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ACC Preview #11 - Virginia Tech

The Hokies are primed for a big year.

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NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-First Round-Virginia Tech vs Alabama
Mar 15, 2018; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Virginia Tech Hokies head coach Buzz Williams reacts on the sidelines against the Alabama Crimson Tide during the second half in the first round of the 2018 NCAA Tournament at PPG Paints Arena. 
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Seth Greenberg guided Virginia Tech into the ACC and they took on his personality: brash, occasionally nasty and willing to fight a little dirty and he always seemed to take things personally.

We didn’t much like him or his program.

It’s hard not to like Buzz Williams. Or his program, which is a lot of fun by any standard.

Williams tends to end up with guard-oriented, quick teams that like to shoot threes.

An oversimplification to be sure, but essentially correct.

However, they do have Kerry Blackshear, and he’s a solid if not spectacular big man.

A 6-10, 250 lb. center, Blackshear can bang with anyone in the ACC. He averaged 12.9 ppg and 5.9 rpg. He should give the Hokies enough inside offensively and should anchor the defense too.

As usual with Williams though, the heart of his team is elsewhere.

He returns seniors Justin Robinson (6-2), Ty Outlaw (6-6), Ahmed Hill (6-5) and Chris Clarke (6-6). He also gets sophomores Nickeil Alexander-Walker (6-5), PJ Horne (6-5) and Wabissa Bede.

Where do you start? Robinson, Hill and Alexander-Walker are all really, really good.

Robinson is a quick, gutty player and as point guard the on-court leader. He shot well too, hitting 39.8% from three point range. He’s a solid passer so with the threes spreading the court, and he’s good at getting inside defenses and hitting guys for easy basketball.

Hill shot well too, hitting 49% overall and 41% from deep. He’s basically a spot up shooter who at times can really heat up.

Alexander-Walker shot 44.9% overall and 39.2% from the bonusphere. Like Hill he’s a good shooter when he’s set but he’s probably going to be better as a penetrator as his game evolve. He’s only a sophomore. Look for significant improvement from him.

The best three point shooter though might be Outlaw.

Like Blackshear, Outlaw has had injury problems and missed last season and got a sixth season from the always unpredictable NCAA. He would have really cranked up the Virginia Tech bomb squad last season. He shot nearly 50% from behind the line in 2016-17.

Chris Clarke missed a chunk of the prior season but bounced back last year to play in 33 games He could start or come off the bench - doesn’t much matter. The guy just hits his team like a shot of B-12. He’s probably not an NBA player but he’s a tremendous college athlete. Quite simply, he’s a winner and one of our favorite ACC players. He’s plug and chug - plug him in and he just gets it done.

Virginia Tech brings in five freshmen, four guards and one guy who can probably play guard.

Isaiah Wilkins, 6-3, Jonathan Kabongo, 6-4, Brendan Palmer, 6-3, Tyrece Radford, 6-2 and Landers Nolley, 6-7.

Nolley is probably the best of class. He’s athletic and shoots well and his father played college ball for LSU when Dale Brown was doing his best to get himself institutionalized.

Kabongo, whose brother Mick played at Texas, is yet another talented kid from Toronto which has lately been one of the great talent beds in all of North America. He’s a point guard so odds are he’ll be a backup this year for Robinson.

Wilkins is out of Winston-Salem’s Mt. Tabor and averaged 22 ppg as a senior. He’ll probably have to wait too as so many guys are ahead of him. Same will probably go for Palmer and Radford though you never know when a guy will exceed expectations and come on early. None of them are needed though which is great for the team.

Virginia Tech has no issues on offense unless the three point shot isn’t falling. That’s hard to see though as they have so many guys who can hit them. That in turn opens the floor and lanes to the basket.

Offense really isn’t the problem. Defense could be though.

For all of his offensive brilliance, Williams doesn't really do defense, certainly not with the same intensity as Tony Bennett, Brad Brownell, Leonard Hamilton or Coach K.

It’s a real concern for the Hokies but it’s probably manageable. Most nights they’ll outscore the opponents anyway.

Frankly, we’re not sure why they’re not more highly rated. It’s an explosive team offensively and loaded with experience.

If the Hokies improve on defense and show they can handle tight spots in games, it’s almost exactly the profile you would see for a team that makes a deep run in March.

In our opinion, this team is seriously underrated.

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