Virginia Tech has always been a team to seasonally plateau in the game of basketball. Year by year, they find themselves eliminated early in the tournament; even after beating teams like Michigan State last year in the Maui Invitational, and most recently against Villanova.
It wasn’t until recently the Hokies earned a spot as an at-large bid in the tournament after nearly 10 years. Since, they have made it to the tournament every year. Even making it to the sweet 16 for the first time with Buzz Williams as a coach.
After their loss to Duke, Williams announced he would move on to Texas A&M, leaving a growing and prosperous program in the hands of experienced coach Mike Young. Growing pains are inevitable when welcoming a new coach to a program with established recruitment.
Now that Young has full control of who comes into their program, there’s potential to see the success he brought to Wofford in Tech’s program.
Will the Hokies finally establish dominance inside the ACC? Let’s look at three reasons they just might.
Experienced Starting Five
After losing the most dynamic freshman their program had ever seen, Coach Young had to give the Hokies’ starting line up a makeover.
With three starters returning, he was tasked with the difficult job of perfectly balancing the team out in order to give them an edge on the talent inside other ACC programs. Now that they are sitting comfortably at 7-1 overall to start their conference play slate, I’d say Young has done a pretty good job.
Grad student Wabissa Bede, redshirt sophomore Tyreece Radford and sophomore Nahiem Alleyne are each three returning starters for the Hookies. Their familiarity with each others’ style of play creates a mature dynamic reflected in their efficiency on the floor so far.
This created the perfect environment for junior redshirt transfers Justyn Mutts and Keve Aluma. Mutts arrived in Blacksburg after averaging 12.2 points and 8.2 rebounds per game in 32 starts at the University of Delaware.
Although he isn’t producing the same amount of points, Mutts is making up for it all over the floor with his efforts in rebounding, blocking and steals – surely a reason the Hookies hold a nearly perfect record so far this season. On the other hand, Aluma, is impressing spectators with his growth from team to team.
With Virginia Tech, Aluma is averaging almost 10 more points than he did at Wofford, at 16 points and 6.7 rebounds per game. He continues to keep growing with every minute on the floor after he put up a career high 26 points against Miami in their most recent win, making the Hokie’s future look bright.
It’s obvious this year the Hokies find strength in their starters, but it’s the bench that can be tagged as their secret weapon.
This season, they are averaging over 30 points off the bench. Including efficiency from at least two different players each game. Their most efficient man being sophomore Jalen Cone, who sat out the first three games due to an offseason injury.
In nearly each of his games, he has put up double figures off the bench. Including two games in a row he put up 18 points to contribute to a Hokie win each time.
Cone is accompanied by players like Hunter Cattoor and Joe Bamisile, who take turns helping Cone increase their bench averages.
Time on the floor
In the midst of a pandemic, Virginia Tech has been one of the lucky teams to only cancel one game. Which means more overall time and experience collectively for their team.
We have seen across the league what a lack of conditioning, and now no playing time, does to a team.
Not only have the Hokies played the most games of any in the ACC, they have the best overall record. Showing they are extremely more prepared than their counterparts heading into conference play, and they are pretty good too.
The #24 Hokies take on their toughest opponent since Villanova this Saturday, #23 Virginia. It’s set to be one of the best matchups this season, which will establish where the Hokies lie in conference terms.