Helping us preview the upcoming Virginia Tech basketball season is a new blog dedicated to Hokie basketball, volleyball. James from Inside the Cassell was nice enough to answer a few questions for us. Be sure to follow his blog (in addition to this one of course) for updates throughout basketball season and follow James on The Twitter.
After three trips to the NIT, will the Hokies finally return to the NCAA Tournament this year?
Yes, but unlike several months ago, I have to tie a few "if's" to that statement. If Cadarian Raines can get and stay healthy, yes. If Jeff Allen can drop his fouls down to a reasonable number-just for kicks let's say less than 5 fouls per 40 minutes-and stay on the court, then yes. I believe Tech gets the job done this year, but I wouldn't be surprised if we have to keep our fingers crossed again on Selection Sunday.How concerned should we be about the Hokies' front-court depth?
If there is one thing that could derail the Hokies' season, it's another front-court injury. A back-court as talented as we have gives you a chance to win every night, but to be consistently good you have to rebound and defend the paint. Seth Greenberg's teams thrive on playing aggressive defense, but lack of depth forces Tech's bigs to be less aggressive to avoid foul trouble. Malcolm Delaney will have to be a better on-ball defender to keep guards from penetrating. The good news is wing Terrell Bell can rebound the ball (6.1 rpg last season) and 6-7, 209 lb freshman Jarell Eddie will at least be able to replace JT Thompson's size, if not his tenacity.
Who's one player on the roster that we might not be very familiar with that you think will have a breakout year?
I think we will see a very different Erick Green this season. It would be an understatement to say that Erick struggled to find his shot last season, but it's difficult to get in a rhythm when you're only taking 1-2 shots a game. Greenberg has said that Erick is playing more aggressive and confident, which were the biggest shortcomings in his game last year. At 6-4, Green has the length to grow into a formidable defender. Look for Erick to pitch in 5 points and more importantly 2 or 3 assists a game this season with increased playing time.
Which game on the schedule are you most looking forward to seeing?
It will be interesting to see against Kansas State which team starts the season hungrier for a win, but hosting Duke for ESPN's College GameDay has to be the date circled on every Hokie hoops fan's calendar. It's a day where for the first time ever, the college basketball world is focused on Blacksburg, VA. I'm anxious to see just how much Hokie Nation will embrace a true basketball event such as this on national television. If the ACC race plays out as expected, the game itself should be a treat to watch. The game could potentially decide the ACC regular season champion and be an opportunity for the Hokies to knock off their third #1 ranked team in 5 years.
What's the best-case and worst-case scenario for the Hokies this year?
For better or worse, the spotlight is on Virginia Tech this season. Expectations are high and a tough schedule sets the Hokies up to either go big or go home. And by home, I mean the NIT. The worst case scenario for the Hokies in 2010-2011 would be for the lack of depth and grueling schedule to catch up with them. The schedule will be strong, but if Tech can't get enough wins out of it, a fourth straight NIT season wouldn't do justice to the accomplishments of one of the winningest senior classes in Virginia Tech history.
The best-case scenario for the Hokies would be to win their first ACC championship. For the Hokies to win a championship in arguably the toughest conference in basketball after only 7 seasons would be a major accomplishment. Clemson has been in the league 57 years and still hasn't won. And arguably just as important, it guarantees the Hokies a spot in the NCAA tournament.
See you in Cassell on November 12th!