Monday, November 29, 2010

The 76 Classic

I'm back after a long weekend of turkey and sports! I have to say that Thanksgiving dinner with my wife's family was delicious, and I ate way more than a human being is meant to eat. We're still trying to kill off the leftovers. It was a pretty exciting weekend for Virginia Tech basketball as the Hokies took on Cal State Northridge, Oklahoma State, and UNLV in the 76 Classic in Anaheim, CA. VT handled Northridge pretty easily with a 72-56 win, then gutted out a comeback W against OK State 56-51, and finally dropped a stinker in the championship game against UNLV losing 71-59.
  • I don't have too much to say about the game against Northridge... Tech needed to win that game convincingly since the disparity of talent definitely favored the Hokies, and for the most part they did win convincingly. The Hokies were active on defense and forced 25 turnovers, which was nice to see since that is supposed to be Tech's identity under Greenberg. Malcolm Delaney shot the ball well and had more assists than turnovers (finally!)... although he still gave the ball away 5 times. Erick Green went down with a calf strain on a dunk attempt (where he still managed to put the ball in the basket), and had to sit out the rest of the tournament. This proved to be a pretty big loss for the Hokies as freshman Tyrone Garland was forced to deal with the pressing defenses of OK State and UNLV, and didn't do too well, although he was effective against Northridge. Defensively, Green is a much better play than Garland and his presence was missed every time an opponent blew by Garland.
  • You know what, I'm not going to go game-by-game... I'm just going to give my impressions for the weekend. The first is that somebody needs to go find Dorenzo Hudson. He was missing this weekend... I think he must have let some other dude from the Local Y play in his place. The guy wearing Zo's jersey was extremely ineffective all weekend and couldn't hit a bucket from distance to save his life. Whoever that guy was, he didn't seem to have any confidence in his shot.
  • Malcolm Delaney had a bit of a coming-out party against UNLV... it was his first dominant performance of the season. Too bad nobody else showed up for it. Delaney was 7-9 on 3-point shots and carried the Hokies when everything else seemed to go wrong. For the weekend, Delaney was 18-33 (54.5%) from the field, 10-17 (58.8%) on 3-pointers, and shot 17-22 (77.3%) from the foul line. That's dominant, especially considering the volume of attempts. He did average about 5 turnovers per game, and that's still way too high. However, overall, he was by far the best player for the Hokies in the 76 Classic.
  • Victor Davila was pretty decent, which was a nice change of pace. He didn't have a great game against UNLV, but when you look at his weekend as a whole, he was 9-12 from the field and averaged a little over 5 rebounds per game. The shooting that we were hoping to get from Davila last season seems to have arrived... let's just hope it hangs around for a while. That dude really needs to learn how to shoot free throws in games though. He shot 50% on the weekend. I said it once and I'll say it again: I have no idea how a guy with that nice of a shooting stroke at the foul line can fail so miserably.
  • Jeff Allen. I'm getting pretty sick of his shenanigans. I think we know now that he is never going to overcome his fouling ways. He gets too hyped up when everything is breaking down for the Hokies and commits dumb fouls. That's just what he does. He gets frustrated and reaches in to try to steal the ball or power his way through a grounded defender, and I think that's always how it's going to be. VT's ability to defend and rebound down low rests almost solely on this guy, and he's way too erratic to count on.
  • I was happy to see Terrell Bell get his act together when we needed him the most... against OK State and UNLV. He got hit with some hideous foul calls that he didn't earn, but for the most part he managed to overcome that and be a nice compliment to Delaney. Right now I would definitely call him the 2nd most important player on the team. He really fills up a stat sheet.
  • After a hot start, Jarell Eddie has definitely cooled off. I think he feels a little overmatched right now and it's showing in his shot selection and knack for picking up dumb fouls. When he is open, he has been able to hit his long-range 2's, but not his 3's. Granted, he's being asked to play the power foward position pretty often, and that's just not his spot. Eddie's production might be helped by Cadarian Raines' health and a home game or two (remember, VT has only played one so far!).
  • Speaking of which, Raines is definitely not ready to contribute as much as he needs to. It looks like Greenberg shut him down for most of the weekend and only gave him a few minutes here and there. During that time, Raines picked up a smorgasborg of fouls and didn't add too much.
  • I don't know if I like Greenberg's rotations right now. I think Davila and Allen are playing together too often, which occasionally leads to both players being pulled off the court due to foul problems. Cadarian Raines or Jarell Eddie needs to be complimented by either Davila or Allen so that VT has at least one offensive presence in the post. Man I wish we had either Allan Chaney or JT Thompson this season... they would have helped out so much. There's no use crying over spilled milk though.
  • All-in-all, the Hokies got a decent win against Oklahoma State, but failed to capitalize again on winning a game that the selection committee will value highly. They really need to beat Purdue this week. That's all there is to it... this has to happen.
  • I think the win against Oklahoma State could be a big X-factor for the Hokies down the stretch. They have a fairly easy out-of-conference schedule, with their only truly tough game coming against Gonzaga at the end of the month. There other two tests in the out-of-conference schedule are Alabama and Stanford... both winnable games for the Cowboys. As for their Big 12 schedule, they have a good one. They only play Kansas State, Kansas, and Missouri once... they get K-State and Mizzou at home. They get Texas and Baylor twice... plenty of chances for them to pick up a big win here and there. In short, I think Okie State has an outside chance to finish as a top-25 team in the RPI, and I have a hard time seeing them finish worse than 50th in the RPI. This should end up being a quality win for VT.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

It's Time to Give Thanks

Thanksgiving isn't just a holiday where a tribe of Native Americans taught the Pilgrims how to grow corn and squash, thus fueling them to last through the winter and destroy the tribe later (Nice job Squanto). I may be taking some liberties with that statement, but Thanksgiving is also the holiday where we traditionally give thanks for all the good things in our lives. I choose to thank Jesus Christ for those things, and I thank him with fervor... or at least I should. I have a good life and a lot for which I should be thankful. I have a great family including a wonderful wife who loves me. I have some awesome friends who bring joy to my life, too. I have a roof over my head, food in my stomach, and clothes to wear. I follow sports teams that continually break my heart, but at least I have the ability to watch them on TV, listen to them on the radio, and over-analyze them by reading and writing blogs. I have it pretty good... and my guess is that if you're reading this then you probably have a computer and that means that your life is pretty good too. What are you thankful for? From the looks of things, I would say spandex and Smittens: a lethal combination!

The only thing that kind of bums me out about the Thanksgiving holiday is the food. GASP! Could I really have just said that? Yep, I really dislike traditional Thanksgiving food. If I had it my way, Thanksgiving would be a holiday that mixes Italian, Mexican, and Thai food into one glorious meal that spans every culture... assuming there are only 3 other cultures besides "American". I really wouldn't know.

I also think that Thanksgiving is missing a mascot. Christmas has Santa Claus. Easter has the Easter Bunny. Halloween has the Devil. What if Thanksgiving had a gigantic purple turkey named Fester who brings wholesome foods to all of the good children who wish to fight childhood obesity? Fester enters your house through the basement while your family is sitting at the table eating Thanksgiving dinner, and he leaves these healthy gifts in your laundry basket. If you don't have a basement, it's widely-believed that he enters through the toilet. Fester's legendary love for techno music and beef stroganoff means that if you set up a little dance area for him complete with his meal of choice, he will bless your home's traditional Thanksgiving Night dance party with flax muffins and malt liquor. Do you believe in the magic of Fester on Thanksgiving? Even at 30 years old, I still believe!

Happy Thanksgiving everybody, and go Hokies! Gobble gobble gobble gobble gobble gobble gobble gobble gobble gobble gobble gobble gobble gobble gobble gobble gobble gobble gobble gobble gobble gobble gobble gobble gobble gobble gobble gobble gobble gobble gobble gobble gobble gobble gobble gobble gobble gobble gobble gobble gobble gobble gobble gobble gobble gobble gobble gobble gobble gobble gobble gobble gobble gobble gobble gobble gobble gobble gobble gobble gobble gobble gobble gobble gobble gobble gobble gobble gobble gobble gobble gobble gobble gobble gobble gobble gobble gobble gobble gobble gobble gobble gobble gobble gobble gobble gobble gobble gobble gobble gobble gobble gobble gobble gobble gobble gobble gobble gobble gobble gobble gobble gobble gobble gobble gobble gobble gobble gobble gobble gobble gobble.

Monday, November 22, 2010

That's What I'm Talking About!

Virginia Tech ended up beating UNC-Greensboro 92-70 yesterday, and I'm a happy camper. This was the kind of beatdown that I expected VT to lay on Campbell. Here are some notes and thoughts from the game:

  • Malcolm Delaney only had 6 foul shots, and 4 of them happened after the game was way out of hand. He was 8-12 from the floor with 23 total points. What that tells me is that Delaney was trying to score and wasn't as worried about drawing fouls.
  • Dorenzo Hudson finally got his act in gear and scored 17 points on 6-10 shooting.
  • Jeff Allen also put in 17 points and grabbed 7 rebounds. Frankly, there weren't a lot of rebounds to be had in this game because UNCG turned the ball over so much. The Spartans handed the ball over 29 times, almost doubling VT's total of 15.
  • A nice surprise in this game was Erick Green putting up 10 points and 5 steals. He looked tough defensively and was really moving his feet to stay in front of his man. I'd definitely like to see more of this once we play some tougher teams.
  • Victor Davila also looked better. He was boxing out well, grabbed 6 rebounds, and scored 9 points. He had a solid block on a baseline jumper and somehow managed to grab 3 steals. His free throw shooting still leaves something to be desired. I have no idea how a guy with a shot that smooth ends up being a 50% foul shooter.
  • Unfortunately, this win doesn't mean too much. UNC-Greensboro probably won't be a factor in their league play, and I expect them to have one of the hundred worst RPI rankings in the country when the season is finished, for sure. All this game did was boost our players' confidence, which might help more than we think.
  • The next game for the Hokies is Thursday, i.e. Thanksgiving Day, against Cal State Northridge. This game is part of the 76 Classic tournament in Anaheim, CA. VT should roll this team... they are really not very good. They have already lost to UCLA and the Cal Golden Bears (they're not just good, they're golden!). They have one win against mighty Vanguard, who I think is a division 2 team. Their top player is 6'5" guard/forward hybrid Rashaun McLemore. McLemore is from Richmond, VA (shout-out!), but I have no idea how he ended up out in CA. Maybe it's a misprint... because of the movie "Coach Carter" with Samuel L. Jackson, I know that there's a city near Oakland called Richmond. Rich-what? Richmond! Rich-what? Richmond! It would be an easy typo to put a "V" instead of a "C" as the first letter in the state abbreviation. Otherwise that's one heck of a recruiting trip by the CSN coaches.
  • If VT wins against CSN, they will play the winner of the DePaul-OK State matchup. Neither team has played a decent opponent yet, so it's tough to predict the outcome, but you'd have to think the Cowboys are the favorite. The Blue Demons have already lost to Western Carolina, which probably makes their fans wretch at the thought of it. You probably won't find this very shocking, but I think I'd rather VT had to play OK State. Not just because I expect them to finish higher in the RPI rankings, but also because DePaul's new coach is Oliver Purnell, whose pressure-packed full-court defense usually gets picked apart by the Hokies, and then somehow Purnell's team always climbs back into the game and challenges for the win.
  • OK State's big men are pretty tough. Virginia Tech will definitely need Cadarian Raines for that game to provide some depth, so I hope he's healthy. OK State has 3 players who account for 2/3 of their total rebounds. To compare that to VT, our top 3 rebounders contribute about 54% of the total. 6'6" forward Marshall Moses is the high scorer for OK State with about 17 points per game and also chips in 8 rebounds per game. I'd imagine that Terrell Bell will be guarding Moses, and that should be a good matchup. VT needs to be competitive on the boards to challenge the Cowboys, although they don't have a lot of depth at the post positions either. If Delaney and Hudson can be intelligent about drawing fouls in the lane (especially against Darrell Williams), that should really hurt the Cowboys.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Ladies and Gentlemen, your 2009-2010 Hokies!

That was an extremely gut-wrenching game to watch yesterday. Virginia Tech ended up losing a slugfest to Kansas State by the final of 73-57. From the final score you might infer that Kansas State owned VT, but the truth is that the Hokies were competitive for 3/4 of the game and then fell apart after one extremely questionable foul call against Jeff Allen and one extremely questionable non-call that would have favored Malcolm Delaney. Those fouls really ignited a crowd that had been dead for most of the game. The call against Allen was especially brutal because it sent him to the bench with 4 fouls instead of sending K-State star Jacob Pullen to the bench with 4 fouls. Foul trouble for our bigs (all two of them + Terrell Bell) plagued us in a game that the referees called tighter than Katy Perry's clothes.

Look, let's face it, it was an extremely high mountain to climb. When referees call a game that closely, there's going to be a ton of fouls, and that is always going to hurt the team with no inside depth. VT was outrebounded 46-37 and gave up 5 more offensive boards than they were able to grab. There were large portions of the game where VT had to play with no true post players. VT gave up 17 turnovers and only forced 15. Malcolm Delaney turned the ball over 9 times. Brutal. Both teams shot TERRIBLY (with K-State going a shocking 14-28 from the free throw line), but the Wildcats easily bested the Hokies in shooting percentage. When you add up those things, you get a loss. Every time.

There are certainly some good things to take away from this game. Jarell Eddie continues to impress in his rookie season. That guy is going to be a star in the ACC by his junior year... I'm calling it now. Eddie led the team with 7 rebounds and 3 blocks while playing mostly out of position in the post. Victor Davila was active in going for rebounds and wrestled a few away from K-State players. Jeff Allen was a presence down low when he wasn't in foul trouble (but he made a bone-headed flagrant foul by swinging his elbow into Wally Judge's head on a rebound). Dorenzo Hudson was 2-4 on 3-point shots and Delaney was 8-9 on his free throws. That's probably about all of the positives we can muster though.

This brings me to the title of this post... this team (albeit through only 2 games) looks EXACTLY THE SAME as the team that failed to make the NCAA tournament last year. I guess that shouldn't be a huge surprise since we're basically looking at the exact same players. You just have to swap out JT Thompson for Jarell Eddie (a fair swap... Thompson is definitely a better defender, but Eddie seems to be a better scorer and ballhandler at this point). I really need to stop buying into offseason hype. It gets me every season for both basketball and football. I hear things like, "Malcolm Delaney is really working on his ballhandling and distributing this season. He's not going to be a volume shooter for us like he has been in the past," and for some reason I believe it. I hear that Jeff Allen is going to cut out the dumb fouls, and I believe it. I hear that the team is going to feed Victor Davila in the post and let him show his offensive game, and I believe it. I hear that Erick Green is practicing with much more confidence and is a lot stronger, and I believe it. I guess this is what riles me up the most about yesterday's loss: it's not that our team failed to compete, because man they played their butts off and should be commended. It's that maybe the players on this team have already reached the ceiling of their talents. The junior versions of Delaney, 'Zo, Allen, and T-Bell are as good as those players will ever get, and we can expect the exact same types of games from them that they gave us last season... and if that truly is the case, then we are NOT going to be a safe inclusion to the NCAA tournament on Selection Sunday.

But fear not Hokie fans, there are two reasons to keep hope alive. The first is hope for our current season... Virginia Tech gets to play two surefire top 25 teams at home in Duke and Purdue. Cadarian Raines should be back for those games and will give the Hokies some much-needed depth in the post. One win in either game would give us the signature win that we need on our resume. The second hope is for the next several seasons. Seth Greenberg is really recruiting well, and the players that are coming in next year have the chance to be the best Virginia Tech basketball team that has ever existed. It's exciting to know that our team is not doomed if this year's class doesn't perform up to expectations. There are still many years of Hokie dominance ahead!

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Comments on Campbell v. VT

Not good enough. I said in my last post that I would be disappointed if Virginia Tech didn't end up winning by at least 20 points, and VT only won 70-60. So I am disappointed.

Let's start with the negatives:
  • Nobody besides Terrell Bell shot very well in that game. VT is going to have to shoot the ball better to have a chance at beating K-State since we will probably get killed on the boards.
  • Victor Davila was atrocious. He fouled out after 30 minutes of play against a very weak frontcourt. He did not attempt a single shot and was 0-3 on his free throws. The 5 rebounds are decent, but we need more out of him.
  • Tech turned the ball over 19 times versus only 17 for Campbell. I am sure first-game jitters were a part of it, but Campbell should have been even more nervous playing in the Cassell. 19 turnovers is not acceptable.
  • VT got really lazy on the defensive end during the second half, especially towards the end of it. You've got to play 40 minutes.

And now on to the positives:

  • Jeff Allen had an excellent game with 11 points and 14 rebounds. He also led the team with 5 assists, 4 blocks, and 2 steals. He filled up the stat sheet and was aggressive on both ends of the floor while only picking up 3 fouls in the game.
  • Terrell Bell also had a fantastic game and filled up the stat sheet. He had 17 points, 8 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 blocks, and a steal. He also went 2-5 on his 3-point shots. Great production from T-Bell.
  • Jarell Eddie looks like a player. The freshman was 2-5 in the game with 6 points, but he was aggressive and scrappy and showed some ability. Greenberg wants to up his minutes from 15 in this game to 20-23 in the next game, and I definitely see why.
  • The Hokies pounded the glass in this game with 16 offensive rebounds versus 7 for Campbell. Overall VT outrebounded Campbell 41 to 24. Good to see considering our lack of height, although the Camels aren't particularly tall either. You could definitely say that rebounds were the biggest if not only contributing factor to the Hokies winning that game.
  • Davila's poor play can partly be attributed to some great play from Campbell's new transfer, Eric Griffin. Griffin looks like he can play ball and be an effective post player. He took 3 stupid 3-pointers in the game, but if you take out those shots, he was 3-6 from the field and 7-8 from the free throw line with 9 rebounds, 2 blocks, and a steal. He will help offset the loss of Campbell's best player from a year ago, Jonathan Rodriguez. I think Campbell will be one of the better teams in the Atlantic Sun Conference. But I still think VT needs to play a lot better.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Camels About to Get Toe Up?

Haaaa, what a great pun. I hope you enjoyed reading it about 50 times more than I enjoyed writing it. Let's move on... the Campbell Camels are in Blacksburg today and will be the first victims to enter Cassell Coliseum this season. Make no mistake, they're just not very good. They are fresh off of a 19-11 season which included wins over nobody of note, and they lost a substantial portion of their talent from last season. Their leading scorer and rebounder, Jonathan Rodriguez, is graduated and gone. They do return both of their starting guards in Atlantic Sun (yes that's a conference) Defensive Player of the Year Junard Hartley. They also return a decent shooter in Lorne Merthie, who led the Atlantic Sun conference in 3-point shooting last season (something like 45% from behind the arc). Hartley will not attempt to score... he'll mostly drive and kick amassing some good assist totals, and that's all his coach really wants him to do. If Merthie is shooting well, the Camels can put up a bit of a fight because Hartley's driving often pulls Merthie's defender, leaving him open for jumpers. The other players on the team aren't really worth mentioning... one or two of them might get all amped up and have a great game, but I'm not expecting much from anybody.

The crowd in the Cassell tonight needs to be loud and intimidating. The Camels are used to playing in front of tiny crowds at their home court, so a thundering crowd in Blacksburg could easily disrupt their game. My prediction is that the Hokies will not blow out this team like they should. VT just never seems to play well early in the season. In 2009, VT beat Brown by 14 points in their opening game, but the game was closer than the score indicates with a terrible Brown team staying within 5 points until about the last quarter of the game. In 2008 the Hokies beat Gardner-Webb by a mere 3 points at home. In 2007, Tech managed to eke out a 5 point win at home against Elon. For whatever reason, this group of players just doesn't shoot well right out of the gate, and I would love to see that change tonight. This is a team that VT should beat by 20+ points, and any other result will be a letdown.

Look for the Hokies to get Victor Davila and Jeff Allen involved early. Campbell's post players are not very good and should have a hard time handling our bigs. The Hokies really need to work the ball around in the half-court set to try to get high percentage shots... I'll be severely disappointed if our offense in the first half consists mostly of Delaney and Hudson shooting contested jumpers.

I'll also be looking to see what happens when VT's bench players are in the game. Our bench players should DOMINATE their bench players given the disparity in talent. JT Thompson lit up the Cambell bench for 17 points on 8-12 shooting last year. Jarell Eddie could probably do the same thing if he comes in with confidence. I'd really like to see Erick Green and Ben Boggs play well enough that Greenberg only needs to play Delaney for 32 minutes or so. He played 35 minutes last season, and that just shouldn't be necessary against a team this inferior to the Hokies.

The last thing I'm hoping that I DON'T get to see tonight... does Victor Davila stay in during crunch time? That's a question I would rather have answered against Kansas State because if it gets answered tonight, that means that the Camels are toe-to-toe with the Hokies in the final minutes (haha, another camel toe pun!). But that question is still out there... last season Seth Greenberg would usually opt to play JT Thompson in the final minutes instead of Victor Davila. Will Greenberg choose to play a smaller lineup late in games with either Erick Green, Manny Atkins, or Jarell Eddie getting playing time instead of big Vic? Hopefully we won't find out until Tuesday.

As for now... guard the Cassell tonight, Hokies!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Back for Basketball Season

Hello Hokie fans (and other random people who visit my blog)... I'm back! Frankly, I got a little tired of blogging and needed a break, but I'm rested and ready to go now that college basketball season is upon us once again. There's a lot to be excited about regarding Virginia Tech basketball, not only for this season but for several seasons to come. Let's start today with this season's team:

Virginia Tech will open their men's basketball season tomorrow night with a home game against the Campbell Fighting Camels. Yes, apparently there is such a thing as a camel that likes to scrap. The returning VT squad includes all 5 starters from last season. Malcolm Delaney will run the point, Dorenzo Hudson will play on the wing and Terrell Bell will start at the other wing spot, Jeff Allen and Victor Davila will anchor the post positions. It's a familiar lineup that head coach Seth Greenberg used in almost every game last season. I use the words "wing" and "post" when describing where players will position themselves in Seth Greenberg's offensive system because that's what makes the most sense. A shooting guard and a small forward do the exact same thing except on different sides of the court. The same is true of the power forward and center positions, so there's no reason to differentiate between the two. So with 5 starters back who know Greenberg's schemes extremely well and have had another offseason to improve both in the weight room and on the court, there's a lot to be excited about and expected from this group of 4 seniors and a junior.

Malcolm Delaney, the ACC's leading scorer a season ago, tested the waters of the NBA draft and found them to be too cold. NBA scouts informed Delaney that he should come back to school for his senior season and work on his point guard skills. Namely learning when to distribute the ball to teammates and learning how to defend the faster point guards in the ACC. I would agree with them, but would add one more thing... Delaney needs to stop looking for the foul on every single contested shot. He tries to sell a foul even when he isn't touched, and in many situations it causes him to lose form and blow the shot. I think this was a major contributor to his poor shooting percentages last season... he was way too concerned about getting fouled and not concerned enough about making the shot. Delaney is a fantastic player, and I think that if he works hard on certain areas of his game, he can turn himself into a viable NBA player, so I tend to be a little tougher on him in my reviews. One thing is certain though... he is the unquestioned leader of this team and he will definitely be missed next season.

Dorenzo Hudson returns as the ACC's most improved scorer. 'Zo added over 10 points per game from his sophomore to his junior season. The difference seemed to come from an increase in the number of shots he took and also from an increase in confidence. As a sophomore, Hudson chose to defer more to his teammates and was reluctant to shoot the ball. With encouragement from teammates, he began to realize his own talent as a junior... that the things he showed in practice could translate to a real game. Make no mistake, Hudson's jump shot is a scary thing. He doesn't exactly have the smooth stroke, even arc, and rolling release of Reggie Miller, but ugly or not the shots are falling and doing so consistently. In fact, if I see Hudson receive the ball as he curls around a screen near the top of the key, I get this warm feeling that everything in this world is going to be alright. 'Zo can hit that shot blindfolded. I see no reason why he would regress this season now that he has the confidence in himself.

Terrell Bell is a thorn in the opposition's side. He does everything. He plays tenacious defense and shows a knack for blocking shots anywhere on the court. He rebounds in traffic and negates second-chance points for the other team. He shoots the 3-ball as well as anyone on the team. He runs the floor and can finish in transition. He finds open teammates. Every good team needs a player like Bell, and I love that he's embraced his role. He's not a high-volume shooter. He's not a vocal leader. He just does a bit of everything at an above-average level. If he can continue to improve on his 3-point shooting, he becomes one of the most valuable players in the ACC. Bell will help out in the post this season as well. With JT Thompson out for the season with an ACL injury and Allan Chaney out for the season with a viral inflammation in his heart, Terrell Bell will be counted on to expand his base of skills one more time to include post defense.

Jeff Allen is primed for a big season. He knows that he needs to limit the number of reaching and screening fouls that he tends to pick up because his team needs him in the game. But will that knowledge translate to action? Jeff has been a bit of an enigma during his time at Virginia Tech. He's a fantastic rebounder and post scorer. As a defender, he's the best player on the team at coming up with blocks and steals. He has fantastic athletic ability, but his limitation has always been in his head. Will this be the season that Allen learns to stay out of foul trouble and give himself the minutes to amass even more impressive stats? I sure hope so.

I just need to see more from Victor Davila this season. He was not the offensive force that I expected in his second season with the team, and if his excellent post moves are not leading to buckets, then you aren't getting much from him. Davila does not rebound well for his position nor is he a shot-changer on defense. You wouldn't say he runs down the court so much as he lumbers. But there's a world of talent waiting with this guy... he does have the ups to be a good rebounder and shot-blocker. He does have some wicked post moves. I think he just needs to have that confidence click that 'Zo had last season. And with our limited depth in the post, we could really use it.

Those starters alone should be enough to get Virginia Tech to its first NCAA tournament since 2007, but just how far they get might depend on the guys coming off the bench.

Let's start with PG Erick Green, who had a pretty rough introduction to college basketball as a freshman. Green looked very impressive in limited time against weaker opponents early in the season, but as the season progressed you saw Green miss a lot of shots. A LOT of shots. He was pretty useful on defense and he ran the point pretty well, but the shooting is ultimately what kept him on the bench late in the ACC slate. Greenberg is expecting some seriously improved play from Green this season as he's bulked up a bit in the weight room and shown ability in practice. He could very well be the Hokies' most improved player this season.

F/C Cadarian Raines is a huge question mark heading into this season. As of right now, the answer to the question seems to be "No." Raines is still healing from a chronically injured foot and won't be ready to go for another 2 weeks or so. He is sort of the yang to Victor Davila's yin. Raines leaves a lot to be desired on the offensive end of the floor, but he's a beast on the glass and defensive presence that teams will need to respect. Not having Cadarian for the Kansas State game is a big disappointment as he really would have helped with our post depth, but he should be back in time for the 76 Classic tournament in Anaheim, CA during Thanksgiving weekend. Get well soon, Cadarian!

SG Ben Boggs is also back after showing spurts of goodness in his freshman year. Early on he was hitting 3-pointers like a mad man, but that pace eventually slowed down. If Boggs can become a reliable 3-point shooter off the bench, then I think he will see an increased role on this team. He's already a pretty good defender and can rebound for his position. He just needs to work on his ball-handling and 3-point shot.

F Manny Atkins is another guy whose future with the team is really up for grabs. He had some nice moments last season and helped contribute to a couple wins with some timely 3-point shooting. He also showed an ability to rebound in one or two games. The consistency just needs to be there for him to have an increased role on the team. I am also hoping he hit the weight room in the offseason as he looked a little bit slight at times compared to other forwards.

F Jarrell Eddie is an incoming freshman who I think is going to be a big contributor this season. Eddie has a wide range of skills, both inside and out. He can slash through the lane, he can create his own shot, he can hit open 3's, he can rebound the ball, and he can finish in transition. Greenberg seems cautiously optimistic about him and his ability to play both the wing and the post position this season. He was also surprised at Eddie's defensive abilities as a freshman. He can see his playing time skyrocket if he learns to defend post players effectively. Here is a sweet highlights video of Jarell from his high school days.

G Tyrone Garland is another incoming freshman with excellent scoring abilities. I just have a hard time believing he's going to see much time on the floor this season. Garland was more of a combo guard coming out of high school than a point guard, and PG is probably the only position that a player of his height can find some playing time in the ACC. He will need to work the hardest of anyone in order to have a permanent place on this team.

And of course, SG Paul Debnam will be back to pump up the bench and create a winning atmosphere for the rest of the team. I can't emphasize his importance enough... he needs to be the guy in practice who gets everyone to play hard when they're feeling lazy. He needs to be the one pumping up his teammates when they're having a bad game. He needs to be leading the guys on the bench so they don't check out of games. Paul Debnam creates team unity, and I love him for it.

The fans of Virginia Tech along with the national media have a lot of expectations for this year's team, and as Hokie fans we all know what that usually means... a let down. I am looking for this basketball team to brush aside the expectations and simply play to their full capabilities. If they go into each and every game, and play to their full capabilities, there is no reason why this team can't finish as high as they are expected to finish in ACC play, and there is no reason they can't make it to the NCAA tournament with a good seed. There's so much talent on this squad, and the intangibles to match it. Oh man, I'm getting goose bumps.

And this isn't helping me calm down.