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October 18, 2010

Despite injuries, Hokies have high hopes for 2010-11 season

By: Jimmy Robertson

Malcolm Delaney earned first-team All-ACC honors a year ago after averaging better than 20 points per game and is primed for a big senior year.

The Virginia Tech men’s basketball team still plans on going into the 2010-11 season with the goal of making the NCAA Tournament.

The road to that goal, though, got a little tougher courtesy of some ill-timed injuries.

In a six-week span, Tech head coach Seth Greenberg received news that Allan Chaney had been diagnosed with myocarditis, an inflammation of the heart muscle, that puts his season in doubt, and that JT Thompson had torn his ACL in a pick-up game, rendering his season over before it even started.

Toss in the uncertain status of Cadarian Raines, who underwent surgery on his foot back in the spring and still hasn’t returned to the court, and one begins to wonder what the basketball gods have against the Hokies.

“It’s disappointing,” Greenberg said. “Obviously, you feel for the kids because they have so much invested in it – both the kids who are hurt and their teammates. The teammates are affected by it also.

“But you can control what you control. These things are out of our control.”

Greenberg understands that no one is going to be feeling sorry for the Hokies. That’s because Tech, coming off a season in which it tied a school record with 25 wins and made it to the quarterfinals of the NIT, still appears to be in good shape heading into the season.

After all, the Hokies return arguably the ACC’s best backcourt in Malcolm Delaney and Dorenzo Hudson. And Tech is the only team in the ACC to return all five starters.

That’s why nearly every preseason publication is picking the Hokies to finish in the top two or three of the ACC standings and projecting an NCAA Tournament berth. Greenberg said that’s still the goal, even with the preseason adversity facing the team.

“Our goals never change,” Greenberg said. “They won’t change this year and they won’t change next year. If you’re in this league, the goal is the same – to compete at the highest level, to win at the highest level, to get to the NCAA Tournament and to advance. That’s the goal. It never changes.”

Seth Greenberg and the Hokies have finished higher than predicted in four of Tech’s six seasons in the ACC.

Delaney and Hudson headline the team. Delaney, who handles the point guard duties, earned first-team All-ACC honors after averaging 20.2 points and 4.5 assists per game last season, while Hudson, the shooting guard, earned third-team honors after averaging 15.2 points per game.

“I expect Malcolm and Dorenzo to be one of the elite backcourts in the ACC,” Greenberg said.

At small forward, the Hokies also return an experienced player in Terrell Bell, who had a very good season a year ago. He averaged 6.1 points, 6.1 rebounds and two assists per game, and he made a lot of big plays down the stretch.

Bell may be asked to do more this season. Given Tech’s lack of post players, he could find himself playing power forward in certain situations.

The rest of Tech’s backcourt features sophomores Erick Green, Ben Boggs and Manny Atkins, along with freshmen Jarell Eddie and Ty Garland. Green, who has been impressive in offseason workouts, and Boggs serve as the back-ups to Delaney and Hudson, respectively, while Atkins is slotted in behind Bell. Garland figures to get a look at both guard spots, while Eddie projects as a small forward, though he may get a look at power forward.

“I’m starting to lock in on who can potentially fit into what places,” Greenberg said. “Obviously, we have to change things. We’ll probably play with four out [on the perimeter] and shoot more 3’s than we have in the past. We went from extending our defense to really containing our inner part because we can’t get into foul trouble. I’ve got to find the sets that we will run that fit this personnel. That’s also invigorating as a coach. We’re going to have to reinvent ourselves.”

That’s because Tech’s frontcourt consisted of two healthy players heading into fall practice – Jeff Allen and Victor Davila.

Allen, a talented player, may be the key to Tech’s season. He averaged 12 points and led the team with 7.4 rebounds per game, but he played a career-low 26.3 minutes per game because of foul trouble. He needs to play around 35 minutes per game because there is no true power forward behind him. If he does that, with his talent, he could average 18 points and 10 boards a game.

The Hokies also need to get more out of Davila, who averaged 5.2 points and 4.2 rebounds per game as a sophomore. He possesses the size and skills to be effective, but he needs to be more consistent.

Greenberg expects to get Raines, who played sparingly last season because of that foot injury, back at some point before the season starts. But it’s going to take time to get him up to speed on the Hokies’ schemes and to get him in playing shape. Still, the team needs his 6-foot-9, 240-pound presence inside, if only for 5-10 minutes per game.

“We went from the deepest frontcourt I’ve ever had to one that now I’ve got to make sure we don’t have bad combinations on the court,” Greenberg said. “We’ve got to make sure we rebound the basketball. We’ve got to make sure we finish plays. We’ve got to make sure we don’t have to rotate too much [defensively] so we don’t get our guys in foul trouble. It poses a whole new set of issues.”

Yet Greenberg and the Hokies should feel optimistic heading into the season. Though they lack depth, they possess experience and talent. That’s a winning combination.

“Expectations and preseason predictions don’t mean anything,” Greenberg said. “If they meant anything, then in three of the past six seasons, we would have finished in the bottom half of the league. You win games on the court. You don’t win them in the media or by other people’s expectations. You win by going out and doing it. Our guys have to do their jobs.

“Expectations are for fans and they’re great. I’d much rather have the expectations of being one of the elite teams in the league than the expectation of being preseason No. 12. You’ve done good things if there is an expectation. It’s flattering, but it doesn’t mean anything. If we believe in expectations, then last year, we would have come in eighth instead of fourth. The reality is we’ve got to win games on the court.”

Click here to see the 2010-2011 Men's Basketball schedule.

Click here to see the 2010-2011 Men's Basketbal roster.