ACC Preview: Virginia Tech’s Burning Question

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on October 20th, 2015

This team preview is part of the RTC ACC microsite’s preseason coverage.

Burning Question: How close are the Hokies to becoming ACC contenders?

In just two offseasons, Buzz Williams has almost completely turned over the entire Virginia Tech roster. Junior guard Devin Wilson is the only scholarship holdover from the previous regime, as Williams has more or less weeded out all the players who he felt didn’t share his goals for the program. He has replaced them with a mixture of talented freshmen and transfers, as seven newcomers join the Hokies this season. And while the talent level has certainly improved in Williams’ second campaign in Blacksburg, it may still be asking too much of the fiery coach to blend his players into an ACC contender just yet.

Buzz Williams continues to clean house as he turns around Virginia Tech's basketball program. (Michael Shrayer - USA TODAY Sports)

Buzz Williams continues to clean house as he turns around Virginia Tech’s basketball program. (Photo by Michael Shrayer – USA TODAY Sports)

With an undersized group, Virginia Tech had to rely on three-point shooting as its primary offensive weapon last season, shooting an outstanding 38.9 percent from distance as a team. However, two of their four deep shooting threats, Adam Smith (81 three-pointers made) and Malik Mueller (41 threes) have transferred out of the program, while another, Ahmed Hill (32 threes) may miss most, if not all, of the season due to injury. Hill was part of a solid threesome of freshmen wings who joined the program last year. Another, Justin Bibbs, was the team’s leading scorer in the season’s first two months before suffering a concussion in January that led to both missed games and decreased production. Jalen Hudson, the low scorer of the trio, notched several inspired late season performances that offered evidence that he may possess more potential than any other Hokie on the roster. In Virginia Tech’s February overtime home loss to eventual national champion Duke, Hudson finished with 23 points and six boards for the contest. He would top that output in his team’s ACC Tournament first round win over Wake Forest, exploding on the Demon Deacons for 32 points.

A bunch of newcomers will challenge returnees for minutes on the perimeter. The one most likely to carve out a major role is Maryland transfer Seth Allen, who is eligible to play after spending a redshirt year learning the system. Allen also has the advantage of having played two ACC years with the Terrapins, so unlike most transfers, he shouldn’t experience a significant learning curve. Chris Clarke is the highest rated freshman on the roster, and Williams has described him by saying, “He has a motor that just doesn’t stop.” The head coach is also high on freshman point guard Justin Robinson, who will challenge the veteran Wilson for playing time. Bad news came recently for the Hokies when it was announced that sharp-shooting JuCo transfer Ty Outlaw will sit out the season. A blow to its depth, surely, but Virginia Tech will have plenty of perimeter weapons even without Outlaw and Hill.

Virginia Tech guard Jalen Hudson set a school ACC Tournament scoring record in the Hokies win over Wake Forest. (Photo by Liz Condo, theACC.com)

Virginia Tech guard Jalen Hudson flashed promise when he set a school ACC Tournament scoring record in the Hokies win over Wake Forest last season.
(Photo by Liz Condo, theACC.com)

The frontcourt is again the unit with the most question marks. Unlike last season, however, there are some viable new options for Williams to play with. Sophomore seven-footer Satchel Pierce should be improved, while three new additions up front also offer intrigue. The most notable of the three is seven-foot JuCo transfer Johnny Hamilton, who looks to help an interior defense that was easily the worst in the ACC a season ago. The Hokies were dead last in the league in defensive rebounding, blocked shots, and opponents’ two-point percentage — all stats that highlight the lack of size at Williams’ disposal a year ago. Four-star freshman Kerry Blackshear and eligible South Florida transfer Zack LeDay are also expected to be part of the post rotation.

Williams will face some interesting choices with his lineup this year. It appears that the Hokies have weapons on the perimeter, but it will be fun to see how the coaching staff handles that situation. Will three or four players emerge as consistent major-minute options, or will a revolving door be installed at the guard/wing positions? Another option for Williams is to put four of his talented perimeter guys on the floor at the same time, something he was forced into doing quite often last year. In any case, look for a more competitive Virginia Tech team this season, which should result in a few more ACC wins as a result. Even so, the Hokies have the look of a team that is still a year or two away from a major climb up the league standings.

Brad Jenkins (325 Posts)


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