There are signs of life in at least one of the basketball programs at Virginia Tech and it's coached by a former Seth Greenberg assistant. No, not James Johnson, I'm referring of course to Dennis Wolff and the women's basketball program.
Wolff was viewed as a curious hire in the spring of 2011. He served as the head basketball coach for 15 seasons at Boston University where he posted a record of 247-197 and made two NCAA Tournament appearances plus three NIT berths. That's a solid resume for a head coach. The problem was, Jim Weaver's pick to replace Beth Dunkenberger had never coached women at any level and it took away a valuable assistant from Greenberg's staff.
Tech won just one conference game in Dunkenberger's final season at the helm, and one could make a convincing argument that the program was in even worse shape than the men's side of things when Johnson took over unexpectedly.
After a rough first season that saw only seven Hokie victories, the results have steadily improved under Wolff.
This season, despite posting just four conference wins Virginia Tech managed one major upset and had a number of near misses.
The Hokies shocked everyone in a 50-47 victory against No. 11 North Carolina February 23 in Chapel Hill. Tech dropped a 72-71 overtime decision against No. 14 North Carolina State and fell just shy of an epic comeback in a 74-70 loss against No. 4 Duke.
Of the Hokies' 15 losses this season, eight have come by 10 points or less. Tech has improved on defense ranking third in the conference in points allowed (62.9 PPG) behind only No. 2 Notre Dame and No. 8 Maryland.
Clearly, there have been some tangible improvements but Tech loses its two best players in seniors Uju Ugoka and Monet Tellier. Ugoka led the Hokies in scoring (18.3 PPG) and rebounding (9.5 RPG) while pulling down 15 double-doubles. Tellier (10.3 PPG, 5.9 RPG) is a playmaker with a toughness and drive that can't be taught. She ranks ninth on Tech's list of all-time scorers.
Fortunately, the Hokies have a strong recruiting class coming in. Brielle Blaire is rated the No. 72 overall recruit in the country by ESPN HoopGurlz and the No. 17 forward. Khadedra Croker is a center/power forward from Suffolk, Va. As a junior she averaged 15.1 points, 13.5 rebounds and six blocks per game en route to District Player of the Year honors. Rachel Camp is a high-scoring guard from North Carolina where she averaged 28.4 PPG for her career while twice earning NCPreps 2A All-State honors.
They'll join a number of talented young players including breakout freshman guard Vanessa Panousis. The Australian finished the regular season second on the team in scoring with 12.7 PPG and dished out 118 assists while also setting the Tech freshman record for made three pointers.
A pair of sophomores in 6'3" Taijah Campbell and 6'1" Hannah Young finished second and third respectively on the team in rebounding and will return in the frontcourt. Freshman Tara Nahodil played in only seven games this season, but coming out of high school she was ranked the 20th best post player by ESPN HoopGurlz and at 6'4" is the tallest player on Tech's roster.
The Hokies will have a nice mix of size and talented guards next season. Dennis Wolff hasn't won a whole lot of games in his tenure, but he's succeeded in a number of areas.
He's overseen a major cultural shift in the program to a more disciplined style of play and significantly upgraded the level of recruiting—two areas that suffered during the previous regime.
New athletic director Whit Babcock has some tough choices to make regarding the future of the basketball programs at Virginia Tech, but it appears his choice regarding the head coaching situation is much easier on the women's side.
The 12-seed Hokies took on 13-seed Clemson in round one of the ACC Tournament Wednesday and Tech fell short 69-56 in Greensboro, NC.
The Hokies and Tigers played in Blacksburg less than a week ago with Tech winning 74-48 on senior day, but it was a much different story this time around. Second team All-ACC selection Uju Ugoka got in foul trouble early and Clemson raced out to a big lead that saw Tech trailing 37-20 at the half.
Ugoka rallied to lead Tech with 20 points and 10 rebounds, but the Hokies could never get closer than nine points down.