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2021-22 Virginia Tech men’s basketball preview

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The Hokies should be one of the better teams in the ACC this season.

NCAA Basketball: ACC Tip Off Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports

For Virginia Tech football fans looking for a positive distraction, we have some good news. No, Justin Fuente is still the head football coach — for the time being.

It’s college basketball season. And that means Virginia Tech head coach Mike Young and his talented team are set to tip-off this week. The Hokies host Maine on Tuesday night at Cassell Coliseum.

So, what do we expect from the Hokies this season?

If you had asked me this question in the spring instead of now, I would’ve said the Hokies had the potential to open the season as a top-10 team — certainly the best in the ACC. However, the departure of guard Tyrece Radford certainly changed things.

Radford, a 6-foot-2 guard from Baton Rouge, transferred to Texas A&M late in the offseason, putting Young in a difficult spot to replace him. Any of the top transfers on the market had already found new homes. So, Young would instead rely on Nahiem Alleyne and Hunter Cattoor even more and the expected growth of second-year guard Darius Maddox.

Radford wasn’t a good shooter, but he could score, rebound and defend. Despite his size, he was Virginia Tech’s best rebounder over the last two years.

The Hokies also lost a pair of talented guards in Joe Bamisile and Jalen Cone to the NCAA transfer portal. Bamisile didn’t play much as a true freshman last season, while Cone was a sharpshooter off the bench. While his scoring went up last season, he played in only 15 games and shot 35% from 3-point range. As a freshman in 2019-20, Cone shot 46% from beyond the arc.

Virginia Tech could have certainly used both players this season, especially Cone’s instant offense off the bench.

Longtime starting point guard Wabissa Bede graduated, and while he wasn’t an offensive threat, the Hokies will significantly miss his ability as an on-ball defender. Bede’s absence will be difficult to replace on the defensive side of the floor.

7-foot center Michael Durr transferred to Virginia Tech and reneged on that pledge shortly after, ending up at Indiana. Durr isn’t going to remind anyone of Ralph Sampson, but his size would’ve been a boost for the Hokies, allowing Justyn Mutts and Keve Aluma to play their natural positions.

Anyhow, let’s talk about the 2021-22 Hokies.


The starters

G (5) Storm Murphy — 6-foot-0, 185, SR: Murphy played under Young at Wofford and developed into a high-scoring point guard for the Terriers. He is a massive improvement over Bede on the offensive end, which should help replace some of the offensive production Tech lost with Radford and Cone. While he is more known for a famous viral video, Murphy can play.

G (4) Nahiem Alleyne — 6-foot-4, 185, JR: Alleyne improved throughout the year last season and could develop into an All-ACC player. He averaged 11 points and shot almost 41% from beyond the arc. Alleyne’s length makes him an effective defender, too.

G (0) Hunter Cattoor — 6-foot-3, 200, JR: Cattoor has developed into a solid contributor for Mike Young and the Hokies. He carried the Hokies on the offensive end in stretches last season and possesses a good outside shot. While it is not set in stone he starts, it makes the most sense. He averaged almost nine points and shot 46% from the 3-point line.

F (22) Keve Aluma — 6-foot-9, 235, SR: The return of Aluma is what should excite Virginia Tech fans the most. A first-team All-ACC performer, Aluma looked like the best player in the league for much of the season in 2020-21. He can rebound, defend and shoot. He is best employed at forward, instead of playing exclusively in the post.

F (25) Justyn Mutts — 6-foot-7, 230, SR: Mutts averaged close to 10 points and six rebounds per game last season. He was even better late in the season and the Hokies expect more big things from Mutts. He and Aluma comprise a formidable frontcourt.


The top reserves

F (1) David N’Guessan — 6-foot-9, 205, SO: N’Guessan is perhaps the most hyped player on Virginia Tech’s roster. No one has more raw talent and Young is expecting a big jumper from the athletic big man this season. If N’Guessan provides what the Hokies believe he can, he becomes an X-factor. He has length for days, has developed an outside shot and can defend multiple positions.

C (21) John Ojiako — 6-foot-10, 245, JR: The Hokies don’t need Ojiako to deliver a double-double each night, they would just like him to be a defensive presence and provide some quality minutes off the bench. If that happens, the Hokies are happy. Ojiako is still fairly new to the game, so the upside is real.

G (13) Darius Maddox — 6-foot-5, 185, SO: Maddox is intriguing. A former four-star recruit, Young was complimentary of Maddox throughout the offseason and believes he will be a major part of this year’s team. Young believes Maddox can shoot and use his size and athleticism to be a plus-defender.

G (3) Sean Padulla — 6-foot-1, 190, FR: Young doesn’t plan to redshirt the freshman point guard from Oklahoma. Padulla gives Virginia Tech two true point guards, which is essential in college basketball. There isn’t a lot of pressure to play a lot as a freshman with Murphy around, but Padulla should get plenty of valuable experience. He is certainly the point guard of the future.

C (15) Lynn Kidd — 6-foot-10, 240, SO: The Clemson transfer is expected to provide depth this season. Young loves Kidd’s size and believes he will be beneficial immediately in conference play. Kidd can really help Virginia Tech on the defensive end. Just don’t expect him to score a lot, at least initially. Young is hoping one of Ojiako or Kidd becomes a valuable part of the rotation. If both contribute, that’s even better.

F (11) Jalen Haynes — 6-foot-8, 250, FR: Haynes was a quality addition to Tech’s recruiting class. He averaged a double-double playing for one of the top prep schools in the nation. Young envisions Haynes finding a role somewhere as a freshman.


Expectations

I can see the hesitation to consider the Hokies the top team in the ACC. But, that’s perfect for Young. The Hokies lost some decent players, but there are enough coming back to make the Hokies a legit top-25 team. Aluma, Mutts, Murphy, Cattoor and Alleyne a nice core.

This will be Young’s most experienced team at Virginia Tech and the Hokies have a nice balance of shooting, rebounding and defense. While the ACC media loves Duke and North Carolina — what’s new there — the Hokies will quietly remain in the background, winning.

This Virginia Tech team should contend for an ACC championship. The Hokies have that type of upside.

There are concerns about experienced depth, but if N’Guessan and Maddox develop as Young believes they will, and one of the big men provide quality minutes, this team is dangerous.

Hokie Nation, get out and support the Virginia Tech men’s and women’s basketball teams this winter.