The Almost Too Late 2010-11 Virginia Tech Men's Basketball Preview

Despite my constant procrastination in writing this, it appears that I will have a men's basketball preview article just on the eve of the impending basketball season. YAY! And just like Mint-Berry Crunch (reference will only be understood by South Park fans) I'm here at the last minute to save the day with all of the information you could POSSIBLY want about this year's team. Don't believe me? Take a peek inside and find out for yourself. You may be overwhelmed, so it is okay to break it up into small doses, but posting up at your favorite reading spot (including the bathroom, just make sure you're set on TP and that you don't get the electronics wet) is acceptable as well.

So this is the season...breathe it in. Take a second to think about all of the snubs (the NCAA Tournament's biggest joke for 3 years running), all of the slights (pundits and fans alike still regarding us as second class in the ACC despite our success) and all of the SH*& we've had to take along the way...THAT ENDS THIS YEAR...right? Well, like the legendary Lee Corso always offers up "not so fast sweetheart." That's right, me, Chicagomaroon, Chris Hatcher, the die-hard Virginia Tech basketball fan since the days of Ace Custis is not ready to DEFINITIVELY say our bad luck is going to end here and now.

2009-10 SEASON RECAP

Where to start? How about how last season ended. After finishing 23-8 in the regular season and dropping our first game of the ACC Tournament to upstart Miami, we were denied a chance at the NCAA Tournament for the third consecutive year. In doing so, the Tournament Selection Committee denied the the VERY FIRST ACC team in history with 10-conference wins and no tickets to the dance. Additionally the committee cut right around us and admitted the #1,2,3,5,6 and 7 teams in the ACC into the dance, even though we had a 3-0 record against teams # 5,6 and 7 head-to-head and lost to teams #1 (National Champion Duke), 2 and 3 by an average of only 7 points including an overtime thriller and with 2/3 of those games on the road.

We were LAMBASTED for our historically weak schedule, as we should have been. But I will continue to maintain that we should not have missed the tournament BECAUSE of it. It is a long standing practice that coaches schedule based on the quality of their team, and that's the way it should be. At the beginning of the 09-10 season, Virginia Tech was very much of an unknown. Back were Malcolm Delaney and Jeff Allen, but aside from those two, nobody really knew (including Seth Greenberg by my determination) where the help would come from? Would it be collective? Would one guy be able to shoulder the load? What would the freshmen be able to contribute?

So with that in mind, I think that Seth Greenberg drew up the RIGHT schedule for our team. As Seth tried to explain to anyone who would listen the Hokies could only control what they did on the court once the schedule was set (not what their opponents did), and they felt that they had done that. They HAD done that, but as much as I would like to completely agree with Seth on this, part of it is the double-talk coach-speak that drives reporters and fans crazy. Sure, he's right they couldn't control the other teams on the schedule AFTER the schedule had been set. But they absolutely had control over who they scheduled. Again, I stand behind Greenberg's scheduling plan and I don't think it was a cheap way to try to sneak into the NCAA Tournament but instead a reflection of the team.

Having said that, here's where Seth was right about being handcuffed by how the teams he thought would do well actually performed...

@ Iowa 10-22 (4-14) W 70-64: The Hokies drew Iowa in the ACC-Big 10 Challenge, so it's really unfair to call out the Hokies on this team's performance.

vs. Georgia 14-17 (5-11) W 74-62: When the Hokies scheduled Georgia for a home-and-home the Bulldogs were coming off of an SEC Championship.

@ Penn State 11-20 (3-15) W 66-64: Again, when the Hokies signed on the dotted line to play the Nittany Lions they did so after Penn State had the best year in their basketball history, coming off of an NIT crown.

vs. Seton Hall (Neutral Site) 19-13 (9-9) W 103-94: While the Pirates were the best of this bunch, Greenberg saw them as an NCAA team, not a middle of the road Big East foe.

Those teams from power conferences really hurt Tech's OOC (Out Of Conference) Schedule. The thing is as much as you want to dog on the unimpressive OOC, as Greenberg pointed out, the Hokies handled it, beating 8 OOC foes by 10 points or more and 4 OOC teams by 23+ points. Tech's only loss OOC was to NCAA team Temple on a so called "neutral" court (the game was played literally minutes away from the Owls' campus).

Despite the Hokies' supposed hungriness to get into the tourney, it was inevitable that a letdown for a third consecutive season would probably have the Hokies season ending in the NIT in unimpressive fashion like the year before when they ran into a buzz-saw Baylor team. There are only so many times that you can try to go out and prove that you belong in the tournament. The '07 team that was snubbed made a more than convincing argument, the '08 team showed its lack of interest in playing three-letter postseason basketball, and the '09 team played 3 good halves (one against Quinnipiac, one against UConn and one against Rhode Island), however it's clear that attention was waning. But that's enough about last season, this is this season. If you need any more recapping, check out my end of the season summation and superlatives.

2010-11 SEASON PREVIEW

Notes on the Pre-season

  • Tech will begin the season ranked 21st in the nation, and have been picked about 40-50% of the time to be Duke's #1 challenger for the ACC crown as the #2 team in the conference standings (including by the ACC Pre-season Poll).
  • Senior forward J.T. Thompson tore his ACL just about two months before the opening tip for the Hokies. He will miss the entire season and will return in 2010-11. Here's hoping for a full recovery.
  • Redshirt sophomore Allan Chaney, who had just completed his mandatory sit-out year after transferring from the University of Florida developed a viral inflammation of the heart that caused him to pass out during a workout. He has since been limited to what he can do and has not yet been cleared for basketball action pending a clean bill of health. It is not written in stone that he will miss the season, but Greenberg kind of hinted at it several times in interviews. For the most part though, they are really playing this one close to the chest. Whatever the situation, again, AC get well.
  • Paul Debnam has decided to return for another season as he pursues graduate studies. Debnam who was formerly a football walk-on joined the basketball team in 2007 and is most known as being the hype man during starting lineups and timeouts. If nothing else he is an energizer who can get the team and the crowd pumped up.
  • Malcolm Delaney was picked Pre-season 1st Team All-ACC.

The Schedule

First off, if you are not familiar with the schedule here's a link to hokiesports.com

http://www.hokiesports.com/mbasketball/schedule/2010

Breaking it down, we have probably the toughest schedule in our basketball history (and yes I do sound like a broken record from the 2008-09 season when I said the same thing, but this schedule has surpassed it). The Hokies start out against Campbell to open up the season Friday. Campbell is a team that they have had success against in the recent past, but they did play the Hokies tough in '09. Then the team travels to Kansas St. 4 days into their season, so it is imperative that they gel early. Winning against K-State would be a BIG-TIME résumé booster the likes of which we've been lacking the last couple of years and would really go a long way towards punching our ticket to the dance. Getting that marquee win out of the way early would be a big thing too, because often times in the last couple of years we stumbled out of the gates losing our big games and were stuck with no big OOC victories.

Next is a road game against UNCG. The Hokies won this matchup last year but in a grind it out kind of fashion, only scoring 59 points and using the last few minutes of the game to survive a scare. After that the Hokies will travel to Anaheim to participate in the '76 classic. The opener against Cal State Northridge should not prove too difficult a test. The Matadors lose 3 of their top-4 scorers, 2 of their top-3 rebounders, top-2 assist-men and their top-2 steal artists. Oh, and they went 11-21 (6-10) last year in the Big West. Pending Tech's win over the Matadors, the Hokies will face off with the winner of the DePaul/Oklahoma St. game. There are advantages to either draw, as a matchup with DePaul would match the Hokies up against former Clemson coach Oliver Purnell who runs a full-court press trap that the Hokies shredded at times over the last couple of years. But on the other end the Cowboys are likely to be the much better team on the Hokies' résumé even if they should slip up to the post-James Anderson Pokes. The winner of that game will advance to the championship game and the loser will advance to the consolation game of the eight-team field.

There is no rest for the weary, as the Hokies host a Purdue team just three days later that many picked to win the National Championship before Robbie Hummel's unfortunate leg re-injury in the pre-season. This is the biggest game of the year for the Hokies OOC in my determination. They finally got love from the ACC by getting one of the nation's premier teams as their matchup in the ACC-Big 10 Challenge. That is tangible evidence that the Hokies are at least making progress in regards to their program's image. This is a key game because a win would all but seal a Hokie tourney trip with even a so-so ACC outing and TCB with the mid-low majors. While not many people are betting on that result for Tech, injuries are a part of the game and you never know when they'll strike (or in this case when they'll strike AGAIN, and AGAIN!), so it is important to get wins while you can, especially against a team with the national profile of Purdue. Even if the Boilermakers underachieve, perhaps we can milk the pre-season polls in our favor by pointing out how good of a team they were projected to be. This didn't work with our UNC win from last year.

Then later that week we begin ACC play with a home tilt against UVA before Penn St. comes to town to try to avenge last season's loss. And yes, for all of you that watched that game, Talor Battle returns. Then as always, Greenberg likes to get tropical (and no not in the same way that Semi-Pro funnyman Will Ferrell's character Jackie Moon meant it) by going to the hot sun of the Bahamas to play Mississippi St. Sans Jarvis Varnado. The Hokies will hope that Miss. St. will not end up the Georgia of the last two years in the SEC. Then the Hokies will travel to Rochester, NY for a strange neutral site game against St. Bonaventure. If anyone can explain this one to me go ahead, because I tried and came up empty. The Hokies return to the Cassell to finish up the OOC (well, there is a game against Longwood in the middle of the ACC stretch run, but I'll just go ahead and call that insignificant enough and too much of a bother to include here) against UNC Upstate and Mt. St. Mary's in a three-day span.

Then on to the ACC slate, the Hokies get FSU at home (FINALLY!), UNC on the road, Wake at home, travel to Maryland and then Georgia Tech (split by the Longwood game). Then Miami comes to town before the Hokies take flight for a two-game stretch on the road against NC State and Boston College. The men in Chicago Maroon return to play Georgia Tech and Maryland before they hit the road again (well, kinda) to play UVA and then Wake. The Hokies have a two-game homestand where they get Duke and BC again before ending the regular season on the road at Clemson (AGAIN!).

Once again we got a pretty easy ACC schedule, and once again we're going to take heat for it. We play Duke once at home, Carolina once, FSU at home once, NC State once and Miami once at home. I would be surprised if any of those teams not named Miami finishes in the bottom half of the league, but make no mistake Miami could very well be a contender.

The Players

Here is the Hokies' roster on hokiesports.com. Each player has his own profile and bio/player card, and I admit I spend like 1/3 of my time on the internet on the site. If you have never visited the site you're pretty much what Richard (David Spade's character) calls the passengers who don't know how to buckle their seat-belts on the flight to Chicago in Tommy Boy.

The Starters

PG #23 Malcolm Delaney Sr. 6'3" 190 lbs. 20.2 ppg. 4.5 apg. 3.7 rpg. 1.2 spg. 39% fg. 31% 3pt. fg. 84% ft.

SG #5 Dorenzo Hudson Sr. 6'5" 220 lbs. 15.2 ppg. 3.5 rpg. 1.9 apg. 44% fg. 29% 3pt. 76% ft.

SF #1 Terrell Bell Sr. 6'6" 205 lbs. 6.1 ppg. 6.1 rpg. 2 apg. 1.1 bpg. 44% fg. 36% 3pt. 63% ft.

PF #0 Jeff Allen Sr. 6'7" 230 lbs. 12 ppg. 7.4 rpg. 1.2 apg. 1.2 bpg. 1.7 spg. 47% fg. 26% 3pt. 66% ft.

C #14 Victor Davila Jr. 6'8" 245 lbs. 5.3 ppg. 4.2 rpg. 48% fg. 54% ft.

The Reserves

PF #33 JT Thompson Sr. 6'6" 210 lbs. WILL NOT PLAY

PG #11 Erick Green So. 6'4" 185 lbs. 2.6 ppg. 29% fg. 28% 3pt. 68% ft.

SG/SF #25 Manny Atkins So. 6'7" 200 lbs. 2.2 ppg. 1.3 rpg. 44% fg. 35% 3pt. 46% ft.

SG #24 Ben Boggs So. 6'4" 200 lbs. 2.2 ppg. 1.4 rpg. 34% fg. 25% 3pt. 81% ft.

C/PF # 4 Cadarian Raines So. 6'9" 238 lbs. 1.5 ppg. 1.8 rpg. 35% fg. 50% ft.

SG # 32 Paul Debnam Sr. 6'3" 195 lbs. 1.4 ppg. 58% fg. 100% 3pt. 33% ft.

SF # 31 Jarell Eddie Fr. 6'7" 209 lbs. NEWCOMER NO STATS

PG #21 Tyrone Garland Fr. 6'1" 170 lbs. NEWCOMER NO STATS

PF # 3 Allan Chaney r-So. 6'9" 235 lbs. DNP NO STATS

G #2 Erik Sorenson Fr. 6'3" 175 lbs. NEWCOMER NO STATS

The Expectations

It's clear to see why the Hokies were ranked so high in the pre-season. Before JT Thompson's injury the Hokies returned 10 of the 11 top scorers on a 25-win and 10 ACC-win team (the lone contributor lost was Lewis Witcher who was near the bottom of the scoring list). In fact, before Thompson's injury the Hokies returned a staggering 98.5% of their points from the 2009-10 season. Add to that the fact that the Hokies were about to add 2 more guys who were top-100 recruits in the respective classes in Allan Chaney and Jarell Eddie, and a pure scorer in Tyrone Garland. However since the injury to Thompson and the health problems of Chaney began, the Hokies' prognosis dropped. In fact, injury prone big Cadarian Raines had to have emergency surgery on his foot (which along with his shoulders kept him out of nearly half the games a year ago). The Hokies went from having the deepest rotation of bigs IN THE NATION (don't believe me? Who else has 5 quality bigs that have different skill sets like Tech does?DID*) to frail on the inside.

This problem is compounded by the fact that no Virginia Tech big plays REALLY big minutes because of A. Foul Trouble (Jeff Allen), B. Long periods of ineffectiveness (All the above), or C. Stamina issues (ditto). So as Seth Greenberg suggested recently, he is going to have to get VERY creative with his lineups and use what size he does have. That includes playing up, which is essentially taking a guy who is a position smaller (i.e. Terrell Bell at SF) and playing him at the next highest position (which would be PF in this case). Expect to see A LOT of Bell and Eddie at the PF this year, especially with Bell's strength, grit, defensive savvy and ability to leave the floor quickly to contest shots.

The other thing to address is the rumor that one or more football players may be interested in coming out. According to multiple sources Marcus Davis is STRONGLY considering coming out. He played in the intamural slam dunk competition and actually won it if I remember correctly. I know that doesn't mean anything, but I would never turn away a good football athlete like Davis who is pretty good at basketball too by all accounts. However, I have my eyes on the real prize...get ready for it...LOGAN THOMAS! BOOM! That's right our next starting quarterback is an OUTSTANDING basketball player. I know his offer list doesn't really show it, but Logan is a lot like Terelle Pryor who was highly regarded in both football AND basketball. His football merits speak for themselves, but he had 8 basketball offers as well and has said on record after his commitment to Tech that he would absolutely consider joining the basketball team 2-3 years into his college career, just not right away because he wanted to get settled first. Well, we're in that window now, and we have playing time available. Plus Logan played basketball way before he ever got into football, and listening to him talk about it, it sounds like it's his true passion.

Because Logan bulked up and is currently listed at 6'6" 242, he is plenty big to play in the post although he is a more natural 3. There are several things holding this back though. For one, Beamer has to sign off on letting his starting quarterback for next year play, but with Bryan Randall he did and Bryan meant A LOT more to those teams than Logan does simply because Bryan had been the starter before he played basketball, so he was the incumbent starter. Also Jeff King played for the Hokies during Seth's tenure, and neither player got hurt, so there has to be some level of trust between Greenberg and Beamer. Logan could be a BIG bailout if he should decide to play as he coulf offset some of Tech's losses down low.

The goal is simple, make the NCAA field. The team might have larger goals, and I hope they do, but after 3 years of denial, getting to go to the ever-elusive NCAA Tournament would make most of these kids' lives. Realistically, if Allan Chaney returns, the Hokies could make a SERIOUS run at Duke for the ACC title, but without more quality depth down low the Hokies may struggle to defend the post and play too much of a perimeter oriented-game on offense...something they have been prone to in the past. As a general rule, this Virginia Tech team is not good enough at 3-pt. shooting to live and die by the 3-pt. shot, so they should not play to live and die by the 3-pt. shot, because as history shows, they will die. An ACC crown, a Sweet 16 run, all of this would be icing on the cake, but getting into the tourney should be priority #1. Despite the experience on this roster, even the most experienced teams can let their minds get ahead of themselves, so it will be important to take each game one at a time. Once they make the tourney, if they make the tourney, the Hokies are as dangerous as any team in the field. Teams that don't accept/respect that will find out the hard way...IF THE HOKIES MAKE THE TOURNEY!

I have listed what I expect out of each player individually this year below.

Malcolm Delaney- For Delaney it's all about two things, shot selection and ball control. In order for the Hokies to turn the corner Delaney must truly become a better selector of shots. He has in the gym range, but on an off-night Delaney can be scary bad and just keeps shooting ala Allen Iverson. A big reason for the low shooting percentage is that Delaney flops a lot (although he does get a lot of contact as well) trying to get a call. Trying to get a call on a good shot that has a chance at the basket and what Delaney does, often hurtling through the air on the way to the basket and flailing like he's been trained by Pau Gasol and just kind of throwing the ball up in the air are two completely different things. Delaney does get some star treatment for his troubles (as evidenced by his high FT count), but he should try to cut down on the bad shots that are a product of these flops substantially. Officials in the ACC are tired of hearing him complain about contact, believe me.

As for the ball control, Delaney is a high turnover PG because in reality, he's not a PG. He will not be a PG on the NBA level, and even in college he's suited to play off the ball. However, to his credit he's adapted to the position and improved. This is the area where there has been the least improvement though, so taking better care of the ball (which means no frantic drives through the lane into waiting big men ready to take a charge). He's got a really nice pull-up J that he can take advantage of in that situation if he will pull up a step sooner on the drive like he used to. I wish he'd go back to that more. This also is a higher number because when he flails and gets a no call and the ball pops loose, it's (correctly) scored a turnover. He also does the "high school move," where he drives and picks up his dribble mid-air. I would like to see him pass more off penetration, because right now he is still solely a penetrator for scoring sake, not to pass and set up a score. I'd like to see him give a little more effort defensively, but I understand that's hard when you're carrying the load offensively.

Overall, it was a GREAT decision for Malcolm to come back to college for one more year before going pro. I'd just really like to see him iron out some of his more glaring weaknesses. He has continued to get better, but it seems like only in the areas that he was already really good at. He has only improved incrementally in the areas where he needs the most help. The bottom line is there is room on an NBA roster for a guy who can just make shots, but if your specialty is hitting shots, you better be shooting better than the 39% and 31% that Delaney hit last year. As for the ACC POY, I don't see it, because I think Delaney's statline will actually decrease with what he has around him, which is okay. Hopefully that leads to fewer minutes as well, which have been a key in his poor finishes to seasons shooting-wise as his legs aren't in his jumpshot.

Dorenzo Hudson- Dorenzo should continue to work on handling the ball and making smart decisions with it. Although Hudson is unlikely to see any time at point, I think he has a legitimate shot at making an NBA roster right out of college if he works on his ball-handling, passing, rebounding and 3-pt. shooting skills. I actually think he's a better pro prospect than Delaney if he continues to improve. He's the kind of guy who could be a better pro than a collegiate athlete. At 6'5" 220 he's got the body NBA teams covet at off-guard. He has the potential to be a TERRIFIC defender although the stats don't support the argument (what is the saying about statisticians?). Zo should be a focal point in the offense, and really he's so clutch he should be looked at in any close game situation. I expect his scoring, assists, rebounds and steals to go up while he posts better percentages from the field, 3 pt. range especially, and the line.

Terrell Bell- Bell has to be the most versatile player on the Hokies roster this year, and I think along with Cadarian Raines, he is the most imperative to the Hokies' success. His ability to move down low and defend the post at a serviceable rate like former Hokie Deron Washington will be counted on. He must be able to roam on offense though as he's the Hokies' best penetrator. Without his motion the offense stagnates. He must also be allowed to roam offensively so that he can go to the offensive glass, where he's one of the best technique-wise, position-wise and effort-wise. He will rebound at a much better clip as a rover who crashes the glass than a low post player trying to outmuscle guys on the block. The thing Terrell must improve is scoring. He's a great ball-handler/decision maker at the 3, he rebounds his position and some, and he has quickly become a deadly 3 pt. specialist in the corner. But with JT Thompson out Bell must pick up a lot of the slack. He should see more minutes and hopefully by that logic he will score more points. He must keep his penetration up and even do it more often since the team's second best penetrator (and they really only have two) in Thompson went down. He is the Hokies best help defender, and may actually be the best perimeter defender over Hudson. It's close though. If Bell could eclipse the 10 ppg. mark it would be a godsend, but even an improvement up to 8 ppg. would be a big help.

Jeff Allen- Allen is crucial to the Hokies' success not just because of the limited number of bigs, but he is also the only Hokie big to have proven to be a real offensive threat. His number on the pecking order has gone down with the development of Hudson and Bell, much like the development of Jamon Gordon and Deron Washington hurt Coleman Collins' numbers. Allen needs to cut down on his fouls, especially fouls 35 feet from the basket going over the pick and roll. Unofficially he led the nation in that category a year ago. He led the Hokies in steals, and that was in part due to his aggressive play on the outside, but the Hokies need him on the floor at all times he's available. I would gladly trade in some steals for more floor time for Allen. Allen is an enigma. Sometimes he looks like the next "Rhino" (Craig Smith (and a more athletic version too)) and at other times he looks like he isn't playing for anything. Consistency is an issue that will work itself out with more floor time, but Jeff is way too experienced to keep committing silly fouls. Especially with the Hokies' lack of depth down low and his foul history, teams will try to exploit that and go after him. I know Jeff dropped in points, and although I would like to see him get back up over the 13 a game mark, I would much rather see his minutes, effort and rebounding increase in that order.

Victor Davila- Davila is a project down low, and I don't think we're out of the woods there yet. In fact, I don't know if we'll ever be out of the woods. The good news about Victor is that he's a lot like Kendrick Perkins. Perkins doesn't take shots that are out of his range and he knows his role. Davila is the same way plus a a jump hook that makes Kendrick Perkins shot look like...well, what it is (a 6'10" 280 lb. grown man hurling a basketball at the rim as hard as he can from 5 feet out or less). The bad news is that Victor is a lot like Kendrick Perkins. Yes, I know what I said. He struggles to catch the ball in the post with consistency. I cannot tell you how many passes went off his hands from nice feeds. He improved in that area, but he still has hands of stone. The way to counter that is to do something NBA scouts teach offensively limited big men like Perkins, or in our case Davila, to always play with their hands up ready to catch a pass should it come. This prevents the surprise of offensively limited, low basketball IQ bigs receiving a pass and not being able to move his hands of stone up to the ball in time and look like an uncoordinated oaf as the ball sails out of bounds off of his hands. Perkins has yet to master it, and Davila won't just learn it overnight either. The bad news is that Davila is nowhere near the defender Perkins is, BUT he is learning to use his body to prevent bigs from posting up too close to the basket like he was as a freshman. The more he bangs down low the better we are. If Davila can provide the slightest scoring increase and some more rebounding, I would be ecstatic. He will be playing more minutes, so stats increases should be expected. Also an improvement from the charity stripe would do wonders for our version of hack-a-Shaq.

Erick Green- Erick was the guy I was looking at to step up and stand out of the group of freshman. He did that well when he got his first career start for an injured Malcolm Delaney in Cancun against Seton Hall. Green was efficient and did just a good enough job to help the Hokies win, although he fouled out on a mis-assessed foul that should have been called on Davila but was not communicated correctly between the officials. Unfortunately that little glimmer of hope was the high water mark for Erick. To say that he struggled shooting is to say that President Obama is mildly concerned about healthcare reform. Erick went through one of the worst shooting slumps I have ever seen! He went 0 for 17 and I actually think it was even 18 at one point over the course of the season. He's rangy, he's an above average defender, but without improving his shot he's a liability on the floor. He has good form, so it was kind of surprising to see him struggle to that extent to say the least. Erick must also get better at running the point. If we want to move Delaney off the ball (which is a MUST), Erick will have to learn the sets better and how to run them to set up the offense. He will be key in both moving Delaney off the ball and spelling him this season. Any increase in offensive production is a bonus. I would expect a little over an assist and a half a game and an increase of a little over a point based on an increased shooting percentage would be expected.

Manny Atkins- Really it's difficult at the moment to project who the more likely impact wing backup is; Manny Atkins or Jarell Eddie. Eddie is probably the more talented of the two, but Atkins has a year on him and played more down the stretch as the primary backup wing. Seth stresses defense so if he feels like either player is deficient in that area, they are the more likely to ride the pine. I think that both Atkins and Eddie can contribute in that Atkins can play down to the 2 and Eddie can play up to the 4. I was impressed with Atkins improvement and maturity on the court as a freshman. He still has a long way to go, but he's a promising player. He is a good shooter and can find the open space in a defensive scheme. He is intelligent and willing to drive for a bucket. He has long arms and moves well laterally. He protects the rock and is a steal master. If there are areas he could improve they would be rebounding his position and keeping the ball a little closer to his body when he is in the open court. Sometimes he has a tendency to let the rock get too far outside his pocket, which led to a good percentage of the very few turnovers he did commit. A scoring boost will come, but Manny must still improve at the stripe. The sample size wasn't enough to really evaluate him on, but the more he gets to the line the more I expect that number to rise. You just kind of get the feeling Manny is going to be a good player. Looking at it, his stats are almost identical to Terrell Bell's freshman stats. If he improves THAT much watch out.

Ben Boggs- Ben played some key minutes in some key games early in the season, but as the year progressed he was the odd man out in the backcourt. Ben is a solid player who doesn't do many things wrong, so you won't mind having him on the court because he limits his mistakes. BUT, Ben is not a player who is going to win you games either, so it's a balance. Greenberg claims that Ben didn't see the floor because of matchups, but it was probably a combination of that, Ben's defense and Manny Atkins' emergence. If you asked me, I would redshirt Ben and play Paul Debnam in the 2-3 minutes that Ben figures to get this year. With Debnam's energy, enthusiasm and experience, I feel like he could contribute as well or better than Ben right now. Ben has apparently been working on his mid-long range shot, which is good because it is a gaping hole in his game. But he must also improve his footwork defensively and know how to get open in the sets working off of screens. Since I don't expect Greenberg to do what I just suggested, expect more of the same from Boggs.

Cadarian Raines- Raines' progression is one of the biggest keys to this team. After struggling with injuries and conditioning last year, Raines will be called upon to play BIG minutes, presumably as the backup 4 AND 5. His defense was stellar last year, bodying up in the post and blocking shots at a torrid rate. He just like Allen and Davila has to watch his fouls. He must work on his footwork on the low block offensively AND defensively. He does need to assert himself more offensively, but not by forcing it. At times last year in blowouts when the second unit was on the floor I felt like Cadarian would be fed the ball and miss a a shot, and either via an offensive rebound or on the next possession they would try to establish him again, and again. It felt like they were doing exactly what they were doing, which was playing catch up with Cadarian's offensive game from the time he missed. So he must improve offensively, because I think as his time balloons we'll see his productivity on the boards increase, but efficiency is important. There aren't too many coaches with a place on the floor for bigs who shoot 35% from the field. If Cadarian could give us 5 points and 4 rebounds like the Davila sophomore campaign, it would be huge!

Paul Debnam- My expectations for Paul are just pretty much off the court. As I mentioned above it is unlikely that Paul sees much time, which is what you'd expect for a walk-on, but it's Paul's influence off the court that we're counting on. Let's hope that he's a leader like we've heard that he's been in the past and is another voice in the locker room that's willing to help the younger players get better. it seems like because he sees so little time, everything he tries to do is a highlight play. I know he's trying to make the time memorable in blowout wins and he does charge the fans up in doing it, but doing simple things like taking care of the ball (he had 3 turnovers in just over a minute against Richmond in '08-'09) would go a long way.

Jarell Eddie- Going into the pre-season it appeared that Jarell would have the luxury of being the 3rd or 4th option at the SF position, but with the injury to JT Thompson and Jarell's talent level, he will be pushed into heavy action earlier than expected. From reading his prospect strengths and weaknesses on Scout.com and just basically what I've heard about him in general he's a very solid all-around guy who is kind of a jack of all trades but a master of none. He is very good from mid-range. I really think that he has to be better than just good all-around to be ranked where he was though, so I'm expecting something of his to really jump off the page from day 1. Scout lists poise as one of his strengths, so let's hope that they are right about that. It would really help to have a freshman with the confidence and ability to help this team. Since there is no true go to scorer on the bench, I think Eddie has to assume this role. Really if he could contribute 5 ppg. the Hokies will be singing his praises.

Tyrone Garland- Tyrone is a straight up scorer. He's not a point guard, he's never going to run an offense, so the best thing we could hope for from Tyrone is that when Malcolm leaves the game and he gets just a smidge of time (maybe even alongside Erick Green who we hope will not be struggling on O again, but he may be) and just puts up shots. If Tyrone really makes any impact it will be through his offense, but something tells me he is not seeing the floor next year.

Allan Chaney- In the unlikely event that we get Allan Chaney back sometime this season it will be important for him to eat up minutes and give us a different look to our bigs. Remember when I said we would have the best big-man rotation in the nation? That was in part due to all of the different skill sets our big guys possess as individuals. Chaney can apparently add a mid-range and MAYBE even long range jumper (ala Channing Frye who was just encouraged to take 3's in Phoenix and learned that he was a pretty damn good 3-pt. shooter) as well as banging down low. A return of Allan Chaney in ANY capacity would lead me to believe the Hokies will be going deep into March in the NCAA Tournament. If he comes back healthy and in shape, expecting 6.5 ppg. and 4 rebounds isn't out of the question, and more importantly fill a need to get us back to a deeper 4-man rotation.

My Predictions

I am really fretting the loss of two of our big men, or else I would be lauding us and talking us up in the pre-season like everyone else. I'm not saying we don't deserve the talk or that we're not due, BUT I am using caution when talking about this team and trying not to buy into them TOO much. We have a good team, and if we stay healthy the rest of the way we will be an NCAA Tournament team. But I'm not about to say that we will have it free and easy like some people think we will. Ultimately I see us finishing around the 23-win mark and the 11 to 12-win mark in conference. I see us falling out of the NCAA Tournament either in the Round of 32 or the Sweet 16 based on who we have at that time. If Allan Chaney is healthy and playing though, or if Logan Thomas decides to join (If you know Logan, see him around campus or have him on facebook, don't be afraid to ask and prod and try to get him to suit up this season! He can play! Don't be above doing that!) that could bump us up to the Elite 8 range. We're dangerous in March for any team, now we just have to make it there to prove it!

REGULAR SEASON RECORD AND ACC FINISH: 23-6 (12-4) 2nd in the ACC and automatic berth in the NCAA Tournament from winning the ACC Tournament by upsetting Duke in the Championship Game

Oh, and check out these kickass Maroon Monsoon T's. Shout out to my friend Steve in the Cassell Guard. Told ya I'd get them in here!

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