Virginia Tech Hokies fans have to be asking themselves, "What will it take for us to get into the NCAA Tournament?" For the third time in the past four years, the Hokies finished with a winning record in the ACC but had their bubble burst on Selection Sunday. This season, Virginia Tech will be lucky to even be in the consideration for an invite to the Big Dance.
The injury bug bit the Hokies last season which played a part in their finishing just short of a tournament berth. J.T. Thompson and Allan Chaney were supposed to be key contributors but missed the entire year. Dorenzo Hudson and Cadarian Raines suffered season-ending injuries during non-conference play further depleting the team's depth.
All of those players are back this season except for Chaney, whose career came to an end due to a heart condition. Thompson, Hudson, and Raines will have to come back at full strength to help offset the loss of three senior starters.
Thompson was the team's sixth man two years ago but will likely step into the starting frontcourt alongside Victor Davila, who started all 34 games last season. Both players are serviceable, but the Hokies will certainly miss Jeff Allen inside. Raines will compete with freshmen C.J. Barksdale and Joey van Zegeren for minutes off the bench. Barksdale could become a key contributor right away due to his versatility and ability to knock down jump shots.
Highly-touted freshman Dorian Finney-Smith is expected to be a huge factor in his first season with the Hokies. He will be backed up by sophomore Jerrell Eddie, who showed flashes as a freshman but was rather inconsistent.
The experienced backcourt of Hudson and Erick Green will be asked to carry the bulk of the scoring load. Hudson was a third-team All-ACC selection two years ago but relies more on his slashing ability than three-point shot. Green brings great size to the point and is a terrific defender. He will take over the full-time ball-handling duties that he shared with Malcolm Delaney last season. Green is not known as a shooter either, which means the Hokies will be in search of an outside shooting threat.
Freshman Robert Brown will try to help fill that void at the two. Tyrone Garland played sparingly last season and will battle newcomer Marquis Rankin for playing time as the backup point guard.
This could be a vital season for Seth Greenberg. If Virginia Tech once again falls short of the NCAA Tournament, he could be looking for a new employer come March. With the lack of a true inside presence and no real three-point shooters on the roster, the NIT seems like the likely postseason destination.
Player to Watch: Dorrian Finney-Smith, SF
The lengthy freshman is definitely the x-factor for the Hokies this season. He has a smooth game and is capable of playing inside or outside. If he can quickly acclimate himself to the college game, the trio of Green, Hudson, and Finney-Smith gives Virginia Tech a lot of talent on the wing.
Key Non-Conference Games:
11/15 vs. George Mason (Pre-Season NIT)
11/23 vs. likely Syracuse (Pre-Season NIT)
11/25 vs. Stanford/Colorado State/Oklahoma State (Pre-Season NIT)
Chad Williams is a speed threat receiver for Arizona. It is a nice fit in the Cardinals with Larry Fitzgerald aging, Michael Floyd released, and John Brown in the last year of his contract. Williams was impressive at the Senior Bowl with speed to challenge cornerbacks.