The Virginia Tech Hokies are the latest team to be featured in our series of ACC Basketball previews to help get you ready for the 2014-15 season. We’ve almost reached the end!
We’re going in alphabetical order through every team in the new-look ACC, but we’ll be excluding Duke – seeing as how the Blue Devils already receive a fair amount of coverage on this site.
If you’ve missed any of our previous previews, I encourage you to check them out to get an idea of the landscape around the ACC. We’ve already covered Boston College, Clemson, Florida State, Georgia Tech, Louisville, Miami, N.C. State, North Carolina, Notre Dame, Pittsburgh, Syracuse and Virginia.
After finishing in last place in the ACC for three consecutive years, the Hokies made a big splash this offseason by hiring Buzz Williams as the new head coach. Will he be able to get the team out of the cellar in his first season?
2013-14 Record: Overall – 9-22 | ACC – 2-16 (15th Place)
Games against Duke this season: Wednesday, February 25 at Virginia Tech
It’s tough to have success in the ACC if you don’t have talent, and Virginia Tech was a perfect example of that last season.
After losing ACC Player of the Year Erick Green from the previous year, head coach James Johnson didn’t have playmakers on his roster who could make up for Green’s production. The squad lacked the depth to match up against nearly every other team in the league.
The Hokies struggled to a 2-16 season in conference play, with their only wins coming against Miami, both at home and on the road.
Virginia Tech’s leading scorer was senior Jarell Eddie, who averaged 13.3 points per game and has since graduated.
It was another forgetful year for the program, and the main reason why changes were made during the offseason.
Key Players: Adam Smith & Will Johnston
Adam Smith is the only returning scorer on this team who averaged double figures in scoring last season – 11 points per game as a sophomore. He will be the primary scoring option on offense and will need to play well if the Hokies are to have a chance at being competitive in most games.
Will Johnston’s career at Virginia Tech probably hasn’t gone as he’d envisioned. Johnston is a senior who’s been through three dreadful years with the program and will now have to endure a senior season that’s part of a major rebuilding project. Though it will take time for a turnaround, Johnston could be a big part in helping Buzz Williams change the culture of the program with his intensity and attitude.
X-Factor: The Buzz Williams Impact
Virginia Tech made arguably the best hire of the college basketball offseason by luring Buzz Williams away from Marquette. He led the Eagles to NCAA Tournament appearances in five of the past six seasons and has a personality that should make him a great fit in Blacksburg. He comes across as a guy who has a chip on his shoulder and will do everything he can to out-work the opponent, which is a mindset you have to have when going up against the coaching royalty that now exists in the ACC.
What remains to be seen is how long it takes Williams to make his mark on this program. Can he make the Hokies competitive this season despite having essentially no depth? Will he use this year to put his young players through the fire? We’ll soon find out.
Bringing in Buzz Williams was a great hire. Actually, considering the struggles of the football team, he might be the most popular person in the entire Virginia Tech athletic department right now.
I expect Williams to have the Hokies at a competitive level in the ACC and contending for a spot in the NCAA Tournament within two years.
However, it’s hard to imagine this season being anything other than ugly in Blacksburg.
Aside from a nonconference schedule that is laughable, the Hokies start conference play with Syracuse at home, then go on the road to face Florida State, Louisville and North Carolina. Four potential tournament teams to start league play? Have fun, Virginia Tech!
Anything above last place with this group would be a great accomplishment.
This season shouldn’t be about wins and losses for the Hokies. Take a measure of the culture of the program and watch to see if this team shows improvement over the course of the year. That’s what should be most important.