2022-23 Virginia Tech Basketball: More Talent, But More Volatility?

Mike Young, Virginia Tech
Virginia Tech head coach Mike Young has more talent and more versatility in 2022-23. (Jon Fleming)

Last year was a great year for Virginia Tech, despite what it *felt* like at points in the year. Mid-way through the year I made a post about “expected outcomes”. The gist was that for a team who was scoring and defending at an efficiency level like VT was, their W-L record was not reflecting as such. I predicted that if they were to continue with the current efficiency levels then the wins and losses would work themselves out.

The Hokies went on to finish the season 13-3 and become ACC Champions. If the wins and losses had reflected their efficiency for an entire year, you’re looking at a 23+ win team and a better seed in the NCAA Tournament. So were the close losses unfortunate and heart-breaking? Sure. Was VT as a team any different in the beginning of the year as they were at the end? Not really (outside expected growth). They just won.

So let’s take a look at what worked and what didn’t, and then how this year’s squad might fit within that framework.

What Worked For Virginia Tech

VT made a jump offensively and stayed solid defensively in 2021-2022. They did this despite losing two big-time scorers in Jalen Cone and Tyrece Radford, as well as their defensive-minded coach Chester Frazier as well and good defenders in Wabissa Bede and the aforementioned Radford.

Adjusted Offensive Efficiency (using KenPom’s rankings)

2020-21: 109.7 (59th in the country)

2021-22: 115.0 (17th in the country)

Adjusted Defensive Efficiency

2020-21: 95.3 (53rd in the country)

2021-22: 96.1 (54th in the country)

That’s a huge jump offensively, and rightfully so, as the lineup was much better offensively with Storm Murphy instead of Wabissa Bede, as well as Darius Maddox and Sean Pedulla taking on larger roles filling the void of Radford and Cone very nicely.

Defensively, you’d expect a dip with the losses of Bede and Raford, but that wasn’t the case, for as good offensively as Cone was, he needed to be hidden defensively at 5’8. Mike Young’s defensive scheme is predicated more on moving as a unit and protecting gaps more than any individual defender, so making up for Bede and Radford defensively isn’t as big of an adjustment as casual fans would think.

What you DON’T want to do is replace players like Radford and Bede who had played lots of college basketball with young players who didn’t have an idea on how to move as a unit. Basketball isn’t plug-and-play, the pieces need to fit and they all need to understand their role both within the larger game as well as the immediate possession. That’s why you saw players like Pedulla and Maddox take longer to find the floor despite their offensive prowess. Pedulla showed he could be serviceable, but really up until the end Maddox was a bit of a rollercoaster ride on the defensive end. Hopefully he can be more consistent (whatever that looks like) this season to make preparations and personnel groupings more reliable than they were last season.