- Northern Iowa - 11/25 - every high-major team plays in one or two early tournaments before hitting their conference slate. This season the Hokies are playing in the abhorrent Cancun Challenge. There are no decent teams in this tournament, including Virginia Tech. VT plays two cupcakes, and then plays another cupcake (these UNI Panthers) in the "semifinal". The Panthers went a yawn-worthy 16-15 last season with only one good win (home v. VCU). If this team is conjuring up magical memories of knocking off 8-seed UNLV and 1-seed Kansas to reach the Sweet Sixteen, you can put that out of your mind. That was 5 seasons ago, and this team stinks now.
- Northwestern or Miami(OH) - 11/26 - The reward for getting to the "finals" of the Cancun Challenge will be the "privilege" to play the winner of this game. Believe it or not, I have many friends who graduated from Miami(OH) and they probably won't like hearing this, but the Redhawks are a bad team. They went 13-18 last season and lost to every quality team they played. The more likely winner of this game is Northwestern. Finally! A team from a major conference, right? Well the Wildcats are still a sorry team. They went 14-19 last season and even though they had a couple of decent conference wins, there's really no reason to believe they won't do worse this season. This tournament should be burned with fire... or really radiation would be even better so that no one can come near the site for years and years.
- Penn State - 12/3 - Virginia Tech gets to take part in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge this year! That's the good news. Through no accomplishment of the Hokies, the two conferences contain an even number of eligible opponents, so the Hokies will travel to Penn State to take on their equivalent in the Big Ten. The bad news is that Penn State will likely finish even lower in the Big Ten than last season... there isn't much hope for the men's basketball team in State College. The Nittany Lions went 16-18 last season and will likely be even worse this year.
- West Virginia - 12/30 - Now this is finally a quality opponent, right? The Mountaineers are seemingly always in the NCAA tournament over the past decade+ and should finally be a feather in the cap of our out-of-conference schedule. Except that this WVU team is also in a rough patch. They went a mediocre 17-16 last season with a couple of nice wins, but they lost to Virginia Tech of all teams (how embarrassing), and then they got hit with the transfer bug over the summer. They lost their 2nd and 3rd leading scorers in Eron Harris and Terry Henderson. They have a solid PG in Juwan Staten, a 4-star redshirt-freshman in Elijah Macon, and an exciting JUCO transfer in BillyDee Williams (!! let the Colt 45 flow!!), but I don't anticipate them finishing the season with a winning record given their losses.
So that's it everybody. 4 teams on the schedule to supposedly whet our appetites for the ACC schedule, but it's really a barren wasteland. And this is where I start to get angry again. This is the best you could do? Was it deliberate? I know that it's absurd to think that the Hokies could make the NCAA tournament this first season with Buzz Williams as the head coach, especially after the transfer of C.J. Barksdale, but don't you even want to give your players hope? The way the NCAA selection committee works, you get absolutely nothing for beating bad teams, but if you lose to a bad team it's a gigantic pock mark on your resume. Likewise, if you play a top-50 team and lose, it is not seen as a bad thing necessarily, but a win against such teams is counted as gold. Why would you schedule a non-conference slate composed entirely of cupcakes? What does that give your team? You've killed any dream of theirs to make the NCAA tournament before the season begins, and you are not challenging your young players to improve until they reach the quality opponents in the conference slate.
So for next season, I am imploring you Buzz Williams and Whit Babcock, put some good teams in the non-conference schedule. Let your team and your fans have dreams, regardless of how silly they are.