When Virginia Tech joined the ACC, people around the conference expected them to be a competitive drag.Â And they have been, at least in the sense that it's been a drag as they've moved up past several other schools.
Last year, despite considerable youth and a recruiting class which didn't get huge raves, Virginia Tech posted a considerable surprise, finishing fourth in the conference, and finishing ACC play with a push for greatness against UNC in the conference tournament: they lost, 68-66, but took UNC absolutely to the wire before yielding on a remarkable Tyler Hansbrough put-back with almost no time left on the clock.
The loss also killed their tournament chances, but they made a respectable show in the NIT before losing to Mississippi.
|40||A.D. Vassallo||G/F||6' 6"||216||Sr.|
|34||Cheick Diakite||C||6' 9"||217||Sr.|
|15||Terrance Vinson||F||6' 8"||215||r-Jr.|
|21||Lewis Witcher||F||6' 9"||218||Jr.|
|32||Paul Debnam||G||6' 3"||195||Jr.|
|0||Jeff Allen||F||6' 7"||240||So.|
|3||Tom Amalfe||G||6' 0"||170||So.|
|10||Hank Thorns||G||5' 9"||160||So.|
|23||Malcolm Delaney||G||6' 3"||170||So.|
|33||J.T. Thompson||F||6' 6"||210||So.|
|14||Victor Davila||F||6' 8"||245||Fr.|
This year, all those freshmen are sophomores, and confidence is all the rage in Blacksburg.
Tech's strength is in the backcourt, with three perimeter players, all of whom are solid.
Thorn was a revelation last season, and one of the better late pickups for an ACC team in recent years.Â He is only 5'9", but he's an excellent point guard.Â His biggest problem is size and strength. He can't do anything about his size, but expect him to bulk up. If we're Seth Greenberg, we've got him watching Muggsy Bogues film all summer.Â You can, of course, post up a 5'9" guard, but he gets to reverse the advantage by pressuring you on the way down the court.Â If he can improve his outside shot, he's going to be a major pain for opponents.Â He's already a nervy little guy.
Fellow soph Malcolm Delaney has nerves as well.Â He showed them against Maryland, when he tied the game 66-66 with a big three pointer, and then played shutdown defense on trash talking Grievis Vasquez as well to deny him his own clutch shot.
He averaged 9.6 ppg as a freshman, numbers you can expect to rise this season.
A.D. Vassallo is the upperclassmen in the backcourt, and should be the team's leader. He's likely to average 20 ppg. and could carve a place in Tech history to match the messages he carves in his hair.
Tech really needs another guard to emerge.Â Thorns and Delaney are the natural backcourt, and Vassallo can play at small forward and can rotate back, but that's not deep enough.
And Tech is about a player short in the frontcourt, which means they'll probably need Vassallo at forward a fair amount.
Jeff Allen is a solid big man, even though he's only 6'7".Â He averaged nearly 12 ppg as a freshman and 6.5 rpg.Â He's going to be better as a sophomore, if for no other reason than being much better conditioned.Â But it won't be just that. He's a talented player and a guy who should steadily improve.Â In a perfect world for Tech, he emerges as a young leader to compliment Vassallo (and possibly the backcourt).
Tech has a number of options to pair him with, including sophomore (yet another sophomore) 6'6" J.T. Thompson, but if he starts, Tech might go 6'7", 6'6", and 6'6" across the frontcourt, and you can push undersized too far.
Lewis Witcher and Cheick Diakite, both 6'9", have had mixed careers to this point in Blacksburg.Â There's no particular reason to expect them to make big leaps this late in their career (junior and senior, respectively).
That may encourage Greenberg to turn to freshman Victor Davila.Â A little bigger than Allen, Davila is not overly fast, but he knows how to play big and wide. He's probably a more skilled player than Allen and can play away from the basket.
If he isn't ready, and if Witcher and Diakite can't step up, the Hokies have a serious problem. We're guessing they find a way to make it work.
This program, like all programs reflects the coach's personality.Â Greenberg's competitiveness and his resourcefulness shine through his players, and when he gets a crack at the so-called big teams, he shines.Â It's pretty clear that, like Lefty Driesell before him, knocking off the ACC's dominant powers motivates Seth Greenberg like nothing else.
And this should be said, too:Â too often, many ACC fan bases act as if they are God's gift to fandom.Â Tech fans have injected a level of nastiness back into ACC basketball, and it's a good thing, too.
This program tends to play to the level of competition, which is good when they visit Tobacco Road, but not that great when they see lesser opponents.Â There's no particular reason why Tech lost last season to ODU, Richmond, Penn State, or, given their pathetic season last year, N.C. State.Â If they won the first three of those games, they would have made the tournament.
It's a sort of competitive schizophrenia, and if they wish to make the jump to the next level, they need to start winning the games they're supposed to win.Â Â It's worth noting that they lost three conference games by a total of six points, which would have put them solidly in third place, and, again, in the tournament.Â If they had won all six of those games, they would have finished with 27 wins, and nobody gets left out in March with 27 wins.
Nonetheless, Greenberg deserves a lot of credit for building Virginia Tech into a program that must be respected. He can go toe to toe with the ACC's better teams, and he's proven to be an effective recruiter, even if he has to take more chances, and miss more often, than some of his more established conference rivals.
His team has been markedly inconsistent, though, and until they master the art of being predictable, they'll bob up and down the standings and worry about their prospects in March.