Your Virginia Tech Hokies tip off the 2008-09 menâ€™s hoops campaign against gardner-webb (yeah, the same team that stunned kentucky in Rupp Arena last season) Friday night. Not since the 1995-96 season have Hokie fans looked forward to the start of a basketball season with such anticipation. Those were back in the Atlantic 10 days. Who can remember the days of trying to see who could score tickets for the umass visit to Cassell â€“ or fordham or duquense for that matter?
The ACC looks to be very competitive this year. Carolina is the consensus pre-season pick to win the league and appear to be head and shoulders above the rest with all five starters returning from last yearâ€™s final four team. Of course a lot will depend on how long tyler hansbrough is out of the lineup with his stress fracture-like injury that they are saying is not a stress fracture. In addition, wake also returns all five starters in addition to bringing in what most consider the nationâ€™s best recruiting class. The Hokies, duke, and miami return four starters. With clemson, n.c. state, and fsu returning a lot of experience as well the race should be very interesting to see who goes dancing in March.
How does the Balla see things playing out in the ACC this year you ask? Like everyone else with a pulse, I like unc to win the regular season. They will be followed by wake, duke, Virginia Tech, miami, and clemson rounding out the top six. The bottom half of the league is totally up for grabs with these teams competing for NIT and CBI invites so who really cares. Everyone but projected basement dweller uva has a shot at post season play.
The Hokies return virtually every key component from last season with the exception of the human highlight film and defensive stopper Deron Washington. So what will this yearâ€™s team look like? Hereâ€™s what I think:
Most likely to have a break out season â€“ Dorenzo Hudson. After debuting last season at the semester break with a double digit effort at wake, Dorenzo quickly hit the wall and his biggest highlight the rest of the way was puking on the floor during Techâ€™s win at maryland. Hudson has all the tools to be a big time player in the ACC.
Most likely to replace Deron on YouTube â€“ J.T. Thompson. Assuming J.T. is not out of the lineup long with what could be a sports hernia according to Coach Greenberg. J.T. showed flashes of brilliance last season as a freshman and threw down absolutely mean dunks against duke and george washington.
Most likely to step up and become the defensive stopper â€“ Terrell Bell. With long arms to go with his 6â€™-6â€ frame, Bell has what it takes to become a great defender and check the opponentâ€™s go-to guy a la Washington last year and Jamon Gordon before that.
Most likely to hit multiple game winning shots â€“ Malcolm Delaney. With other teams likely to be keying on A.D. Vassallo, look for Delaney to emerge this season as a deadly clutch shooter. A.D. is not a bad option either or big Jeff Allen down low for that matter.
How will the Hokies fare overall you ask? You heard it here first â€“ they will finish in the top four in the ACC this year and not only will they make the NCAA Tourney, theyâ€™ll be a Sweet 16 team, book it.