One of the most anticipated seasons in Virginia Tech basketball history begins in just a few weeks, and for Hokie Hoops lovers, it doesn’t get any better than this.
You’ve got an experienced team filled with dynamic, talented players including a true elite star, and an eye-popping schedule that features a true ‘who’s who’ of college basketball powers. From coast to coast (actually to the Caribbean), the Hokies will play some of the most exciting teams in the country.
Here’s what you need to know in 20 questions:
1. How good is Virginia Tech guard Malcolm Delaney?
In the past 25 years, there have been only two Tech players who could seemingly a.) get to the rim and score, or b.) get to the free-throw line whenever they wanted: Bimbo Coles and Delaney. Like Coles, Delaney can drill a long one, beat his defender off the dribble and get to the goal, or draw the foul. But more importantly, Malcolm is a warrior. A leader. A tough competitor. No question he’s one of the top-10 players in Virginia Tech basketball history.
2. What is the impact of the loss of forward JT Thompson for the Hokies?
It’s a substantial loss. Thompson was fourth on the team in scoring at 7.3 points per game and third on the team in rebounding at 4.6 rebounds per game. He recorded double figures in scoring nine times last year, including a season-high 17 points in the overtime win at Virginia. He did a lot of the “dirty work” and brought a real toughness to the team. His numbers would have been better this year, too. The Hokies’ sixth man was poised for a super senior year.
3. Can the Hokies keep Jeff Allen on the court this year?
He’s one of Tech’s most talented and productive players – when he’s on the court, so this is essential. Allen was whistled for a school-record 121 fouls last year. In fact, only 10 players in the entire country were called for more. As a result, he played a career-low 26.3 minutes per game. His career stats across the board are among the best at Tech in terms of points, rebounds, assists, steals and blocks. He can do it all. But not when he’s sitting on the bench.
4. What is Tech’s strength?
You could make the point – although Duke fans would argue – that Tech has the ACC’s best backcourt. With Delaney and Dorenzo Hudson, the Hokies have two dynamic, tough-as-nails kids who can make key plays. They both have championship traits, are clutch and do a terrific job of getting to the free-throw line.
5. What is Tech’s weakness?
The Hokies were last in the ACC and 301st in the country last season in 3-point field goal percentage (30.4). Tech made just 4.6 3-point baskets per game. Overall, Tech was 11th out of 12 teams in the league in field-goal percentage.
6. Who will be this year’s Terrell Bell and be Tech’s most improved player?
Bell really stepped up and had a fantastic junior season. This year, it could be Victor Davila. The Hokies are thin in terms of depth in the post, so the team will be relying on this junior to improve in a big way. Davila averaged 5.3 points and 4.2 rebounds per game last year. Those numbers should improve dramatically in 2010-2011.
7. How many games will Tech win?
Tech tied a school record by winning 25 games last season. This year’s schedule is tougher, but this team could still win a bunch. Ten teams in the ACC won at least 20 games last year.
8. Who’s the best player in the ACC?
Depends on who you ask, right? In Chapel Hill, they’ll say Harrison Barnes. In Durham, it’s Kyle Singler. In Virginia, it’s Delaney. Objectively? Singler led Duke to the national title last year, so it’s hard to pick against him, although Delaney might be more valuable to his team than any other guy in the league.
9. Who will win the ACC?
Duke. Singler and Nolan Smith lead the league’s most talented team.
10. How many ACC teams will make the NCAA Tournament?
Likely six: Duke, UNC, Virginia Tech, Florida State, N.C. State, and either Clemson or Miami.
11. Who is the surprise team in the ACC?
N.C. State. The Pack has a great frontcourt and has added an impact freshman in C.J. Leslie.
12. Which of the ACC’s three new coaches will have the most success in 2011?
Brad Brownell of Clemson. Oliver Purnell took his run-n-gun, pressing scheme to DePaul and in steps Brownell from Wright State. The frenetic tempo may change, and Clemson may have more of a Rick Barnes-era look to it, but the Tigers will be a tough out as always.
13. Is Miami now a basketball city?
This sounds like a reach, but follow along for a second. D-Wade, LeBron and Chris Bosh will be rockin’ downtown, winning big and creating a very cool hoops culture in the tropics. Meanwhile, down the road in Coral Gables, the ’Canes have enough flash (Malcolm Grant and Durand Scott) and beef (Julian Gamble and Reggie Johnson) to get people’s attention, even more so if the TV cameras get a shot of LeBron sitting in the stands watching “The U” in action.
14. What will be the best home game of the year for the Hokies?
Head coach Seth Greenberg hopes it’s a win over Purdue on Dec. 1 or over Duke on February 26. The Boilermakers are a top five team with tremendous talent. How will the Hokies handle big 6-foot-10 JaJuan Johnson and forward Robbie Hummel? Duke and Purdue are solid preseason Final Four picks and they both visit Cassell. How neat is that?
15. What will be the toughest road game of the year for the Hokies?
Kansas State. The Wildcats, another top-10 team, are coming off one of the best seasons in school history. K-State won a school-record 29 games and advanced to the Elite Eight. Plus, the Wildcats rarely lose at Bramlage Coliseum, dubbed “The Octagon of Doom.”
16. What are three potential “swing games” for the Hokies this year?
Well, the field in the 76 classic in Anaheim is loaded. Oklahoma State, Stanford and Murray State will all be tough. Any of those would be a quality win. But if the bracket holds, Tech could face UNLV on Nov. 28. Coach Lon Kruger and the Runnin’ Rebels return all five starters from a squad that won 25 games in 2009-10.
Mississippi State: The Hokies and Bulldogs meet on Dec. 18 in the Bahamas. Tech does get a break: MSU star guard Dee Bost will be suspended for the game because he failed to properly withdraw from the NBA Draft by the May 8 deadline. This is a big one for Tech.
Purdue: The Boilermakers are going to win the Big Ten. They’ll likely be a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament, too. A Virginia Tech win at Cassell on Dec. 1 would carry a lot of weight, no?
17. Who’s the one guy on Tech’s team who should get more pub?
Dorenzo Hudson. How can you not just love ‘Zo? He’s a physically dominating guard with a tremendous upper body, a great competitive spirit and infectious smile. Every coach in the ACC would take ‘Zo on his team right now, and Tech is lucky to have him.
18. Coach Greenberg said he has to change his plans with Thompson out. Who steps up?
It could be Manny Atkins. It could be freshman Jarell Eddie. There are a lot of very good basketball players in Virginia Tech’s program right now – that’s a product of recruiting in the ACC for seven years. Last year, every time a player went down, a teammate stepped up and produced. Greenberg’s teams have a way of rallying, and this one appears to have enough pieces to do the same.
19. The Hokies are playing some really big, physical, talented non-conference teams like Kansas State, Purdue, Mississippi State, and perhaps Oklahoma State and UNLV. Plus the rugged ACC. Do they have the horses?
The Hokies have a senior-dominated team that returns all five starters. The players wanted to be challenged in a big way with their non-league schedule, and Greenberg has put together one of the most exciting and challenging schedules in school history. There’s no question it’s “Big Boy Basketball” this year. Bring your lunch pail and a mouth guard. Davilla has to play big. Cadarian Raines has to make a big step forward, too.
20. Bottom line. Will the Hokies make the NCAA Tournament this year?
They should. With five starters returning from a team that won 25 games, Tech has a terrific shot to make the 2011 tournament. Yes, the schedule is tougher and the loss of Thompson hurts, but this team certainly has the talent to make the expanded field of 68. The Hokies have the most experienced team in the ACC, and after being snubbed the last two years, this would seem to be the year.
Regardless, it should be fun. The Hokies will make 15 national TV appearances, including a pair of 9 p.m. marquee games against Duke and UNC. These are such exciting times for Hokie basketball fans. Signing day in November should be a huge day, followed by five months of incredibly intense basketball.
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