Since it's a bye week and basketball season is fast approaching, I thought I'd get a Q&A to get readers caught up on the hoops team before the season gets underway. The Hokies open the 2008-09 campaign Nov. 14 against Gardner-Webb, the same team that opened last season by beating Kentucky in Rupp.
Tech Hoops is your best stop for Hokie basketball news and opinion. Niemo from Tech Hoops was kind enough to answer a few questions about the basketball team.
Niemo is a member of the VT Class of '98. He attended every home basketball game during his 4 years at VT and has attended 94 straight VT football home games (every game since '94). He was honored during the final basketball game of his senior year as Tech's Super Fan of basketball. The Hokie Bird make the award on behalf of Athletic Director Jim Weaver. Niemo was known to be in the front row of every home game with his familiar red afro hairdo.
Niemo currently lives in NOVA and moonlights as the Senior Writer for TechHoops.com.
Q: What does it say about the coaching abilities of Seth Greenberg that he had such a young Hokie team on the verge of the NCAA Tournament last year?
It says that Seth is a fantastic defensive coach. He is able to instill his defensive philosophy in any team of his and get them defending at a high level. That is what has allowed VT to be so successful in an offensive minded conference.
Seth is also a great motivator and does a good job of getting his team hyped for every game. I think unc is the only ACC game last season where you can say the team was flat.
Finally, Greenberg is a strong in-game coach. He is able to make adjustments based on how the game is going. How many times was VT down early last year, but found a way to come back? I think he outcoaches a lot of guys in this league.
Q: I wasn't a big AD Vassallo fan until the end of last season and into the ACC and NIT tournaments when he really impressed me with his play and leadership. Is he ready to be the leader of this team as a senior this season?
Everyone always assumes the "senior(s)" have to be the team leaders, but much like I said with Deron last year, A.D. is simply not a "leader" other than by example. He is not going to be the verbal guy who pushes everyone and challenges everyone. That is going to be Malcolm Delaney. That is a tough role for a sophomore to fill, but considering he had to do it a lot last season, Malcolm seems ready.
Q: The Hokies will miss Deron Washington and will be looking for a slasher and a shut-down defender this year. Can Terrell Bell fill both roles? I have high expectations for the sophomore.
Terrell Bell, J.T. Thompson, and Dorenzo Hudson will be battling to fill Deron's minutes, but mostly J.T. and Terrell since Dorenzo is more of a 2 (shooting guard). J.T. and Terrell bring different qualities to the table. Both are very athletic, but J.T. is the better slasher and rebounder. Terrell is more of a spot-up shooter. On defense, Terrell is similar to Deron in that he has the quickness to guard a 2 or a 3. J.T. can guard a 3 or a 4 for sure. The question will be can he guard shooting guards. If so, I think Thompson will see more minutes because someone is going to have to guard the other team's 2 while A.D. is in. A.D.'s lack of quickness means he is more suited to guards 3's.
Q: Who is going to be Tech's point guard this year?
Malcolm Delaney is still the quarterback of this team, though they wanted him to play some more 2 this year. The reason I don't think he can is I'm still not sold on Hank Thorns. I'm not sure he is ACC-caliber. But VT didn't bring in any guards in this class, so that leaves Tech with only Delaney and Thorns as guys that can run the point. Thorns is the better defender but he really brings nothing to the offensive end while Delaney is a fantastic scorer and does hustle on D. I'd expect to see Delaney in there at point about 2/3s of the time and Thorns the rest. If Hudson (and/or Bell) develops at the shooting guard spot, that could really eat into Thorns's minutes.
Q: What kind of production can we expect out of freshman Victor Davila this year?
I am sure he will see minutes but how many, I'm not sure. He has an ACC-body already. A lot will depend on how Lewis Witcher and Cheick Diakite play. Jeff Allen, Davila, Witcher, and Diakite will be the guys getting the minutes at the low post spots. Obviously, Allen will play as much as he can and stay out of foul trouble. Witcher has the inside track right now on getting the most time at the other spot, so it is up to Davila to earn minutes away from him. Personally, I think he will get a good bit of time early to show what he can do, but see his minutes dwindle once ACC play starts unless he can surpass Diakite or Witcher.
Q: What are your expectations for this team? Where will they finish in the ACC and what kind of postseason do you expect?
I started at VT in '94. I saw us win the NIT in '95, go to the 2nd Round of the NCAA in '96, and the 2nd Round of the NCAA in '07. But I think this could be the best team the Hokies have had in the last 15 years. They have talent and depth, except in terms of ballhandling. The offense has looked much better from the end of last year into the preseason this year. We know the Hokies will play tough D, but if the offense can start looking un-Stinespring-like, look out. But the teams I mentioned above were very senior-laden. This squad might be a year or two away. The problem is they don't have Vassallo past this year.
The ACC Media picked Tech to finish 6th. I think that is the lowest VT could possibly finish in conference. More likely, I think the Hokies will finish 4th. VT could finish anywhere from 3rd to 6th in the regular season and will definitely earn a NCAA Tournament bid.