Good evening, Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) fans. Welcome to your 2012-2013 preview at Virginia Tech men’s basketball preview at All Sports Discussion. I always hope for a quiet offseason for the Hokies hoops program – one can hope right? Not quiet again!! Let’s begin this preview now!!
Seth Greenberg Terminated
After nine years, Virginia Tech fired its men’s basketball coach, Seth Greenberg. This preview is not going to be about Greenberg’s termination (this topic has been discussed ad nausuem). Greenberg took over the program from Ricky “Program Bomb” Stokes. Greenberg advanced the Hokies to one NCAA tournament, five NIT births, and four winning ACC records. Under Greenberg’s leadership, Virginia Tech also defeated #1-rated teams three times during his tenure. ESPN’s College GameDay also visited Virginia Tech – a game in which the Hokies defeated #1 Duke. You can see more on Greenberg’s accomplishments here in Mark Berman’s article at the Roanoke Times. After his departure from Virginia Tech, Greenberg was hired by ESPN as a college basketball analyst.
The James Johnson Era Begins
On April 12, 2012, when James Johnson, Greenberg’s top men’s basketball assistant coach, left to Clemson, there’s no way that I thought he would be back. Well, that’s what happened – in May 2012, Johnson was hired as Virginia Tech’s men’s basketball head coach. And he knows he’s ready for the job. Johnson’s hire made sense because he has coached the existing players on the team – who were all excited that he was hired – and he knows the culture of Virginia Tech. Johnson hired three assistants, including Kurt Kanaskie, Mark Byington and Ramon Williams. Johnson also hired Andy Moore as his Men’s Basketball Director of Operations. Here’s a great take on James Johnson (who gets to coach at a place he loves) from Bill Roth. And, Mark Berman gives us a retrospective of James Johnson’s career.
Virginia Tech Player Personnel Status
Let’s get you up-to-date on Virginia Tech’s personnel status – and we’re going to cover player transfers (incoming and outgoing) and recruits here – I’m going to sound like an auctioneer here – here we go:
- One of Virginia Tech’s highest rated recruits ever, 6’9” forward Dorian Finney-Smith, transferred to Florida. Although he was at Virginia Tech for a short time, I can tell you that we will miss his athleticism – in a big way. He flies around the hoop – and I think he will be in the NCAA tournament in two years.
- 6’6” senior forward, J.J. Thomson (who already graduated from Virginia Tech), transferred to Charlotte to be closer to his daughter – and I would do that, too.
- Ty Garland, point guard, transferred to La Salle – we reported that first here at SCACCHoops.
- 6’9” forward – and Virginia Tech graduate – Allan Chaney, will play at High Point University this year. He has enrolled as a graduate student.
- 6’8” forward recruit, Marshall Wood, de-committed after Greenberg was fired – and committed again after Johnson was hired as head coach.
- 6’7” power forward, Montrezl Harrell de-commits and commits to Louisville. That’s a big loss – because the Hokies always have, like, no, zero, nada depth in the post – and Harrell is, well, a terrific player.
- Coach Johnson decided to hold onto the scholarships for the 2012-2013 year – he made the decision that the Hokies were going with eight scholarship players for the year. But he’s had some wins for 2013. For example, Adam Smith from UNC-Hollywood (h/t @techhoops) is transferring to Virginia Tech – he’ll have to sit out for a year. Johnson also scored a big win in securing the commit of 6’4” wing guard, four-star rated recruit, Donte Clark – who also had suitors in Memphis, Miami, Georgia, and Tennessee. Johnson also addressed a need to recruit some depth in the post by landing 6’11’ center, Trevor Thompson, out of Indiana – and we’re pretty sure his recruiting ranking will go up after he completes a year of post-graduate school. And finally, 2015 point guard recruit, Warren Craft, also committed to Virginia Tech (Johnson clearly swung for the fence early there and won). And the most recent addition is Ben Emelogou, a recruit from Texas, who can play both guard positions.
Virginia Tech’s Key Starter Losses
- Dorenzo Hudson (6’5”, 220lbs., Shooting Guard) – For an offensively challenged team, we’ll miss his 11 points per game.
- Victor Davila (6’8”, 245lbs., Power Forward/Center) – For a team that has always had depth issues in the post, we will miss Victor
Virginia Tech’s Projected Starting Five
While this is a young starting five (one senior), this is still a group with some experience. I trust this unit on the floor – and many have seen some positive gains in the off-season.
- Erick Green (6’3”, 185 lbs., Senior, Point Guard) – The best possible news of the off-season was the return of point guard, Erick Green. Many thought he might depart after Greenberg was fired. When Johnson was hired, though, he decided to stay. We know Erick Green is the undisputed team leader – he is going to score (he scored double figures in 30 of 31 games last season) and dish out the assists – he’s a baller and would be 1st team all conference in several other leagues not named the ACC. Ed Isaacson, the proprietor of NBA Draft Blog, wrote this terrific article in SLAM about Green – Isaacson is, of course, right – Green is the undisputed team leader in the Hokies locker room. Here is what Jon Rothstein of CBS Sports said on Twitter about Green: “Virginia Tech’s Erick Green has a chance to be the best PG in the ACC. Needs to have a memorable year for Hokies to be competitive.”
- Jarell Eddie (6’7”, 218 lbs., Junior, Small Forward/Wing Guard) – Jarell Eddie plays the wing forward in Virginia Tech’s offense – and he has great size for a forward – might have one of the best looking pure shots I’ve seen at Virginia Tech since Dell Curry (if you are looking for an ACC fantasy basketball draft pick, look no farther than Eddie). The Hokies will need his points and leadership – and he’s going to deliver – we’re going to have a few games this year where his size will cause mismatches and we need to take advantage of these situations.
- C.J. Barksdale (6’8”, 232 lbs., Power Forward/Small Forward) – C.J. Barksdale was a top 100 recruit coming out of high school – and he will be asked to play at a higher level this season. Here’s what is good for him– he will be permitted to play through occasional mistakes and doesn’t have to worry that he will be take out of the lineup. Expect his offensive production, his defense, and his rebounding to pick up this year. Here is what Jon Rothstein of CBS Sports said on Twitter about Barksdale: “Word out of Blacksburg is that C.J. Barksdale is a different player than last year. Much more physical. Need to anchor middle 4 V Tech.” Count me in as excited!!
- Cadarian Raines (6’8”, 239 lbs., Junior (R), Power Forward/Center) – I’m hearing excellent off-season reports about Cadarian Raines. From what I understand, Raines is in the best shape of his career. And we’re going to need him to be our defensive presence in the post.
- Robert Brown (6’5”, 190lbs., Sophomore, Shooting Guard) – Robert Brown had surgery in the off-season on his foot. The good news is that he was recently cleared to practice with the team.
Virginia Tech’s Bench
The bench? Well, it’s pretty thin – in numbers and experience.
- Marquis Rankin (6’1”, 170 lbs., Sophomore, Point Guard) – Marquis Rankin is one of the few players on our bench that has some playing minutes – he’s going to be asked to spell Green – and ensure that there is no drop off.
- Marshall Wood (6’8”, 210 lbs., Freshman, Power Forward/Small Forward) – How big of a leap can Wood take this year? In an ideal world, this guy would have a redshirt on. He doesn’t – and Virginia Tech is going to ask him to produce – this is a big unknown right now.
- Joey van Zegeren (6’10”, 225 lbs., Freshman (R), Power Forward/Center) – I could be wrong about this, but I think van Zegeren will be the Robert Krabbendam of the 2011‑2012 recruiting class. I don’t see him getting much playing time at all this year unless everyone else (including Wood) is in major foul trouble.
Virginia Tech Schedule Highlights:
- Virginia Tech has a game at University of North Carolina at Greensboro on November 19. These games are good because they have the Hokies a chance to play on the same floor that they will during the ACC tournament.
- Right after Thanksgiving, the Hokies take on Appalachian State. The Fighting Appies are picked 6th in North Division of the Southern Conference.
- On November 27, Virginia Tech takes on Iowa in the ACC-Big 10 Challenge.
- Shortly after, on December 1, Virginia Tech hosts Oklahoma State for a return game. Hokies are going for their 4th win over the Pokes in 2 years (yes, that seems weird to me, too).
- We see somewhat of a return of the Black Diamond Trophy as Virginia Tech takes on West Virginia this year in Morgantown on December 8.
- As part of the Las Vegas Continental Tire Bowl tournament, Virginia Tech will play host to Georgia Southern and Mississippi Valley State. Then the Hokies will travel to Las Vegas and playing in two evening session games on December 22 and 23. The three other teams competing in the evening sessions will be Colorado State, Bradley and Portland.
- To closeout our non-conference season on December 29, Virginia Tech takes on BYU (in what is a return game) in Salt Lake City, Utah. This will be a nice break during the holiday season for some of us to get our college basketball fix on television.
- While we have an 18-game ACC schedule (up two games from last year), the Hokies don’t have home-and-home series with all of the top teams. The Hokies will play home-and-home series with Maryland, Wake Forest, Virginia, Duke, Clemson, Georgia Tech, and Miami. Virginia Tech will host Boston College and Florida State – and will travel to North Carolina and North Carolina State. So, you see here that there are four road trips to Tobacco Road. Of those home games, I see Virginia Tech playing three (maybe four) NCAA tournament teams, including Duke, Miami, and Florida (and the big maybe is Maryland). Virginia Tech has two weekend home games as part of its first 10 ACC home games.
What Do We Know Going Into 2012-2013? What Needs To Be Answered?
- We do not know much about Coach Johnson’s style of play except if you play for him, you better work on defense. Johnson is not going to play you if you loaf in that area. Due to our lack of roster depth, I expect to see the Hokies play a ton of zone defense this year. Opposing teams with better than average outside shooting (e.g. BYU, Duke) should take advantage of our zone defense – teams that don’t have a sharp shooter might have difficulty with Virginia Tech’s zone defense, which is more active than most. Given this emphasis on hard-nosed defense, can we stay out of foul trouble?
- Johnson says Virginia Tech will run a little more on offense. Count me in as skeptical on that – the Hokies have a very serviceable starting five (they are pretty good – and I trust the unit on the floor) – but they are going to get gassed at times due to our lack of depth. Van Zegren is a project – Wood is a true freshman – Rankin is the only bench player with any real serviceable playing minutes. That means – you might see six players with any real meaningful playing time – maybe seven as Wood gets more comfortable on the court later in the year. And the Hokies will press and trap, too? We’ll see – not that I wouldn’t enjoy a faster tempo – I would for sure. Check out our Q&A with @HereGoJayAgain on Virginia Tech’s first men’s basketball practice under James Johnson right here.
- Who has a breakout year for the Hokies? Green is our Batman – who is going to be Robin? My money (not a gambler – don’t take this as gambling) is on Jarell Eddie. We need a second consistent scorer.
- Will we get consistent production in the post? This is the first season that Cadarian Raines has been healthy (knock on wood) – and C.J. Barksdale sounds like he has improved vastly. Need double figures from our post presence. James Johnson seems to think that Marshall Wood will push for a chance to start.
- There’s always a guy on a Virginia Tech’s men’s basketball team that’s willing to do the dirty work… to play hard defense on the opposing team’s offensive wizard… to run for all the loose balls… and to dedicated themselves to rebounding. In 2010-2011, that guy was Terrell Bell. We didn’t have that guy in 2011-2012 – does that guy reappear in 2012‑2013? That’s a big question there.
- With a rotation of six to seven players (maybe eight if project, Joey van Zegeren gets some minutes), will this team be gassed by the middle of the ACC season? Can we stay injury-free which is so important given this team’s lack of depth?
- Will this team get up for every game? We had difficulty in prior years under Greenberg with motivational issues – up for some games – not up for others. For some reason, I feel better about game readiness under Johnson’s leadership – the guys like him and want to play for him.
- Last year, I predicted the Hokies ACC record at 4-12 and - I was right on the money – exactly. This year, despite the lack of roster depth, the Hokies are going to have a better ACC record. You know why? As I mentioned earlier, Johnson has his players trust (Green would not have come back to Virginia Tech if Johnson was not hired). There will be no distractions in the locker room this year. While the roster is not full of scholarship players, this is a close-knit group of players. Team chemistry is big – and often underrated. Johnson will have this team on the same page – something Greenberg was not able to do last year – and that’s going to make a big difference in wins and losses – can’t call this an NCAA tournament team, but they are for sure going to be better than last year. We’ll call the Hokies a potential NIT team for now.
Later this week, I’ll have a Virginia Tech Men’s Basketball Mass Media and Blogging Twitter directory for those who cover Hokies hoops. Thanks for checking out the preview and Go Hokies!!