Tech Talk Live Notes: Buzz Williams Talks Defensive Problems, Syracuse’s 2-3 Zone

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Tech Talk Live

Tech Talk Live returned to its normal schedule on Monday night, focusing on Virginia Tech basketball. Head Coach Buzz Williams was the lone guest on Monday. Chris Clarke was scheduled to appear, but did not.

Tech Talk Live Main Guest: Head Coach Buzz Williams

Thoughts on Florida State and NC State

“I told Coach (Leonard) Hamilton, I’ve known him since I was a kid, I thought it was the best team he’s had since I was a head coach. My first year as a head coach, we played at Florida State, that was the first guarantee game that I was a part of. I was on the wrong end of the guarantee. I think they’re as good as they’ve been since then. I said that in postgame. They play 12 high-major players, they’re all really good. Other than the one game against Temple, a one possession game, they’ve beat everybody. We’re digging, they’re digging. I thought we competed much harder, I thought we battled much more like we have to on Saturday than we did (vs. NC State). We’ll see how we handle it.

This is the only week of the year where we have two home games in a row. We need to make sure we start off the right way tomorrow. Syracuse is playing five and a half guys and five of those guys are playing 192 minutes out of 200 and the half is playing eight minutes. Since Coach Boeheim has quit trying to figure out who can play and just narrowed it down to five guys, five and a half guys, they’ve been really good. They beat Miami handily from start to finish and they were beating Pitt by 25 or 26 in the first half. We haven’t played against a team that’s played zone from start to finish all year long. That’ll be new for our guys.”

Update on Seth Allen (dealing with concussion)

“There’s varying levels of concussive vs. concussion. He was on the low end, as far as concussive. He took the test every day since Wednesday night when he got hit. He was not allowed to travel with us to Florida State. We kept a guy back with him to help him take the test on Saturday while we we’re gone. Took the test Sunday and then took the test (Monday) and depending on your score in repeating days, that dictates what the doctor will allow, as far as how you progress. Friday, he was able to do 20 minutes on the bike. Saturday he was able to 30 minutes on the bike and shoot standstill shots. Today, he was able to do an individual workout and he’ll get tested again. I don’t know the exact results after the individual workout, prior to hoping he can be released to a portion of practice tonight.”

Fatigue of Chris Clarke after fouling out vs. Florida State

“I think he plays with a high motor, that’s why we recruited him so hard. I think that’s his best attribute. I think all of our guys were exhausted, not just physically. I think they were mentally exhausted, I think they were emotionally exhausted. In one week, we played three games. We played Duke without, arguably, their best player and won. Great atmosphere at home. Monday, we were ranked for the first time in however many years. Monday and Tuesday, preparing to play, leave Tuesday to play at Raleigh on Wednesday. Arguably the least competitive we’ve been from start to finish all year long. We got home at 4 a.m. Thursday morning. Got to get back going by late Thursday afternoon in preparation for Florida State. The weather came, the plane timing changed, so we practiced Friday morning and then got to Tallahassee whatever time it was and went straight to the gym, because we couldn’t get in there Saturday morning. Then it’s a 2 p.m. tip.

I think all of those guys, including me, when the game was over, that was as tired as I remember being in all of those different categories in a long time. I think we all fought our standard of a fight on Saturday. It’s over, now it’s Sunday and we’ve got to get back to work and we’ve got to diagnose what we learned from week one, and how it can help us over the next nine weeks, and what is it we need to do in week two, specific to Syracuse. As you know, we try to get on the clock of the game as fast as we can. We play tomorrow night at 7 p.m., we’re not practicing at seven because I’m doing this [TTL] but they’ll be going by the time I get there.

I just think it’s part of it. It’s not pity me, it’s not pity Chris. If you’re not tired, you didn’t play hard enough. Thanks for playing hard, but we need everybody to play hard and I thought in many ways, we did play hard. But like I told the team, to play hard and give everything you have and be exhausted, that’s the price of admission in the best league in the country. That does not ensure success at home or on the road. It means you’re in the game, thanks for playing. It has to be more than that. We’ve got to get to the point, particularly defensively.

Teams are shooting 51 percent in three conference games. That means they make one out of every two, and they’re averaging 90 points. I don’t know how many games you can win, home or on the road, like that. We’re averaging 15 turnovers, which is a very high number. I know we’re playing high possession games, but our turnover rate is 23 percent. 23 percent of the time we have the ball, we’re giving it to the opponent and they make one out of every two shots, which is why they’re scoring 90 ppints. Something has to change. Syracuse won’t play as fast because they’re going to be in zone and you’re not going to be able to score as quick, but we can’t give up points in transition and we can’t kick the ball all over the gym, and we have to realize the value of a possession. The stakes continue to rise, so that’s part of growing up.”

Thoughts on defensive struggles in ACC play

“I don’t know that I’m to the point where I would question our guys desire. They’re all really good kids, they have great character and like I told them, I don’t think that the world has ended. We’ve lost two games. What’s happened in the last eight months are the expectations have changed. We skipped a year and a half, in my opinion, in year two and closed it out in a really good way and it hadn’t really slowed down. I’m getting texts saying, ‘Coach, it’s going to be alright.’ I didn’t think anything, I didn’t think the world has ended. I’m fine. That doesn’t mean that I’m happy we lost or anything like that, but I guess that’s good, right? That means we’re perceived in a different way, but I don’t think inside, how you operate in an organization that’s still trying to grow and figure things out… Villanova won last year, not because they’re the best team. They’re the best team with the oldest players. Baylor is No. 1 in the country, not because they’re the best team or the most talented, obviously that’s a prerequisite, they’re the best team with the oldest players. We go to Florida State and they’re 12th in the country, and I think they’re probably better than that, that’s my opinion, but we entered the game with eight years of experience on our roster. That’s hard to overcome and that’s why it’s a race to maturity.

Somebody asked on the conference call today, what do you think about (Kerry Blackshear)? I think that in my heart, along with his parents, we did right for his life. What about Devin Wilson? I’m not going to tell him don’t pursue your dream and be a two-sport athlete at the highest level. What about (Tyrie Jackson)? He, nor me, nor his mom have absolutely anything to do with his situation. What about Seth LeDay? Well I thought (Blackshear) was going to play and I thought Seth was a good guy to redshirt. What about the open scholarship? I didn’t want to fill it because I didn’t like the choices, whether it was talent or character, or a combination of the two.

It’s funny that nothing was ever brought up about our 8-man roster until you lose two and two of those guys are hurt. Injuries are a part of sport and I’m not justifying losing, I’m saying that’s all part of what we’re dealing with. Our execution level defensively, does it need to be better? Dramatically. Do I think the scheme is right? Yes, but as I’ve said to you guys multiple times over the last month, I think we kind of know what we’re supposed to do and have an identity offensively. I’m not exactly sure we know who we’re going to be defensively and we continue to try different things. That’s not the right answer, that’s the truthful answer but because we were winning, nobody ever said anything. That’s part of it. We have to figure out what it is we can be successful at defensively, but maybe as important, what is it we can be successful at and have sustainability with defensively? We’re still searching for that.”

Dealing with Syracuse’s 2-3 zone

“There’s only so many things you can do against a zone. Against man, depending on ball screen coverage, there’s a much larger library of plays than there is against a straight-up zone. There’s nothing tricky in their slides or what they’re trying to do. They’re going to trap the ball if it goes to the corner or to the short corner. I think how you get the ball to the high post, you have to have four or five different ideas on how to get it there. I also think as a variation the skill set of that player, because the middle man is not going to come all the way up on who that is, and those two forwards are going to slide to the block and fade back out. You have to have as much variety, but it’s all going to boil down to the same thing, which mathematically is why I think Coach (Boeheim) does what he does. I’m not coaching his team and I’ve known Coach for a long time, I guess this is our ninth year of playing one another. We’re familiar with what they do. Year one I think we played them twice. Both times it was a two-point game. Last year we were up seven with a 1:40 left and ended up losing in overtime. I think we understand how we want to go about attacking it, but we will change the personnel based on why we want to get it there and once we get it there, what do we do from there, relative to the other four guys that are playing.

Importance of Monday night’s practice in preparation for Syracuse

“It’s very critical. You can’t get consumed with their zone because you do have to play on the other end and on the other end, we have not been very good. It’s the balance of what we’re going to do defensively that we can execute and what is it we’re going to do offensively against a long, wide zone that we haven’t played against. It’s both. (Sunday) was two days before, even though we just played on Saturday. Seth wasn’t released to play, I don’t know that he will be tonight. We’ll see. (Khadim Sy) wasn’t 100 percent, so we didn’t do anything on the floor. We watched a bunch of tape and I think that helps.

This afternoon, we watched more tape. We’re ready to get reps on the floor but tomorrow, at shootaround, the 25 minutes that go real, those are important reps. It’s a delicate line of, if Seth (Allen) is going to play, if (Sy) is going to play and we have our full allotment of eight back, then we’ve got to play at a feverish pitch, relative to our intensity. It’s kind of gauging all of that. We’ll go through quickly some of the breakdown stuff (Monday), as far as the defense. We kind of break down the zone, I don’t think this is giving away any hints, when the ball gets to the high post, this is what we’re doing. The people that are going to be involved in that defensively are the back three in the 2-3 zone. We call that a triangle. We need reps of playing against that triangle and then, we need reps of five-on-five. We’ve got to get it to the top of the triangle and play from there.”

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