Photo Credit: Liam Sment
We are one day away from tip off of the 2020-21 college basketball season with Virginia Tech opening at home against New River Valley neighbor Radford. After a solid debut season for Mike Young that included a stunning win in Maui against Michigan State, the Hokies are looking to take the next steps and at least reach the NIT with their slightly older roster if not make a run at their fourth-straight appearance in the NCAA Tournament after last year's postseason tournaments were all canceled due to the pandemic.
With that said, check out our bold predictions for the Hokies this upcoming season.
Tim Thomas: At Least 10 Players Averaging 10+ Minutes Per Game
This may seem a little more obscure, but Virginia Tech hasn't had 10 players averaging at least 10 minutes per game since the 2014-15 season, the first of the Buzz Williams era.
This year will see that feat achieved again but not because of a lack of talent, but rather because Virginia Tech has their deepest roster beyond just going seven or eight deep in a while. As such, Mike Young will have the opportunity to keep guys fresh in a season where you could see players miss spurts for COVID and contact tracing related reasons.
Additionally, Florida State has proven more and more in recent years that having immense depth is advantageous for handling the grind of the ACC season and trying to be as fresh as possible for the stretch run. With that, Florida State has rightfully climbed to being among the best of the ACC and one of the best programs in the nation.
Tech being able to do this is rooted in the massive amount of transfers coming in with offseason transfer additions in Cartier Diarra, Justyn Mutts, and Cordell Pemsl boosting the team plus Wofford transfer Keve Aluma being eligible after sitting out last season. Combine that with loads of returning backcourt talent and a strong freshman class, and this team can go basically 1-13.
Expect Mike Young to take advantage of his depth and use a deeper rotation while also knowing which guys to turn to down the stretch whether that's to preserve
Andy Loce: Hokies Will Have a Top 10 ACC Scorer
Last season, the Hokies had one of the best scoring offenses in the ACC, and I expect them to do the same this season.
No team in the conference made more three pointers than the Hokies did with their 315 made shots, and they sat second in three-point attempts (896) and three point percentage (.352).
Virginia Tech will be without a huge scoring factor in Landers Nolley who averaged 15.5 PPG last season for the Hokies, that was good enough to finish at No.10 in the ACC. Nolley transferred to the University of Memphis after the conclusion of the 2019-20 season.
The Hokies did struggle shooting from the floor last season, finishing 12th in the conference in field goal percentage (41.9%) while shooting the 5th most shots in the ACC (1877).
That is something that needs to be improved on for the Hokies offensively for this season as they look to be smarter with their shots and offensive possessions.
For instance, Nolley shot nearly 25% of all attempted baskets for the Hokies last season. With his departure, there will surely be more shot attempts for everybody from top to bottom.
Outside of Nolley’s departure, the Hokies return a solid core of players including Tyrece Radford (10.2), Nahiem Alleyne (8.8) and Jalen Cone (8.0), who all finished in the top 5 for points per gameon the team
These first-year players showed significant development throughout the season, and now approaching the 2020-21 campaign, their roles will expand as some of them will likely receive more shot-creating opportunities
In that case, I could definitely see a Hokie make a large impact in the scoring department this season and climb up the leaderboard to be labeled as one of the best scorers in the conference.
After producing a statistically solid first season on the offensive end under head coach Mike Young, I believe that the Hokies will have someone step up to fill the void left by Nolley and finish among the top 10 in scoring in the ACC.
Jack Brizendine: Jalen Cone Earns All-ACC Honors
Jalen Cone caught many by surprise last season when he started knocking down clutch threes in numerous games for the Hokies. Despite a smaller body and frame, Cone’s elite quickness, and catch and shoot ability made him a defensive challenge for opposing teams.
Cone finished last season shooting a whopping 45.7% from three. He started to put the conference on notice when he lit up Syracuse in the Carrier Dome last January, putting up 19 points and going 5-7 from behind the three point line.
One key departure from last year’s squad that will help Cone claim a larger role is Landers Nolley.
Nolley served as the Hokies’ shot up shooter who could drain shot from downtown. Many plays were drawn up around Nolley’s ability to shoot, and I think Cone can fill that role well.
I expect Jalen Cone to improve this season in a big way. It’s now his second season in head coach Mike Young’s system, and he’s back with many of the teammates he played with last year. After a great showing in his freshman season, there’s reason to have high hopes for the sophomore. I don’t think an appearance on an All-ACC team will be out of the question for Jalen Cone.