2008-09 Virginia Tech Basketball Preview: #39
Virginia Tech Hokies
Overall Rank: #39
Conference Rank: #6 ACC
2007-08: 21-14, 9-7, 4th
2007-08 postseason: NIT
The Hokies of Virginia Tech had a surprisingly good season last year. The team was full of freshmen who stepped up big time. Jeff Allen, a 6-7 forward, had the most impressive freshman campaign, averaging 11.8 points, 7.6 rebounds, 2.1 steals and 1.2 blocks. Fellow forward J.T. Thompson earned five starts and proved to be a capable scorer and rebounder. The youngsters in the backcourt were just as impressive. Malcolm Delaney emerged as a consistent shooter and knocked down over 40 percent of his attempts from beyond the arc. Delaney also dished out 3.1 assists per game and gives the team a scorer who can handle the ball. When they do not need a scoring point guard, the Hokies will look to yet another sophomore, Hank Thorns. The 5-9 Las Vegas, Nevada product will not do much scoring, but he is the best ball handler on the team and does a great job finding all the scorers on the team.
But Virginia Tech will have one less scoring threat with the departure of Deron Washington. Washington was a great athlete who averaged 13.1 points, 6.5 rebounds and 2.3 assists per game. His numbers and athleticism are replaceable, but his leadership might not be so easy to exchange. Besides Washington, there were very few upperclassmen on this team who played significant minutes and Washington deserves more credit than he gets for keeping the young players together during a season that had many ups and downs. The only other departure for VT is little used guard Marcus Travis.
One can never have too many big men, especially if the 6-7 Allen and the 6-6 Thompson are the starting four and five. At 6-11 and 260 pounds, Gene Swindle will easily be the biggest player on the roster. Swindle is still raw and could benefit by spending some time on the bench learning the ropes, but he is a wide body who can definitely eat up a lot of space in the paint. Usually post players are not ready to step into the ACC and battle in the paint as freshmen; however, Victor Davila has the strength to do it. And he will even get stronger before his time in Blacksburg is over. He is long, athletic and will be the likely candidate to earn playing time this year amongst the newcomers.
Who to Watch:
As long as A.D. Vassallo can take over the leadership role left behind by Washington, there is no reason for the Hokies not to make the NCAA Tournament. Vassallo led the team with 16.9 points per game last year, but he has a very different game than that of Washington. Vassallo will do most of his damage from beyond the arc where he hit 39.5 percent of his attempts. Vassallo, as well as Delaney, will get to the basket, but nobody will be as effective around the rim as Washington was during his collegiate career. There are couple other upperclassmen on the team who will play a role. Lewis Witcher and Cheick Diakite, both 6-9 forwards, will battle with Thompson and Allen for minutes in the paint. What those two have that the sophomores do not is size and any time Coach Seth Greenberg needs a taller player on the floor to go up against some of the best centers in the conference, he will call upon his experienced upperclassmen.
Believe it or not, there are even more sophomores on this team who will play a role after decent freshmen seasons. Dorenzo Hudson and Terrell Bell were not as impressive as their fellow newcomers during the 2007-2008 campaign, but both are capable scorers who will give the backcourt plenty of depth. Anything but an NCAA Tournament berth would be disappointing, but the best is yet to come for the Hokies. For now they can pull off some upsets, but in a couple years they could be among the favorites to win the ACC.
Projected Post-season Tournament: NCAA
Projected Starting Five:
Hank Thorns, Sophomore, Guard, 4.6 points per game
Malcolm Delaney, Sophomore, Guard, 9.6 points per game
A.D. Vassallo, Senior, Guard, 16.9 points per game
J.T. Thompson, Sophomore, Forward, 5.6 points per game
Jeff Allen, Sophomore, Forward, 11.8 points per game