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ACC Preview # 8 - Virginia Tech

UNC | N.C. State | Wake Forest | Clemson | Maryland | Virginia | Georgia Tech

Among the expansion teams, B.C. has been one of the ACC's tougher teams, Miami has stunk, and, well, Virginia Tech has been Virginia Tech: athletic, capable, and maddeningly inconsistent.

They did make the NCAA Tournament last year, but were quickly bounced by Southern Illinois, which might sound like a joke, but the Salukis are no joke. But for Virginia Tech, that might be the high point for awhile.

After last season, Tech lost their starting backcourt, seniors Zabian Dowdell and Jamon Gordon, both excellent defenders. They also lost senior Coleman Collins, an occasionally brilliant big man.

Later, Nigel Munson, who was expected to become the next point guard, transferred. Backup big man Robert Krabbendam went back home to Holland to play what passes for pro ball there.

The freshman class was hit hard as well. 6-9 Gus Gilchrist backed out of his commitment after the awful events of last spring, saying he was no longer comfortable with the idea of being at Tech. Guard Darrion Pellum was denied by the NCAA. Guard Dorenzo Hudson may or may not be eligible in the second semester. J.T. Thompson, in a bit of bright news, was just ruled eligible.

Still, no matter how you slice it, Tech lost an awful lot last year, and their incoming class is less than what they had hoped for. It's not an encouraging formula.

But if anyone can find a bright side, it might be Seth Greenberg, who has done a fair job at Tech under difficult circumstances. Meaning?

Well, meaning this: it's not now and never has been a basketball school. They've had their moments, but not many, and the ACC is a tough league in which to rise.

Then toss in the personnel losses, much less the devastating shootings of last spring, and it just seems like it's too much for a normal person to absorb.

Greenberg, however, seems capable. We had to admire his performance after the shootings, when he was an absolute rock for a campus in crisis (he emerged as a much more noble character than football coach Frank Beamer, in our opinion)

When you put that on top of Tech's devastating season before last, when it seemed like just about everyone either had cancer or a family member did, when tragedies rolled over the team like waves at the shore, Greenberg was remarkable.

Being steady in a crisis is a great trait for a coach, but when things are consistently inconsistent, it's hard for anyone to excel. We're not big fans of Greenberg's occasional tantrums, but no one has been through more difficulties lately as an ACC coach, and we're not sure anyone could handle it as well. But while that's all admirable, it doesn't necessarily translate into winning games or recruiting wars.

Part of Greenberg's dilemma with his new kids is that he has to take more chances than the average ACC coach, since Tech isn't as established as the other schools, Miami excluded, and Miami can sell beach culture and has a prime location for recruiting the Caribbean.

So it's not surprising that some of his recruits have flamed out.

But he's also revealed a certain ability to birddog guys who are under the radar: Dowdell, Gordon, and Collins were all guys who had interesting careers, and the same could be said for Deron Washington and A.D. Vasallo, who will likely be the heart of this year's team.

Washington had one of the great ACC plays of last season when he jumped over Greg Paulus to score. But despite an immense athleticism, he's been erratic. He has the tools, the question is just applying them. He'll have every chance to do it this year, and should improve his stats across the board.

Vassallo was also hit-and-miss last season. He's athletic enough to play at a fairly high level, and he can get his shot on a roll at times. But his offense wasn't terribly efficient (shooting only .441 from the floor), and despite averaging 11.1 ppg, he never seemed to really click consistently.

Tech will build around those two and after that, things get sketchy quickly. 6-9 soph Lewis Witcher got 13.1 mpg, but didn't make a big dent statistically, with perhaps offensive rebounding his biggest contribution, but that somewhat diminished by shooting .450%, which is awful for a guy who lives (or at least should) around the basket.

No one else really did much last season.

Among the freshmen, Tech welcomes 6-7 Jeff Allan, who could become a pretty good player, Terrell Bell, a 6-6 kid out of Stone Mountain, Ga., Tom Amalfe, a 6-0 guard from New Jersey, 5-9 Hank Thorns out of Vegas, 6-2 Malcolm Delaney out of Baltimore, and Thompson, out of Monroe, NC, via Hope Christian Academy.

In other words, half the roster is freshmen.

We suspect that's going to be very tough for Tech. They also don't have an established big man, with only three guys over 6-7, and none of them have played heavily, except for Wicher's 13 mpg. They also have to identify a starting backourt, both of whom could be freshmen. And they have to get a coherent team defense when nine guys either didn't play much last season or were still in high school.

It's going to be tough. We usually try to see the bright side in any situation, but unless Tech can solve a lot of things in a very short period of time, Seth Greenberg's stoicism will get one more workout.