Virginia Tech basketball is an exercise in ups and downs.
For years, the Hokies have made a habit of losing to teams they shouldn’t while also pulling off gigantic upsets.
They play close games almost by requirement, and somehow end up on the wrong end of most of them.
Then there are of course the buzzer-beaters, which famously and painfully always seem to favor Tech’s opponent.
It all adds up to an exciting yet frustrating program that despite the low moments has managed to make postseason play an expected occurrence in Blacksburg.
Another postseason berth looks like a distinct possibility for head coach Seth Greenberg and company this season. The question is, will it be in the NIT or the NCAA Tournament?
The Hokies must find a way to replace their leading scorer from last season, A.D. Vassallo, who averaged 19 points and six rebounds per game last season.
Fortunately for Tech fans, the Hokies return the other two pieces of their “big three” in junior forward Jeff Allen and junior guard Malcolm Delaney.
Delaney is a preseason All-ACC selection this year and the league’s top returning scorer (18.1 ppg). He can play either guard position and will look to play off the ball a bit more this season to increase his scoring opportunities.
Allen is one of the most skilled big men in the ACC and after famously losing almost 40 pounds last offseason, he’s worked to add muscle to bulk back up with good weight.
Allen averaged 13.7 ppg and 8.4 rebounds last season and his 61 steals placed him among the league-leaders in that category.
The “Big Donut”—a reference to Allen’s size and choice of uniform number, zero—will be looked to as more of a scoring threat to help take the load off Delaney. His presence down low rebounding is also of great importance.
At 6’6”, junior forward J.T. Thompson is hoping to have a breakout year. Thompson averaged just 6.5 ppg and 3.7 rebounds last season, but he had some big moments, such as his 21 points in a double-overtime victory over Duquesne in the first round of the NIT.
6’5” junior guard Dorenzo Hudson is another Hokie looking to step up his game.
An extremely physical player, Hudson averaged just 4.6 ppg, 1.9 rpg and 1.1 assists last season, but his contributions were important and will be even more so this year.
Hudson has the ability to become a big-time scorer for the Hokies, but thus far he’s had difficulty translating his ability to make shots in practice to game situations, though he has had his moments.
Hudson’s scoring can further help to ease the load placed on the capable shoulders of Delaney and Allen.
Another intriguing junior is the 6’6” Terrell Bell.
The long-armed forward is one of the best defenders on a team that prides itself on its defensive efforts. He has a knack for getting in passing lanes and his offensive abilities have only been seen in spurts, but his starting role this year should provide more opportunities.
The contributions of several young players will also be key to the success of the 2009-2010 edition of the Hurryin’ Hokies.
Sophomore forward Victor Davila, who stands 6’8”, has impressed the coaches this offseason and will be in the starting lineup for the Hokies when they tip-off against the Brown Bears in the season-opener Sunday.
“Victor has probably been our most pleasant surprise up front,” Greenberg said recently.
“He scores buckets. He makes shots. He’s a big target and he wants the ball.”
Davila’s playing time was limited last season, but he showed flashes of surprisingly refined post moves and a nice baby-hook shot that bodes well for the future.
True freshman point guard Erick Green will be an important player as well for the Hokies.
At 6’4”, he follows in the footsteps of Tech’s other guards with his tremendous length and ability to penetrate into the lane.
Green will have to play to give Delaney a break now and then, but he doesn’t need to be spectacular. Green just needs to run the offense and learn on the job.
As usual, the Hokies were picked to finish near the bottom of the ACC by the media in their preseason poll.
Each time that’s happened, however, Tech has exceeded expectations and managed to pick off the Dukes and North Carolinas of the college basketball world in the process.
While there are plenty of unknowns about this year’s team, expect them to once again exceed expectations and finish in the top half of the conference.
Of course, it’ll be a roller coaster ride.