The Virginia Tech men’s basketball team has yet to lose this season, but it has also yet to face a team from one of the other major conferences.
This week should provide a better indication of just how good the Hokies (5-0) are. The Iowa Hawkeyes (5-1) will pay a visit at 7:15 p.m. Tuesday in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge. On Saturday, No. 15 Oklahoma State (5-0) will come to town.
“We’re getting better, but we’re only five games into a new era,” Tech rookie coach James Johnson said Monday. “[The Hawkeyes] are bigger than the teams we’ve played. They’re going to be more physical than the teams we’ve played.
“They’re big, they’re strong and they’re physical, and we haven’t seen that yet. So we’ll see how we do against that.”
Iowa’s lineup includes 7-foot-1, 235-pound center Adam Woodbury, 6-8, 219-pound forward Aaron White and 6-7, 235-pound forward Zach McCabe.
“We’ll get a chance to see our guys play against a traditional matchup, whereas some of those other teams, we’re having to guard 6-5 and 6-6 guys in the post that are not traditional post players,” Johnson said.
The Hokies are 5-0 for the first time since the 1984-85 season, but those five foes have a combined record of 7-19. None has a winning record.
Iowa has already faced a good team this season. The Hawkeyes are coming off a 75-63 loss to 2012 NCAA tournament participant Wichita State in the final of the Cancun Challenge.
“Wichita State physically is a Big Ten team,” Iowa coach Fran McCaffery said. “There’s just no substitute for playing those kinds of games as you get ready for the ACC-Big Ten Challenge and Big Ten play.”
Iowa shot just 26.1 percent from the field in that loss. Wichita State, coached by Cave Spring graduate Gregg Marshall, is second in the “others receiving votes” category in the Associated Press Top 25 poll.
“You always learn more from losses than you do from wins,” said Iowa assistant coach Sherman Dillard, a Bassett graduate. “We’ve got to be able to execute under duress against high-quality athletes. We want to run, we want to get up and down the floor, but we’ve got to be able to execute in a halfcourt set. So we have to clean up our motion offense.”
The Hokies are led by Erick Green (24.4 ppg), the ACC co-player of the week, and Jarell Eddie (18.8 ppg).
“Green is as good as any guard I’ve watched on film in a long time, … really understands pace of the game and when to push it and when not to,” McCaffery said. “Green and Eddie are terrific players, … really create a lot of problems for any team that’s trying to scheme how to guard them.”
Although the Hokies have yet to face a formidable opponent, Johnson said they have “played some guys that are as talented as some of the guys that are on Iowa’s team.”
Tech’s unbeaten record is at least noteworthy because plenty of teams have fallen to lower-profile foes this season. UCLA lost to Cal Poly. Baylor lost to the College of Charleston. Florida State lost to South Alabama. Miami lost to Florida Gulf Coast. Boston College lost to the College of Charleston and to Bryant. Virginia lost to George Mason and Delaware. Wake Forest lost to Iona.
“That [5-0] record says a lot about those guys and how to take it one game at a time,” Johnson said of his players. “You look out at college basketball, there are teams that on paper supposedly they shouldn’t beat these teams, but those teams are practicing, those teams are watching film, those teams are working hard, they’re trying to win too. I think my team has done a great job with focusing.
“It would’ve been easy for us to look past those five games.”
Iowa is outrebounding foes by 4.3 rebounds per game, while the Hokies are outrebounding teams by 1.8 rebounds.
Tech junior center Cadarian Raines had only two rebounds in Friday’s win over Appalachian State.
“I’ve got to have him be more consistent,” Johnson said. “But I’ve also got to remember that as a basketball player … [in] basketball minutes, he’s relatively young.”
The Hokies don’t like to let the shot clock wind down. Iowa has scored fewer than 70 points in each of its past four games, but McCaffrey said his team also likes to “play fast.”
“Both teams … like to push it and attack and [are] not afraid to shoot it quick,” McCaffrey said.
Dillard, a former head coach at Indiana State and James Madison, is in his third season on McCaffery’s staff. Dillard worked for Nike from 2004-09.
“I always had an itch to get back into college coaching,” said Dillard, whose mother still lives in Bassett. “Once it’s in your blood, it’s hard to get out. That’s what my calling is.”
As Nike’s global camp director, Dillard recruited elite high school players to Nike camps and also ran those camps.
“When you’re rubbing shoulders with the likes of Kevin Durant and Tyreke Evans and Derrick Rose and Blake Griffin, that level of athlete, that was really special,” Dillard said.
Iowa at Virginia Tech
7:15 p.m. at Cassell Coliseum
Records: Iowa 5-1; Virginia Tech 5-0
Last meeting: Tech won 70-64 at Iowa in December 2009.
Va. Tech probable starters: F C.J. Barksdale (5.6 ppg), F Jarell Eddie (18.8 ppg), C Cadarian Raines (9 ppg), G Robert Brown (11.6 ppg), G Erick Green (24.4 ppg).
Iowa probable starters: F Aaron White (12.5 ppg), F Zach McCabe (6 ppg), C Adam Woodbury (5.5 ppg), G Mike Gesell (8 ppg), G Roy Devyn Marble (13.8 ppg).
Notes: Iowa, which made the NIT last season, has lost the past six years in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge. Two of those losses were to the Hokies. … The Hokies are shooting 42.7 percent from 3-point range. Iowa coach Fran McCaffery said defending the 3-pointer was one of his team’s greatest weaknesses last year but that his defense has improved in that area this season. … This is Iowa’s first game at an opponent’s arena this season. … McCaffery is in his third season at Iowa after previously coaching Lehigh, UNC Greensboro and Siena. … Iowa starts freshmen at point guard (Gesell) and center (Woodbury). … Green has made 31 straight free throws.