NCAA Tournament preview Virginia Tech Liberty!

#85 R.P.I. Liberty vs.  #26 R.P.I. Virginia Tech: 

Virginia Tech men’s basketball is on to the Round-of-32 thanks to an NC2A game no.1 – triumph over Saint Louis on Friday night. As try as you might you still cannot spell VicTory less the Vee and the Tee.

The Hokies now draw something of an overachieving Liberty Flames hoops squad for their NCAA second-round troubles. An extremely experienced, synergistic, and defensively hedonistic Liberty Flames hoops squad at that. Liberty checks in at 29 up and 6 down on a dream-season kinda year. Including a pretty dang serrated looking 14-2 mark in conference play. Still yet, most will be picking 10 point betting fave Vah.Tech to triumph here. And yet most picked most of the 12th seeds to (not) advance on Thursday/Friday; and as we all know, the best team does not always advance in single-elimination one-n-done formats. Nonetheless, you wanna know who is gonna win Sunday night at a little after 7 pm over on WTBS, right? Read on, to find… out!

Liberty Head Coach: Ritchie Lawrence McKay: age=53, 288-240 (.545) overall, 123-82 (.600) at Liberty. Has a rep’ for: defense per being a Tony Bennett of uva fame disciple.

Baller McKay graduated from Westwood High School and played his college basketball at Seattle Pacific University. Winning 21 games as a small-college Independent and basically hovering at/above .5oo the rest of the time. earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in athletic administration from Seattle Pacific in 1987. A stellar Pt.Guard for the Falcons, McKay left the program as the school’s single-season and career record holder for steals, and he was third in career assists. He still holds the school record with 10 steals in a 1987 game against Pacific Lutheran.

Just a little Pat.Ewing… maybe?

McKay got his first head coaching job with Portland State. After a poor first year, McKay led the team to a third-place conference finish in his second season. He used that success as a springboard to his next coaching job, this time at Colorado State. He stayed two seasons there before heading to Oregon State, and then another two annuals at Oregon State before accepting the head coaching position at New Mexico. While there, he experienced mixed success. In 2005, his team won the Mountain West Tournament and an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. That successful season helped launch forward Danny Granger into an NBA career. Still, McKay couldn’t turn New Mexico into a consistent program, and in February 2007, he was fired.

McKay then took a job at Liberty University, where he took the Flames to Big South semifinals in back-to-back years. His second-year, with the help of Seth Curry, (did we recruit… him?) McKay led the LU to a Division-1 school-record 23 wins and a bid to the inaugural Postseason Tournament. After the season ended, Curry transferred to Duke University, and McKay’s longtime friend Tony Bennett was hired as head coach of the Virginia Cavaliers. Bennett then asked McKay to join his staff as his associate head coach, and McKay accepted. On April 1, 2015, McKay was selected to return to Liberty University as head coach.

En route to a school-record 29 wins this campaign, McKay’s Flames defeated the storied UCLA Bruins on their home court in Los Angeles by 15 points, prompting the immediate firing of UCLA head coach Steve Alford last December, before the Pac-12 season even began. Ironically, it was Alford who replaced McKay at New Mexico after his firing there nearly twelve years earlier.

Coach McKay has been to the post-season thrice in his second-stint at Liberty six seasons. He has three conference titles and one conference coach of the year award (Big South/2016) to dot his resumè thus far.

McKay has a wife, Julie, daughter, Ellie, and sons Gabriel and Luke.
The McKay family identify themselves as “Catholics.”

Liberty at a glance:

  • 5th in scoring defense (60.8 ppg allowed)!!!
  • 12th in shooting overall (49%)!
  • 12th in FT percentage (77.1%)!
  • 37th in Turnover Margin (+2.7 tpg).
  • 61st in 3-point defense (36.7% allowed).
  • Pretty much a finesse team, as Liberty does not foul (20th in PF’s “whistled” against) | every bit as much as Liberty does not get fouled (328th in FTA’s on the year)!
  • 329th in offensive rebounding (7.76 o-rpg)!
  • (NO injuries listed. THX @Coach God!)

Flames Returning Starters=4!

Liberty Strengths:

  • State (I mean Liberty) is tall (I mean small). Oh wait… ‘rong section?!? (and ‘rong preview too…)
  • Liberty moved -some say: “dropped”- down to the less competitive Atlantic 10 conference (from the Big South) for hoops.
  • Recruiting peeps went so far as to call McKay’s (second) 1st-class as a now two-time Liberty big whistle: “…loaded”.
  • Though they are experienced and at least semi-deep.
  • Bradley transfer Four Scottie James (see: pic) is a first string all-conference 6′8″, 235 lb. Mark Madsen type P/F for the Flames. As James comes to work and he comes to work too work…  hard. Accordingly, he is a very popular baller for it who leads the Flames in scoring at 13 points and in rebounding with nine boards. This on a very lucrative 67% overall and a useful 33% long. As James’ game is about as efficacious as the strong looking r-Jr. can get it to be. James might just be a fringe overseas pro’ for it to boot. As it would not be an exaggeration to type that the efficiency and coachability of Scottie make Scottie the alpha frontcourter in this year’s A-10 paint. Scottie has already had his Tarpon Springs uniform number retired (one #24) after setting 14 high school records and nearly stealing the AAAAA sunshine state title. Can’t say I’ve ever read that one occurring that fast; before. So clearly he was doing something(s) right on sum level(s) down in Florida. Daddy James ran ball for two years professionally in Portugal and Luxembourg and mum is a professor at Liberty— which prolly helps with Drop/Add. And trust me on this, this one is a DAX MLb Bud stöut caliber baller. He’s just misplaced in the right state albeit in the ‘rong… sport.

    Dood ain’t ‘fraid to actually… TRY!
  • 6′6″ 205 lb., r-Jr., Caleb Homesley is an all-conference passing trinary or 3-level scorer (inside, midrange, and outside). Who says he’s gunning for a career as a sports agent. Good on him. He’s also had knee troubles (may St.Nikhon bless) with one A.c.l. blow-out; dang. Though still yet, Caleb is a serviceable D-1 scorer after being servicble+ in scholastic output term. Long, lanky, kinda has a little Baltic Avenue man’s G.Gervin swagg to his game. Hommie’ has been hot of late and a second-best 12.5 ppg with 5.5 rpg and the team lead in swats (.7 bpg) on 32% from behind the arc is servicable+ as well. Not to mention being a certifiable lineal outburst scorer— don’t believe me? Just ask Starkville (A.K.A. …Miss.State).
  • Lovell Cabbil Jr. is a 6′3″, 170 lb., final year One. Lovell is also the second-best pure shooter on the team as his 46% long demonstrates and he does drop you a bronze medalist 11.7 ppg. Lovell leads Liberty with 2.8 apg and with 1.4 spg. He also does run down a reasonable 3.6 rpg in his spare time. The book on the Texas native says he courts an inside-out combo’ game. As the Texas native put up pretty good “everything’s bigger” offensive numbers in high school and was considered to be a pretty fair to middling get by the Flames. He is also only one of two Flames that Lindy’s mentioned by name. And he does seem to have a knack for elevating his game on the big stage per garnering numerous post-season accolades in his four years @Liberty thus far.
  • Rookie or nugget year Darius McGhee is a “de plane, de plane” instant fan-favorite (just add P.T.), mighty-might Pt.Guard at  5′8″ and ??? lbs. As his weight is unlisted on every single roster I looked at. Go fig’ on dat… that said he looks the ~160’ish part to me. Darius nets you 7.5 ppg on a conference-leading 91% FT-makes. He is also second in swipes (1 spg) and he did just pick-up some shiny Blue Ridge bling as he claimed the 2017 VISAA State title. This, and the fact that he was a pretty nifty scholastic scorer and he has balled overseas (in the Philippines, actually); connotes that there might just be more to this kid than his raw lowercase vitals suggest. As his 3 boards on a vertical pro rata basis nearly varifies all by its own self.

Liberty Weaknesses:

  • Not a lotta offensive diversity here— Rb via committee if you will. That and there is no Atlas type put the team on his back outburst offensive alpha-guy for it, either.
  • Not a lotta height lives here; either. Did I mention the lack of Lib’ height, yet? Well, that is beyond a sky-scraping back-up true-C who goes (7′4″) as a Roanoke Va. native (Brendan Newton). B.Newt’ of 3 mins. playing-time and 1.4 ppg mind yah. As the Flames field a stunning ten different guys (that’s, 10), who all check in at 6-n-a-half or less in verticality. And two of ’em are 5′9″ or less.
  • Gone is one starter, Ryan Kermite. A decent S/G with decent range to his 10.2 ppg look.

Flames Bench: (depth=4)

The Ponce, Puerto Rico native and 6′1″, 170 lb. back-up Pt.Guard, Georgie Pacheco-Ortiz… is leading Liberty in shooting from downtown at 48%. And in two more years this means a lifetime of killing it at your local Y.M.C.A. Georgie was/is a pre-season all-Big South selection twice; so there are/were some pretty lofty expectations here. Georgie is a streaky 3-point shooter and he has tended to be a 3-point maker, late— as in late in games. And that makes him a credibly clutch baller should this one be tight at the ~39-minute marker. Ortiz is from Deep Run H.S. in Glen Allen, Va. He has already participated on three Puerto Rican national teams— so experience as a third-year baller he enjoys in spades. G.P-O is said to have some large hands and therefore very deft handles accordingly. Liberty girls, rejoice! 7.3 ppg on 88% FTA’s and 2.8 apg plus all that shooting is not bad relief work if you can get it.

r-Jr. year Myo Baxter-Bell is a 6′5″ sawed-off burly looking 255 cinderblock kinda frontcourt enforcing sub’. The third-year P/F puts the emphasis on the word power as his industrial 220v approach underneath exemplifies. As his 5.5 ppg and 2.1 rpg and a lotta muscling, thumping, and even more muscling all conspire to say. As this Buckeye boy sure looks the cooler/bouncer cut off denim jacket part. As I doubt too many peeps wanna try Bax’ on for size and cowboy-up.

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Illationconclusion(s) and OPT digits:

Number of Flames who could burn @Tech=2.

the takeaway:
The takeaway here is… what is the Vegas big-board total on the Over/Under on the number of minutes Buzz Williams has left in his Virginia Tech big-whistle career? O/U=40? O/U=80? O/U=sum multiple of 525,600?

As more and more the behind the scenes “whispers” are gaining ground on going full blown chatterbox and that might just end the whole shebang in the finest possible O&M version of a c.Dickens of a so-called: “Town, Crier.”

That’s not good and neither are “distractions” this time of the one-n-done year. As the national media is now starting to swirl and or tempest the Buzz to aTm vibes all the mo’.

Or in other words, how much longer -whether Buzz goes; or, stays- until this looming move moves from the realm of: “distractions” into the even less favorable realm of: lack of reactions? As “red” Auerbach once so brazenly put it… “instigate, never retaliate”. As the zebras/refs/officials always call the second thing, first.

So where is our Rx-time (reaction-time) after so many rumors regarding Buzz calling a 24060 version of Century-21? i.e. how much further/longer can this go until it R.A.T.T. has an unceremonious O&M cause & effect?


V.Tech is .867 as a neutral this season and Liberty went .5oo when neither home nor away.

Our handy-dandy friend the so-called Forum Guide of Graham Houston fame is closed for want of overlapping Veen Diagram post-season out-of-conference repairs.

The annualized year-to-date vitals say that… V.Tech is up +1% in shooting percentage margin (LU shoots very well | better than VT in point of fact (48.3%), V.Tech is up +3% in 3-point percentage margin and the Hokies are ahead by +1 in rebounding margin for the duration.

The most recent 5-game metrics say that… V.Tech is now up by a modest +3% in shooting percentage margin (LU still shoots very well | tho’ VT has been better on D), V.Tech is now up +5% in 3-point percentage margin (all on D), and rebounding margin is on the level. Even. Tie.

3 cheers for both Hurricane Relief guys!!!

The Flames are up +2% at the charity stripe for the year.

  • Liberty=4 total NC2A bids all-time and their last=2013.
  • Liberty has won 11 of its last 12 contests and can point to a strong report card that includes victories over Kent State, UCLA and Georgia State along with close L to Vanderbilt, Georgetown, and Alabama.
  • Virginia Tech has tied the school record for wins in a season (1994-95, 2009-10) and is the highest seed it has ever been in the NCAA Tournament.
  • Virginia Tech is seeking its first trip to the Sweet 16 since 1967 and a school-record 26th win come ~10 pm Sunday night.

the call

Liberty was picked bottom-3 (or worse) by all my pre-season magazines in Atlantic Sun {sic: conference} terms.

So my use of “overachieving” in the header may have been anti-hyperbole up above. i.e. M.Pop’s and my medicine may not have been… strong enough.

Because if you called Liberty winning the A.Sun Conference championship before the Vegas betting window closed in October? You, good Sir are rolling larger than I; and larger than most.

So, by my calculus… “yes” Liberty is peaking at the very best possible time. Or to put it another way… this is: “you say tomato I say tômato” kind of basketball at its finest.

As one other Commonwealth team is peaking at the very same time and what Liberty -to their surging credit- does do rather well indeed; Buzzketball and Virginia Tech do even better.

As we out-shot Liberty by a handsome 17% on three fewer shot-attempts back in October. Think about that one a little-minute sports fans… Then we out-rebounded them by 200% and change. Mainly per points in the paint and second-chance points. Which we punked Liberty by 212% and by a staggering 420% once we shifted into high-gear and kicked this pig and made Liberty flame-out and go final 20 minutes: “oink”.


As tempo was and will be the key here, Liberty we can run and out-athlete and we can do this in particular when penetrating the shorite populated Flames lane. (and for that matter go right at S.James and see how the referees respond. “Act like a champion” or at least the higher seed). Ditto like the finesse look of Liberty which reminds me of another in-state team and that’s a dream match-up for us indeed. Up the roundball velocity and beat and/or challenge them in the paint.

That’s the key -so to speak- to this one indeed folks.

As Eye foresee mo’ points here than anyone else (apparently) does.

As Liberty gave up ≥75 ppg in each of their, L’s.

(84% confidence interval)
Virginia Tech
=79, Liberty=64




10 Responses You are logged in as Test

      1. ^^^this^^^

        Which is why Eye mentioned it in the closer header.


    1. Cinderella, peaking, we are working “5” back in and not in as much sync
      for it as they are as their rotation is fixed.

      good Q,

  1. Agree with the above. What are the “intangibles.” Is it coaching philosophy, first aid kits, squeeze bottles of beverages, etc?

    1. You’d have to think that the last 2 things are actually insanely tangible

    2. Anything not listed above it… health, homecourt, streaking/peaking, match-ups, whateve’…


  2. hope we win. should we be rooting for ucf or is the rematch with a full strength Duke what this programs desires? Just win baby! We can take Mich St and UVa to win the whole thing!

    1. Zion=BEAST mode in hoops.
      He might be worse than ‘bron’bron; physically.


  3. “Dropped down to the less competitive Atlantic SUN conference”, not Atlantic 10. The A10 would be an appreciable step up from the Big South or Atlantic Sun.

    Maybe St. Louis (who is in the A10) hangover?

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