s the heart of all the positivity that has clung to the Tech program this year.

Johnson was also able to keep his frontline strong, retaining redshirt junior Cadarian Raines (9.0 ppg, 7.2 rpg) and true junior Jarell Eddie (17.5 points, 6.7 rebounds and 1.2 blocks per game) for his maiden voyage on the SS Hokie. 6’5″ sophomore guard Robert Brown is the team’s third-leading scorer, averaging 12.7 per.

According to, the Hokies are shooting very well (56.2 effective FG%) and controlling the ball. Defensive lapses may yet cost them in a rugged ACC, but for now, the glass is half-full.

James Johnson did the first job any coach has to do when taking over a new team: he retained as many players as he could. It’s nearly impossible to keep everyone in that situation, and Johnson lost some good ones, but he kept some underrated players who give the Hokies leadership and a burning will to win and prove the doubters wrong.

Now, he’s doing the second job a new coach must do: he’s put together the pieces he has, and figured out how to win with them. I was rather impressed when they moved to 6-0 by beating a pretty good Iowa team. Now that they’ve put down a ranked Okie State, I’m very impressed.

With new coach point one taken care of, and new coach point two in progress right now, Johnson is practically playing with house money. If he can keep this team happy and healthy during the upcoming ACC season, and give a good account in televised December games against West Virginia and BYU, he’ll be well on his way to getting a jump on new coach point number three: a dynamite recruiting season that will put his stamp on the program and build a solid future.

That makes him, and the Hokies, worthy of our attention this season.

Eric Angevine is the editor of Storming the Floor. He tweets @stfhoops.

Louisville backcourt struggles in first scrimmage

Quentin Snider, Jerian Grant
Associated Press
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While a few teams did manage to hold special events for the official start of practice this weekend, most simply went about their business with drills and conditioning. One team that was the exception to all of this was Louisville, which held the first of its two intersquad scrimmages on Saturday. The Cardinals had a head start of sorts on the season, as they played six exhibition games in Puerto Rico this summer.

One hope heading into Saturday’s scrimmage was that guards Trey Lewis and Quentin Snider would have better chemistry than they did in Puerto Rico. But according to Jeff Greer of the Louisville Courier-Journal, that remains a work in progress for the Cleveland State transfer (Lewis) and rising sophomore (Snider).

They struggled in Puerto Rico, and they struggled again in Saturday’s Red-White scrimmage, the first public intrasquad practice since August. They played one half of the game together, paired with the presumed starting lineup with Mangok Mathiang out with an eye injury, a group that also included Damion Lee, Jaylen Johnson and Chinanu Onuaku.

That team lost the first half by 13 points to a younger group of Louisville players, and Lewis and Snider combined for eight points on 3-of-12 shooting, five turnovers, five steals, four assists and three rebounds.

“I thought (Snider) and (Lewis) did not play well together,” U of L coach Rick Pitino said. “They’ve got to get used to that. Neither guy made other guys better. That’s what they need to learn to do.”

As Greer also noted in his story the Cardinals have in recent years employed backcourt tandems in which both guards are capable of making plays for themselves and others. On the 2013 national champion team Peyton Siva and Russ Smith led the way, with Smith being joined by Terry Rozier or Chris Jones the following season and Rozier/Jones being the grouping last season before the latter was dismissed from the team.

Once Jones was dismissed Snider saw more time on the court, and his development was one of the keys for a Louisville team that fell one win short of the Final Four. Louisville needs him to take another step forward heading into the 2015-16 season, because even with Lewis’ experience at the Division I level Snider has more experience playing in Pitino’s system.

But while Saturday’s scrimmage didn’t go as well as anyone involved hoped, there’s still plenty of time for Louisville to work out the kinks before they open the season November 13 against Samford.

Knee injury sidelines Memphis assistant

Toronto Raptors vs Charlotte Hornets
Associated Press
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With practices beginning this weekend, not only are players looking to avoid the injury bug but their coaches are as well. And in the case of Memphis, the Tigers won’t have one of their assistants on the court for a little while due to a knee injury.

Assistant coach Damon Stoudamire, who returned to Josh Pastner’s staff this summer after a two-year stint at Arizona, suffered the injury during a recent workout according to L. Jason Smith of the Memphis Commercial-Appeal. And Stoudamire will require surgery, which will put him on the shelf for a little bit.

“He was working out himself and I think he thought he was in his rookie year,” Pastner said. “We think he’s got a torn meniscus, which will require surgery and put him out for a couple of days.”

Stoudamire isn’t the only assistant coach working through pain either. Syracuse’s Mike Hopkins, who is also Jim Boeheim’s heir apparent as head coach, suffered a neck injury body surfing during a family vacation last month. Hopkins spent some time in a neck brace while putting players through workouts as a result of the injury.

As for the Tigers, they’ll have a mixture of experience on the perimeter and youth in the front court as they look to get back to the NCAA tournament after missing out last season. Among the newcomers are talented forwards Dedric and K.J. Lawson, with experienced guards such as Kedren Johnson, Trahson Burrell and Ricky Tarrant (grad transfer from Alabama) expected to be key contributors on the perimeter.