Two years in a row Virginia Tech has been left standing on the curb after being dressed and ready to go to the big dance. There are a number of reasons why.
One is they just weren't attractive enough, as far as out of conference scheduling goes, and another reason is the school name of "Virginia Tech" doesn't carry a powerful punch when talking about the history of college basketball.
One of those can be controlled, and head basketball coach Seth Greenberg is doing his best to take care of the other.
The 2010-11 Virginia Tech basketball team is probably the most talented group of players the school has ever had—and that's likely soon to change.
As mentioned before, Greenberg is quietly building this program into a legitimate power. Recruits want to come to Blacksburg to play basketball for the first time in a while.
Why? Well, Greenberg is probably the first reason. You've seen him on television. The guy is passionate, fiery and a great motivator, and young guys respond to that.
Another reason is the new basketball facility on campus. The $21 million building has been a huge upgrade to the program. Cassell Coliseum has a great atmosphere come game time, but the venue is old, and so are the practice facilities inside it. This facility has to be one of the best in the ACC.
So, getting to the season now, the Hokies are ranked in the preseason AP Poll for the first time since the 1995-96 season and for the third time in school history. They've also been picked by many to finish second in the ACC behind the national championship-defending Duke Blue Devils.
There's a lot of hype surrounding the Hokies this year, and for good reason. However, Greenberg and the coaching staff already have two key players out for the year. Hokies sixth man J.T. Thompson tore his ACL in September and will miss the season. Thompson hit a couple of big shots with the game on the line last year and provided a lot of energy and rebounding off the bench.
The other player out is Florida transfer Allan Chaney. Greenberg has been very high on Chaney in the past, but in April he collapsed on the court during practice. Chaney was diagnosed with viral inflammation of the heart, and if he does return it will be very late in the year.
But that's the bad news. The good news is Malcolm Delaney returned for his senior year in Blacksburg. Delaney led the ACC in scoring, and he declared for the NBA Draft last season but didn't hire an agent, which allowed him to return.
Delaney is the leader of this team, and his ability to create shots, get to the line and provide open looks for his teammates is why he's so important. Look for Delaney to compete for the ACC Player of the Year award and potentially get some national recognition if all goes well for the Hokies.
Dorenzo Hudson, Jeff Allen, Terrell Bell and Victor Davila are expected to be the four other starters, giving the Hokies four seniors and a junior in their starting lineup.
Hudson really came on last year, especially as a scorer, and Greenberg has been very high on the progress of Allen in practice leading up to the year. Allen is the wild card for the Hokies. If he can stay out of foul trouble and on the floor, then the Hokies will be tough to beat.
Off the bench, Ben Boggs, Manny Atkins and Erick Green should see a lot of playing time. All three are sophomores and saw a lot of action last season. Green will run point when he enters the game, and he really struggled with his jump shot all of last season. It's something the coaching staff has been working on in preseason practices.
Boggs is also a legitimate scoring threat off the bench, especially from three. He really started coming on at the end of last season, and the Hokies should call on him a lot this year.
The other sophomore is Cadarian Raines. He's very important to the Hokies because of his height. Raines is 6'9" and is basically all the depth that they have in the frontcourt. Raines has a foot injury right now, and injuries hampered his progress last season. He will need to stay healthy to give the Hokies a legitimate option at power forward or center coming off the bench.
As far as scheduling goes, the Hokies have a nice out of conference slate this year. They travel to third-ranked Kansas State for the second game of the year, and they also play Purdue, Penn State and Mississippi State.
On top of that, Virginia Tech is playing in the 76 Classic that's held during Thanksgiving week. They will then have the chance to play Oklahoma State, Stanford and UNLV depending on how the week goes.
The Hokies will also need to perform well in conference play and finish near the top of the ACC. They have one of the best teams in the ACC this year, so that should not be a problem. Everyone surrounding the program knows that the Hokies are tired of the NIT and want a shot to compete in the NCAA Tournament.
Greenberg is building the program into a national power, and the nation is taking notice. ESPN's College GameDay will also make it to Blacksburg in February when the Hokies host Duke. Talk about a statement game, and that will only be a couple of weeks before the ACC tournament.
The 2010-11 Hokies have high expectations, and as long as they win key games and play sound basketball, nobody will have the chance to leave the Hokies out of the big dance come March.