The Hokies culminate their preseason training in less than two weeks, and here is an idea of what to expect throughout the year.
Nov. 14th vs Alabama State
Nov. 17th @ Jacksonville State
Nov. 21st vs VMI
Nov. 24th vs North Carolina A&T
Nov. 27th vs #7 Iowa State
Dec. 1st vs Northwestern
Dec. 5th vs Arkansas Pine-Bluff
Dec. 9th @ Radford
Dec. 13th vs Lamar
Dec. 19th vs Grambling State
Dec. 22nd vs St. Joseph’s
Dec. 30th vs. West Virginia
Even though this is usually the "boring" portion of the schedule, there are still a few enticing matchups, namely Iowa State and West Virginia. Both teams qualified for the NCAA tournament last season, with Iowa State losing to UAB in a major upset and West Virginia making a nice run before being manhandled by Kentucky in the Sweet Sixteen. Iowa State specifically will be a very good early season test for the Hokies’ defense, as they ranked 14th in the nation in PPG. Forward Georges Niang will also prove to be a difficult test as he shot an efficient 46.1% from the field and 40% from downtown. It will be interesting to see how the Hokies defend against star players this year, because they were not very good at all in this area last year (See: Okafor, Jahlil).
Finishing two spots behind Iowa State in the Big 12 standings, West Virginia is the last team the Hokies play before they start their ACC slate. West Virginia also showed potency on offense, scoring just under 74 points per game. They field a fast and athletic team who do a great job of forcing turnovers, as they also averaged 10.2 steals a game. More importantly, their physicality on defense can get in the heads of their opponents so this young Hokies’ squad will have to also be strong mentally to pull out a win in this matchup.
Other than those two games, there really aren’t any juicy matchups.
NC State (Jan. 2nd)
The first ACC test for the Hokies isn’t exactly the easiest. The Wolfpack finished 7th in the ACC standings with a 22-14 record and reached the Sweet Sixteen last year, losing to Louisville. Defensively, they dominated the paint last year, finishing 36th in rebounds and blocked 5.3 shots a game, good for 14th in the country. Interior defense and offense is something the Hokies had to improve on, and this game will show exactly how much improvement was made.
#6 UVA (Jan. 4th, Feb. 9th @ UVA)
Obviously the biggest rivalry game on the schedule, the second ACC game the Hokies play is against Virginia. Coming in at sixth in the USA Today Coaches’ Poll, UVA was taken to the brink last year at Cassell, even though the teams were on polar opposites of the ACC standings. The Cavaliers lost star Justin Anderson to the NBA, but they have more than enough talent to compensate for that loss. Last year’s game was a defensive struggle, and I expect more of the same this season as Virginia boasted the best defense in the nation last year and they should be strong in that area this season. The two rivals meet about a month later in Charlottesville, where the score was more lopsided towards UVA last year. Virginia Tech hasn’t won this matchup since January 2012, so you can best believe the Hokies are eager to stop this losing streak as soon as possible.
#5 Duke (Jan. 9th @ Duke)
Last year’s game at Cassell against Duke showed the offensive potential of the Hokies, and that is something to look forward to this season. The NBA draft hit Duke hard, losing superstars Justise Winslow, Devin Booker, and Jahlil Okafor to the pros. But it is a Krzyzewski coached team that acquired top-tier recruits this year so there won’t be a huge drop-off. The Hokies were able to hang with Duke due to their phenomenal shooting (shot 54.5% from 3 point range), and they may need to do the repeat that if they want a chance to win this game. Oh, and Duke is the reigning NCAA tournament champion in case you forgot.
Wake Forest (Jan. 13th @ WF, Feb. 28th)
One of the easier conference foes the Hokies face this season, the Demon Deacons finished just 13-19 last season, failing to stand out offensively or defensively. Their backcourt depth has recently weakened after they suspended two guards from their program, so the Hokies would be wise to attack with their own guards (assuming the suspensions aren’t lifted by then). Either way, both are young teams trying to reach their potential this year, so maybe the matchup isn’t enticing but comparing the potential for each team will be interesting when these games roll around.
Georgia Tech (Jan. 16th @ GT)
It wasn’t a good season for Tech schools in the ACC last season, as Georgia Tech finished just one game ahead of the Hokies. Like Wake Forest, the Yellow Jackets aren’t anything special talent-wise. Virginia Tech actually won this game last year at Cassell 65-63, but it wasn’t a pretty game by any means. The Hokies will see former player Adam Smith (VT’s leading scorer) on the other side of the court as he transferred to Georgia Tech to be closer to home. I anticipate a Hokies win, since they are more talented and have another year of experience under their belt.
# 19 Notre Dame (Jan. 20th @ ND)
Last season, the Fighting Irish were mainly carried to the Elite Eight (and won the ACC tournament) by Jerian Grant. Unfortunately for them, he entered the NBA draft, and Notre Dame will lose a lot of offensive production as a result. However, they do have a very good player who looks to become a star, in Demetrius Jackson, who averaged 12.4 PPG last year. The Hokies were blown out by 25 in this game last season, but the two teams figure to be more evenly matched. If Notre Dame can figure out how to score efficiently without Grant, they could easily blow out the Hokies again, but I don’t anticipate them being as good so this game should be closer this year.
#1 North Carolina (Jan. 24th)
Even though the Hokies should be much improved, I can’t see them winning this game. UNC is just too talented offensively, where they scored nearly 78 points a game, which ranked 17th in the country. The Tar Heels also shut down the Hokies offense last season, giving up just 53 points. UNC has also kept its young roster intact, which poses even more of a problem for the Hokies and the ACC in general. And the preseason AP Poll ranked the Tar Heels #1 in the country so this is a team to watch out for come March.
Louisville (Jan. 27th)
The Hokies’ offense will face yet another test in this game, as they face a tough Louisville defense. The Cardinals ranked 8th in Defensive Rating, giving up just 90.7 points every 100 possesions. However, they did lose Montrezl Harrell, who posed a lot of problems for opponents with his above the rim skillset. But Louisville is still well coached and even though they aren’t as talented as years past, it will still be a difficult game for the Hokies to win.
Pittsburgh (Jan. 31st @ PITT, Mar. 2nd)
The Hokies can thank Adam Smith for winning this game last year at Cassell. The Panthers finished 19-15 last year under head coach Jay Wright, who has shown to be an effective leader. They return a strong forward duo of Mike Young and Jamel Artis, who averaged 13.5 and 13.9 PPG respectively and were the top two rebounders on the team. Virginia Tech will most likely be competitive in this matchup, especially with an improved frontcourt of their own, and I expect them to win one game against the Panthers.
Syracuse (Feb. 2nd @ SYR)
A few years ago, Syracuse was a lock to compete in the NCAA tournament, but last year did not live up to their expectations. The Orange lost star Rakeem Christmas to the NBA who led their team in points, rebounds, and blocks so their frontcourt will be weakened. However, after giving their young talent an extra year of seasoning, Syracuse should be much improved this season, as they try to get back to winning games come March. The Hokies played well in their last meeting, losing by just two points in a 72-70 battle in Syracuse. Both teams will should be much improved from last season, so this will be a fun game to watch.
Clemson (Feb. 6th)
Clemson finished with an 8-10 record in the ACC, and don’t seem to have the talent to improve upon that record. Jaron Blossomgame is a good player, but there isn’t much depth behind him. The Tigers, like the Hokies, have not had much success in qualifying for the NCAA tournament, failing to make it the past four years. I anticipate this being a very winnable game for the Hokies, especially since they seem to be a much deeper team than Clemson.
Miami (Feb. 17th @ MIA, Mar. 5th)
The Hokies played the Hurricanes three times last season, and were outplayed badly every time. In fact, the Hokies scored 60 points just once in three matchups. The Hurricanes finished with a 25-13 record last season, and are definitely trending upwards due to their talented roster. Retaining young talents Angel Rodriguez, Tonye Jekiri, and Sheldon McLellan is huge for them, and they will probably make some noise in the second tier of the ACC. Miami is not a good matchup for the Hokies as we learned last year, so these games will probably end up in the L column at the end of the season.
Florida State (Feb. 20th)
The Seminoles finished ninth in the ACC standings after going 8-10 in conference play this past season. Stud guard Xavier Rathan-Mayes returns after posting a solid 15 points per game last season which led the team. Florida State also has a phenomenal recruiting class coming in led by Dwayne Bacon, who figures to have an immediate impact. The Hokies lost this game by 8 last year, and since the Seminoles are more talented this year than last year, preseason indications point towards FSU doing their annoying chant after they win this game.
Boston College (Feb. 23rd @ BC)
Boston College was not good last season, winning just 4 ACC games. This year, that number doesn’t look like it will improve. The Eagles’ main offensive threat, Olivier Hanlan, was drafted by Utah in June, and BC doesn’t seem to have any way to replace him. Their recruiting classes the past couple of years haven’t been good which has diminished the talent level on the team. With an improved and more talented roster, the Hokies should win this game.
Overall, the ACC remains a tough, tough conference for basketball. Although the Hokies have improved, it may not show in the win column during conference play due to the strength of their opponents. However, a realistic goal for this squad is to qualify for the NIT tournament and win a game there, as it remains unlikely that the Hokies have the talent to compete with the big dogs in the ACC and the country.