The 2023-24 men's basketball season is upon us as Virginia Tech is looking to get back to the NCAA Tournament after coming up just short last season. This is a Hokies' team with some returning stars in Sean Pedulla and Hunter Cattoor along with a decent amount of fresh faces including Robbie Beran, Mekhi Long, and Tyler Nickel.
So with the season about to begin, some of our writers have made some bold predictions for the Hokies this season.
Tim Thomas: Sean Pedulla Becomes an All-ACC Point Guard
Many believed Sean Pedulla was bound for stardom after showing tons of promise as a freshman. His strong start to last season suggested that was likely the case as well but as injuries piled up, Pedulla's volume increased causing him to wear down while also being force to take some bad shots at the end of shot clocks.
With Hunter Cattoor healthy and a deeper roster even without Rodney Rice, Pedulla shouldn't have those issues this year being able to get the rest he needs in game to not wear down while not always having to be the guy. Pedulla also has another year of experience and offseason of development that will help him take the next steps.
Pedulla may not have been as efficient as he was as a freshman, but that shouldn't come as a major shock given the volume increase, especially with less than ideal shots. With Hunter Cattoor healthy and plenty of forwards with range who can stretch the floor, Pedulla should be able to get more space this year. Having a healthy Cattoor plus a healthy true backup point guard in Brandon Rechsteiner should allow him to get more off-the-ball, catch-and-shoot opportunities.
Competition likely was a factor, but Pedulla had six of his 10 most efficient shooting performances prior to Cattoor's injury last season. Five of his top eight three-point shooting performances also came during that stretch despite that only being a third of the season.
A healthy Cattoor and another year of development will help Pedulla take the next steps and become an All-ACC player this season.
Tucker Terry: Tyler Nickel Will be the ACC's Most Improved Player
After losing do-it-all forward Justyn Mutts, star big man Grant Basile, shot creating wing Darius Maddox, and talented sophomore Rodney Rice, Virginia Tech lost a lot of depth at the wing/forward positions. They do return one of the best backcourts in the ACC with Sean Pedulla and Hunter Cattoor, but if the Hokies want to continue playing into March, they are going to need someone to break out and step into the role as a potential third scoring option.
Enter Tyler Nickel, Virginia’s All-Time High School scoring leader, who transferred to Tech after just one year at North Carolina where he never quite got a chance to prove himself playing behind the Tar Heels experienced stars.
At 6'7'', Nickel is a true combo forward who has the ability to defend multiple positions, as well as play both on and off the ball. This enables him to both fit next to Pedulla and Cattoor as a spot up shooting threat or be effective around the rim.
Whether Nickel starts at one of the forward spots for the Hokies or comes off the bench in a spark plug 6th man role, expect Nickel to get buckets and far surpass his previous average of just 2 points in 6 minutes per game last season.
With the forward minutes seemingly up for grabs, as well as Sean Pedulla discussing his greater focus on playmaking this upcoming season, expect a big year for Tyler Nickel, where even the ACC Most Improved Player Award won’t be out of reach.