Photo Credit: Liam Sment
After a long offseason, gameday has arrived in Blacksburg as Virginia Tech opens the second season of the Mike Young era against Radford today prior to travelling to Bubbleville at the Mohegan Sun for games against Temple and USF.
The Hokies are rightly favored against a Radford team that doesn't return any of their top 8 scorers from last season's team that won the Big South, but Mike Jones has built a strong culture that won't make this an easy game that the Hokies can look past.
With that said, here are our three things to watch for Tech against Radford.
1. Transfers Debut
Virginia Tech will have four transfers debut in this game including three in the frontcourt, but no debut will receive more attention than the lone backcourt player who will make his, Kansas State grad transfer Cartier Diarra.
Diarra is the type of proven veteran that can help the Hokies not only rise in the ACC, but make a serious run at making the NCAA Tournament. Diarra is a tough, talented player who averaged 13.3 points, 4.2 assists, 3.8 rebounds, and 1.8 stealer per game last season and with Wabissa Bede, could form one of the best defensive backcourts in the country.
The Kansas State transfer wasn't the most efficient but should benefit from being on a Hokie team where he will be a primary option but far from the only option.
Meanwhile, the frontcourt sees Keve Aluma become eligible after sitting out a year along with the additions of Iowa's Cordell Pemsl and Delaware's Justyn Mutts. Mutts fits more as a traditional four while Aluma and Pemsl are more centers who should battle John Ojiako for playing time. Combine that with David N'Guessan as well and Tech has legitimate frontcourt depth and size this season.
Today should give us a first indication as to how the Hokies will work in their frontcourt guys and who is at the top of the depth chart for Tech. While that may be unknown, what is know is that Tech will have much more size and actual frontcourt depth for the first time in a while.
2. How Good Will Joe Bamisile Be?
There has been plenty of hype surrounding freshman guard Joe Bamisile out of in-state Monacan HS in the Richmond area. Bamisile is an intriguing combo guard who adds plenty of length to the backcourt at 6'5'' and is considered a plus athlete and potential breakout player.
Of course, Tech is returning a very talented backcourt full of young players on the rise to go with veterans like Diarra and Bede. Additionally, the craziness of this offseason may mean that coaches lean more on veteran players this year at least early in the season.
Bamisile should receive plenty of opportunities today though with Jalen Cone out which may not give us a full picture into how big of a role Bamisile will have at the start of this season. However, his minutes compared to sophomores like Nahiem Alleyne and Hunter Cattoor should be something to watch to see if Bamisile is poised to rise right up the depth chart along the wing.
Cone being out also could mean that the Hokies try to give Bamisile some reps running the point. While he projects more on the wing at the 2, Bamisile does have skills that would suggest he could be an interesting option running the point while developing his skills there could be beneficial for depth reasons.
3. Who Will Be in Tech's Best 5 Lineup?
Virginia Tech has loads of depth this year and will have plenty of different directions and options that they can go with for their lineups. While we expect Tech to utilize their depth, one thing that is unclear is what will the Hokies' best 5 lineup be with that potentially differing from what the starting lineup will be.
One player who seems likely to be a part of it is veteran Wabissa Bede who has proven to be very good at running the offense and may be the defensive backcourt player in the ACC. Bede also is that veteran leader who knows how to win at a high level and is the holdover from the impressive Buzz Williams run, being a part of the final two seasons where Tech won three NCAA Tournament games.
The frontcourt seems likely to be heavy on the transfers while Diarra seems likely to work his way in as well. Additionally, Tyrece Radford feels like a top candidate after an impressive debut season last year where his toughness, rebounding, and ability to attack the rim were quite beneficial.
The lineup could shift to include better shooters like Jalen Cone and Nahiem Alleyne at times when the Hokies are behind as well while they could also go to a four-guard lineup surrounding someone like Keve Aluma against teams using smaller lineups.