To help prepare for the 2009-10 Virginia Tech basketball season, I turned to Niemo from TechHoops.com for some insight. Niemo graduated from Tech in 1998 and after missing the first home basketball game of his freshman year, didn't miss another one the rest of his time in Blacksburg. Who knows where he was for that first game.
GC: Assess Malcolm Delaney's chances of being an All-American or winning the ACC POY this season. Being the Hokies' main (only?) scoring option, he should be able to put up some impressive stats.
Niemo: I'd be thrilled if he made 1st-team All-ACC, and I think he will. Tech has only had one guy, Zabian Dowdell, make 1st-team All-ACC to date. Malcolm has a shot because Tech now has a true point guard, Erick Green, who is taller than a JV basketball player. This will help free up Malcolm to play shooting guard more, and also get more rest. He was worn down late last season.
I'm not sure how likely it is he will end up ACC POY though. But he is the ACC's leading returning scorer. If you look at this decade, the ACC POY's team has finished first or second in the ACC every year but one, and that was in 2007 when bc's Jared Dudley won it and bc finished tied for third. So if he is in the running for POY, that is a very good sign as it obviously would mean the Hokies are competing for the ACC regular season title, which isn't out of the realm of possibilities.
As for All-American, if you are 1st-team All-ACC, you likely will garner some All-American honors, whether it be 3rd-team or higher. That would be cool for this program.
What is the best and worst case scenario for this team?
Worst case scenario is yet again VT stumbles out of the blocks in out of conference play and loses what few big games they have (I'm not sure they will play a single ranked team out of conference) and is basically eliminated from the Big Dance before January hits and ACC play starts. Tech must avoid bad loses and simply TCB - take care of business. With 14 out of conference tilts, anything less that 12-2 is sub-par in my book. 11-3 I could swallow, but the Hokies need better.
Best case scenario is the Hokies finish in the top four of the ACC and earn an ACC Tournament First Round bye for the fourth time in six years in the league. And believe me, this is possible. The ACC is a complete crapshoot this year. 12 of the top 18 players from the ACC are gone from just last year, and the entire first team is gone. The Hokies have experience back, it is just a matter of how much the role players improved (Thompson, Hudson, Bell) and how well the new guys can fill in. This team is again on the borderline in terms of being a NCAA Tournament team. Making it would be best case, regardless of the seed.
What freshmen are going to have the biggest impact for the Hokies this season?
Erick Green for reasons I mentioned above. He's a steady point guard. Probably won't score double digits many nights, but he'll run the offense and improve others, plus free up Delaney to work off screens off the ball. Erick is also solid on defense and is good at anticipating where passes are going and intercepting them. He'll make Tech a better defensive team on the perimeter.
I like Cadarian Raines, too. He's a Cheick Diakite-clone, which VT needs. He'll be out until probably December, but if he can get some time in out of conference games, he'll be sorely needed in ACC play. He gives the Hokies a big body in the paint that can rebound and block shots, though don't expect much on offense from him.
Ben Boggs seems like a gritty player like Jamon Gordon. I have no idea how much he'll help or play this year. Manny Atkins was a great shooter in high school but early reports have not been favorable about him in preseason camp. Gene Swindle (redshirted last year) is very tall and gets up and down the court well, but is he strong enough to battle in the post? Not sure yet.
Is this team going to mirror the recent Hokie football teams and have a lock-down defense and inconsistent offense?
Tech will be better defensively this year if for no other reason than A.D. Vassallo is gone. As much as he scored, his opponent often had a career night, too. Green is good defensively as I mentioned, and Dorenzo Hudson should see more time. He did give up a lot of points in the duquesne game last year, but Greenberg likes him and thinks he is the best on-ball defender. And Jeff Allen will continue to get a lot of steals.
On offense, the Hokies are yet again saying they will run more. I'll believe it when I see it. They say this every year and do it for a half, then get back to being a half court, grind it out offense. So I think your assessment is fair. But if Tech can open it up, maybe things will be less Stiney-like and be more interesting. Tech needs to run more with the loss of Vassallo's three-point shooting.
What non-conference games are must-wins if the Hokies want to return to the NCAA Tournament?
As I said above, pretty much all of them. They can afford one or two slip ups, but any more and VT is going to have to do a lot of work in ACC play like the last several years, and came up short the last two.
Will Tech make the field of 65 this year?
Hard to say. This program needs to be making the Big Dance every three years on average, and it has been three years. Plus, both Delaney and Allen could be gone after this season. So Tech NEEDS to make it this year. Therefore, I'll say yes, they make it. Plus, they do well when not much is expected of them and the media has been fairly down on them.