Bama Hoops Hype

Talking With The Enemy: Henry Skutt of The Key Play

In case you missed it, Alabama will be playing in its first NCAA Tournament game since 2012 on Thursday. Its opponent is Virginia Tech so as we close in on tip off, we continue to find out more about the Hokies and their men’s basketball team.

We took time to interview one of the writers from to find out more about the program, the players and what to expect from the Hokies on Thursday.

Q: First of all, thanks for doing this for us. Go ahead and introduce yourself, your site and how long you have been covering the Virginia Tech men’s basketball team.

My name is Henry Skutt and I’m one of the basketball beat writers for The Key Play. I’m a sophomore here in Blacksburg, and have covered the team full time this season. I covered them part-time last season, but this year I’ve been credentialed for every home game and also travelled to Kentucky, Wake Forest, UVA, and Duke.

Q: Two consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances for the first time since the 1980s. What’s the general feeling around the Virginia Tech program right now? And how much fun is it to have Buzz Williams as a coach?

I think the general feeling around the program is one of excitement. When Buzz Williams took the job for the 2014-15 season, the Hokies had been in the basement of the ACC for two straight years and had won a total of six conference games. The first year of Buzzketball (as it’s so affectionately called in Blacksburg) wasn’t much better as Tech again finished 2-16 in the ACC. But each season has progressively gotten better. A sixth-place finish in 2015-16 helped Tech get into the NIT. Last year was the Hokies’ first NCAA appearance in 10 years. And now, they’re dancing for the second year in a row for the first time since 1986-87, and have a plethora of talent on the court and waiting in the wings. It’s a good feeling for the fanbase.

Buzz is quite the character. His coaching style has energized the fanbase and he makes it really easy to root for Tech. His antics on the sideline are sometimes more entertaining than what’s actually going on the floor, to be completely honest.

Q: The number one thing that jumps off the page for the Hokies is the big victories. Did the wins over teams like Duke, Virginia and North Carolina show the ceiling for this team? And is there a possible sense that the team deserved a higher seed this year because of all of those good wins?

I do think those wins showed the ceiling of the team. Normally that’s not a great thing to see, because who wants to see the limit of a team’s capability? But those wins are some of the best in the nation. A road win against the unanimous No. 1 team in the country. A win against a Duke team loaded with NBA talent. A blowout win against a UNC team that just played for the ACC tournament title.

However, even with all that said, I don’t think the Hokies deserved a higher seed. For every good win they have, they have an equally bad loss. Immediately following the UVA win, Tech got blown out by 22 in Cameron. Right after the Duke victory, the Hokies blew a 12-point first half lead at Miami and lost a very winnable game. And they also dropped a game to Saint Louis early on in the season. An 8 seed is right where I think Tech belongs.

Q: I want to move on to the player matchups now. Obviously Collin Sexton’s name has been in the national headlines after a stellar performance in the SEC Tournament. Who is one player on Virginia Tech that will put in charge of dealing with the Tide’s freshman and how do you expect him to do?

With how good Sexton is, I expect it to be a team effort to stop him. However, I think the majority of the task of guarding Sexton will fall on Devin Wilson or Justin Bibbs. Wilson was assigned Marvin Bagley III in Cassell, and did a world-class job. He’s a scrappy redshirt senior who was put back in the starting lineup solely for defensive purposes. Bibbs has been called the best defender on the team by Williams, so I would only assume that he steps up to guard Sexton when Wilson sits down. But again, I think it’ll be the whole team who stops Sexton. The Hokies’ entire culture shifted after getting blown out by Miami on Feb. 3. They’ve only worked on defense in practices since that loss, and have started to play an almost UVA-like packline defense.

Q: In the post, Alabama’s leading shot blocker Donta Hall is still day-to-day with a concussion. How much of a priority do the Hokies put on getting their scoring in the paint?

The Hokies take almost 46% of their shots at the rim. And when they do get shots up from that area, they shoot at about a 63% clip. The Hokies love to drive the ball and draw fouls. They take 21 free throws a game, but only shoot 71% from the charity stripe. But long story short, Tech loves to attack the paint. If a layup is there, they’ll take it. But if an easy bucket isn’t available under the basket, trust me that there will be two or three shooters spotted up on the outside.

Q: If there was going to be a single player on Virginia Tech that could put together a world-class performance against the Crimson Tide, who would it be?

Justin Robinson. He exploded on to the scene once conference play started. His ability to shoot but also attack the rim is some of the best I’ve seen from a Hokie. He’s a very capable finisher around the rim. Some of his circus layups that drop just don’t seem possible. Robinson has also become a very consistent shooter, shooting 46% from the field and 40% from deep. He loves to push the tempo, and with Alabama running a similar style, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Robinson break out and have a stellar game.

Q: And finally, if you are so inclined, what is your prediction for Thursday’s game and does the winner stand a chance against Villanova?

I think Virginia Tech pulls it out, but in a very close, back and forth, type of affair. The Hokies might end up with four or five players in double figures. Alabama might be limited to just two if Hall is still out with the concussion. The renowned focus that the Hokies have put on defense lends me to believe that they have the advantage on both sides of the ball going into Thursday night. I’ll say it ends 74-68.

For the Villanova game, I haven’t even really looked at it. The Hokies match up well with Villanova in terms of play-style, but the talent on that team is hard to beat. I personally am hoping for the first 16-1 upset so the Hokies can play their neighbors, the Radford Highlanders.

Caleb Turrentine is the editor for Bama Hoops Hype. You can follow him on Twitter for in-game updates at @BamaHoopsHype.

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