ACC Preseason Predictions: #6 Virginia Tech

The Hokies. I mean, you have to respect a school that just makes up their own mascot. The balls to just make some kind of hybrid turkey is one thing, to make him fucking purple takes it to a whole new level. What was the other option? The Flamingo Monkeys?

Anyways, this program is an example of what can happen when an administration says, “Alright, enough of this shit, let’s be awesome at basketball”, and they go ahead and hire one of the top 30 coaches in the country. After winning 11 games in his first season, Buzz Williams has back to back 20+ win seasons. That hadn’t happened at Virginia Tech since the 2009-10 and 2010-11 seasons. They also went to the tournament last year for the first time since 2006-07.

The Chris Clarke injury was a killer. Clarke was easily the best 6th man in the conference and one of the best rebounding wings in the country. He could have easily changed the outcome of the first round match-up with Wisconsin in the tournament.

THE BAD

I was somewhat surprised when I looked at Kenpom and saw how bad VT was on defense last year. They ranked 156th in adjusted defensive efficiency. That’s something they are going to have to tighten up if they want to make a deep run in both the ACC tournament and the NCAA tournament.

Key losses:

  • After transferring from Maryland following his sophomore year, Seth Allen will be missed in the lead guard position. During his career in Blacksburg, the 6’1 Allen averaged 13.9 points, 2.7 rebounds and 2.9 assists. The one drawback was that he also averaged 2.8 turnovers a game. Allen was also a decent shooter at 35% on 274 attempts while at VT.
  • The Hokies also lost Zach Leday to graduation. The longtime Hokie averaged 16.5 points and and 7.3 rebounds per game. The former South Florida Bull really blossomed at Virginia Tech and became a true force for the Hokies. It felt like he had been in Blacksburg for years for whatever reason when in actuality it was only two.
  • 7 footer Johnny Hamilton has also left the program after playing only 3 games last season. Devin Wilson, a member of the Hokies football team who redshirted last year is also no longer listed on the teams roster.
  • Ty Outlaw was also unfortunately lost for the season in July when he tore his ACL. The 6’6 senior shot 49% from deep on 116 attempts last year.

Obviously, the Allen and Leday losses hurt a ton. That duo provided 30 points per game.The unexpected loss of Outlaw may force Williams to play either a 4 guard lineup at times or even play his two big guys together.

THE GOOD

New Additions and Key Returners:

  • The Shooters.  Justin Bibbs (43%), Ahmed Hill (38%) and Justin Robinson (35%) are all guys that can bomb away from deep and all averaged at least 9.5 ppg last season and all attempted at least 108 threes. Robinson will be the primary lead guard and historically takes better care of the ball than Allen did. This threesome may be one of the best collection of shooters in the entire country. Hill is a player that I really like to take a serious step forward this year and be a force in the conference.
  • Chris Clarke will presumably be ready for the season and if he can regain the form he had last year there won’t be a whole lot anyone can do to slow him down. As a sophomore, the 6’6 205lb forward averaged 11.4 points, 7.4 rebounds and 3.3 assists per game and actually recorded a triple double against The Citadel in December. He also had two or more steals nine times last season. If Clarke could just bring his three point percentage up to around 30%( 19% for his career on 4 of 21) he would be a huge force in the conference this season.
  • In the post Khadim Sy is back after a commendable freshman season in Blacksburg. Also returning after losing all of last season to a shin injury is former 4 star big man Kerry Blackshear. Blackshear averaged 6.2 points and 4.5 rebounds in 19 minutes per game as a freshman in 2015-16. Sy filled in for Blackshear last year and provided 4.0 points and 2.7 rebounds in around 11 minutes per game. It would great if one of these two could turn into some sort of rim protector. The Hokies ranked 14 out of 15 in the ACC last year and only totaled 48 blocks on the season. There were 81 individual players in the NCAA who had at least 49.
  • In typical Buzz Williams fashion he brings in what is probably an underrated recruiting class. Nickeil Alexander-Walker is a top 25 player nationally and may compete for time at the lead guard spot but will most likely play on the wing. He is a long guard standing at 6’5 with a wingspan of 6’9. He is a crafty, slithery type player who is more than likely going to help on defense more than offense early on. Joining NAW is one of my favorite freshman in the conference, point guard Wabissa Bede. A high 3, low 4 star prospect, Bede plays the game in high gear with reckless abandon and is going to be an absolute terror in the open court. He sometimes looks to be a bit out of control, but he is going to do more good than bad on the court. PJ Horne comes in the least regarded of the 3 freshman but will still compete for the minutes that should have gone to Outlaw this  year.

OVERVIEW

Like I said, this is one of my favorite  teams in the ACC. They have size, athleticism, depth, shooting, guard play and Buzz is a phenomenal coach. The defense does concern me a little bit but I think they will be improved. Robinson at the lead guard spot should be a least as good as Allen and the return of Blackshear, and additions of Bede and Alexander-Walker give this team a very good 8 man rotation.

Projected Starting 5: Robinson, Bibbs, Hill, Clarke, Blackshear

 

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