Friday, December 5, 2014

Tough times in Hokie Nation

Think you had a tough week? Chances are Virginia Tech's women's basketball team has you beat.

On Monday, the Hokies committed 24 turnovers and scored only 43 points in a 29-point loss at Florida - a team Tech beat by 12 the previous season in Blacksburg.

A couple days later, word came that freshman Brielle Blaire, a consensus Top-100 recruit who'd dreamed of going to Tech for years, will transfer at the end of the semester.

"Great school, just not a great fit for Brielle at this time," Blaire's father, Paul, said in an e-mail.

On Thursday, the school announced that junior starting forward Taijah Campbell was suspended indefinitely for "failing to adhere to the expectations of the team." The Roanoke Times reported that Campbell will miss at least three games and can return no sooner than Tech's Dec. 21 game against Radford.

Later that day, the Hokies coughed up another 26 turnovers in a 25-point home loss to Northwestern, The margin of defeat was Tech's largest in a non-conference home game since 1992.

Heading into the season no one was expecting these guys to take down UConn - the Hokies were picked to finish 12th in the 14-team ACC. But after such comprehensive losses to the two ACC-caliber teams on their schedule, was 12th too optimistic?

Fortunately for Tech fans, it's still early, and there are reasons to believe the Hokies might reserve fortune. The Hokies have played their last three games without impact newcomer Regan Magarity (leg injury), a player who has quickly emerged as the team's focal point at both ends of the floor. The injury highlights the unsettled roster Tech has dealt with so far - for various reasons, the Hokies have not had their top seven players available as a group for any one game.

Also, the upcoming schedule offers some get-well opportunities. Tech's next five games are at Cassell Coliseum, and the Hokies' next two opponents (Longwood, N.C. Central) are a combined 2-10.

Granted, a month's worth of judiciously scheduled home games won't really give us a winder on how Tech stacks up against ACC foes. But given that the Hokies clearly needs time to work out some kinks, this part of the schedule is right on time.

That said, the Hokies are obviously in no position to take any team for granted. Besides, if the goal is competing in the rugged ACC, facing lighter competition and getting injured/suspended players back won't be enough. Tech flat-out needs to play better and stronger, particularly against pressure. The turnover count is alarming, as is the fact that the Hokies shot 31.3 and 30.2 percent from the field in its last two games.

 So yeah, it's been a tough week.

The type of week that calls for an even tougher team.

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