It was a fast and impressive start to the Hokies 2019-20 season. Even if November did end on a down note. The Mike Young era at Virginia Tech opened with a road victory against Clemson and a four-match home sweep. The end of that stretch saw the Hokies hit a school-record 21 three pointers, as the team racked up 100 points against Delaware State.
Then came the big one. With a young roster, against #3 Michigan State, in Hawaii, Tech controlled the game and pulled off an early statement victory. Important for both Coach Young and this year’s hopes of an NCAA tournament bid.
The following night the Hokies came up against a red-hot Dayton, before closing out the tournament with a second loss to BYU. That last one seems like a footnote, given the 11:30 pm ET tip-off. Now it’s time to recalibrate as Virginia Tech heads home for five games in December. Let’s take a look at what’s ahead.
Showdown with Duke
Evansville beat Kentucky at Rupp Arena. Which kicked off what has quickly developed into a year of upsets. That was topped by Stephen F. Austin defeating Duke in OT - at Cameron Indoor Stadium. The Lumberjacks were the first non-conference team to win at Duke in 20 years.
The Blue Devils opened the year with a win over Kansas in Madison Square Garden, and otherwise have looked as expected. Dangerous, but young. A team that can beat anyone on any given night, but prone to a few slip ups during the season. Sound familiar?
Duke will have to travel to Michigan State just three days before arriving in Blacksburg. The Blue Devils may come into a sold out Cassell Coliseum with two losses in three games. Expect an entertaining affair that comes down to the final minutes.
Non-conference four-pack (the sequel)
After Duke, the Hokies host Chattanooga (12/11), Garner-Webb (12/15), VMI (12/21), and Maryland Eastshore (12/29). So far none of those programs have secured big wins this season. Chattanooga were decent against Tennessee, and Garner-Webb pushed UNC for a half, but VT has the talent to see these games out.
VMI are 3-6 and Maryland Eastshore are winless. The perfect games to improve Mike Young’s system and prepare for what will be a long ACC second half of the season.
With Cassius Stanley sidelined with an injury, the Hokies will have the edge on the perimeter. The question is how they deal with 6’10” Vernon Carey Jr. inside the paint. With both squads being young, give the edge to a rested Virginia Tech, with Cassell making the difference.
The Hokies should then run the rest of the month without much trouble - unless injuries hit. That would leave Tech at 11-2 after the first two months of the season. Even with a loss to Duke, VT would be 10-3. A great way to open the year and head into the full slate of conference play.