Expectations. The one thing that makes even the most sane fans go insane. We've seen the effect of high expectations for the football team depress every single member of Hokie nation, and it Frank-ly sucks. But fear not, there is something to look forward to this winter: the Hokies basketball team.
Since Buzz Willliams took over as head coach, the Hokies have built the foundation of a successful program. He has brought his attitude and desire to win from Marquette, which has been instrumental for the Hokies' locker room. The basketball practice facility is littered with quotes meant to motivate and inspire the players to put in the time and effort in order to win. Buzz has planted in his players' heads that winning is based on attitude, and it has translated to the court. They play with heart. They show passion. They show toughness.
I had a rare opportunity to watch practice on Monday afternoon for an hour. Obviously, I can't get into specifics, but the one thing that stood out most to me was the intensity. Buzz's personality transfers to his players extremely well, so it's no wonder the players play with so much grit and determination on the court. It's why they put up a fight against Duke and Virginia, despite the noticeable talent gap. The players love Buzz and it shows during games.
Perhaps the most impressive attribute of the team comes down to expectations. The players don't listen to the media's or fans' expectations of them. Their expectations stem from within themselves, and from a coach who believes in them. They expect to win, or at least perform to their potential.
However, attitude and other intangibles can only take a team so far. Talent is the primary reason teams win games, and the Hokies under Buzz have done a good job recruiting talent. The Hokies' recruiting classes the past two seasons have been ranked 19th by ESPN, and the freshmen last season were the bright spot of the team. This year's recruiting class has the potential to be even better. Chris Clarke, Kerry Blackshear Jr., and Justin Robinson are all 4-star recruits who show plenty of promise.
As good as last year's class was, the Hokies still lacked depth, which hurt them defensively. In the front court, 6-7 Christian Beyer played significant minutes and posed problems for the Hokies. This year, both Satchel Pierce and Johnny Hamilton will be getting the minutes as big men, which will improve rebounding as well as rim protection. Offensively, they still need development but the Hokies will look to get their scoring from their back court.
The Hokies' offense last season was not very good. The Hokies took bad shots as the shot clock expired too often, and the ball was stagnant at times. However, they shot the ball very efficiently from three point range at a 38.9% clip, but with the departure of Adam Smith, I expect more of the scoring to come from inside. Seth Allen will also provide the offense with more playmaking ability than they had all of last year, and will provide plenty of open looks to teammates. Couple that with the development of Jalen Hudson, Ahmed Hill, Justin Bibbs, and Satchel Pierce, the Hokies should be much, much better scoring the basketball.
Now I'm not clamoring that the Hokies are going to be studs this season. They won't make the NCAA tournament. But there is promise and there should be progress. I expect the team to win between 15 to 17 games through their defense, which should be a strength of the team. This team is on it's way up, and I would not be surprised how high they go.