Virginia Tech at Clemson
Virginia Tech men’s basketball will kick off the 2019-20 season at Clemson on Tuesday night. With the ACC electing to move to a 20-game schedule, it means the Hokies and other ACC teams will play two early conference games. Besides this game against the Tigers, Tech also hosts Duke on December 6.
Tuesday’s matchup between the Hokies and Tigers will be a complete unknown on both ends of the court. Neither coach knows very much about his own team at this point, and even less about the opponent. Tech was gutted by offseason graduation, Nickeil Alexander-Walker’s NBA declaration, and the transfers of Kerry Blackshear and Chris Clarke. Meanwhile, Clemson lost a lot of seniors, and two projected starters tore their ACL in the offseason.
In fact, Brad Brownell doesn’t even know if one of his players will be available for Tuesday night’s matchup. Transfer guard Nick Honor has yet to be cleared by the NCAA, and no decision is expected to be made before Tuesday’s game. If you think Virginia Tech had to wait a long time for the NCAA to decide about Brock Hoffman, consider the fact that it’s now November 4 and they still don’t have a ruling for Nick Honor.
Besides Honor, Brownell also added two highly-rated transfers who will be eligible immediately in Tevin Mack (6-6, 227, r-Sr., Alabama) and Khavon Moore (6-8, 217, So., Texas Tech). Guard Curran Scott (6-4, 205, r-Sr., Tulsa) was also added as a graduate transfer. All three should play a major role against the Hokies.
Right now it’s somewhat difficult to project the starting lineup for either team, but here is the lineup that Brownell went with in Clemson’s exhibition game against Anderson…
G Al-Amir Dawes (6-2, 180, Fr.): 4-star prospect who will be appearing in his first college game.
G Chase Hunter (6-3, 200, Fr.): 4-star prospect who will be appearing in his first college game.
G John Newman III (6-5, 197, So.): Played a big role off the bench as a freshman for the Tigers, and will assume a starting role as a sophomore.
G Tevin Mack (6-6, 227, r-Sr.): Mack is on his third school after originally transferring from Texas to Alabama. He should play a big role for the Tigers this year, and could be their top scorer.
F Aamir Simms (6-8, 240, Jr.): Simms is a solid player who attended the Blue Ridge School in St. George, VA. He averaged 8.1 points and 4.6 rebounds last year as a sophomore, while also blocking 25 shots.
None of those starters played more than 26 minutes against Anderson University, an overmatched Division II team, as Brownell tinkered with his lineup. However, the starting lineup does suggest that the Tigers are prepared to play small, though they could also bring Trey Jemison (7-0, 256, So.) into the game. He played just under 13 minutes against Anderson.
Brownell noted in his Monday press conference that he isn’t sure what his starting lineup would look like against Virginia Tech, as he’s still tinkering with some things. However, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see those five players above on the court a lot, along with transfer guard Curran Scott, who is a very experienced player.
While Brownell chose to rebuild his team with transfers, Mike Young took another approach. He did bring in Branden Johnson (6-8, 230, r-Sr.) as a graduate transfer from Alabama State, but he mostly brought in freshmen, three of whom (Jalen Cone, Nahiem Alleyne and John Ojiako) reclassified and were originally scheduled to be starting their senior year of high school right now. The Hokies will put one of the youngest teams in the country on the court on Saturday night.
Here is the starting lineup listed in Virginia Tech’s game notes…
G Wabissa Bede (6-0, 200, Jr.)
G Hunter Catoor (6-3, 205, Fr.)
G Isaiah Wilkins (6-4, 225, So.)
G/F Landers Nolley (6-7, 225, r-Fr.)
F PJ Horne (6-6, 225, Jr.)
After the Clemson game, the Hokies will host four consecutive low-major opponents (Coppin State, USC Upstate, Lehigh and Delaware State) before flying to Hawaii to take part in the Maui Invitational, where their first opponent will be No. 1 Michigan State.
Numbers to Know (from Virginia Tech)
The Hokies have just one fourth-year player in grad transfer Branden Johnson. There are only 26 teams in Division I (out of 353) that have zero or one senior on their teams’ roster.
Only five teams nationally bring back less than 20 percent of its scoring from a year ago, including the Hokies being one of those five squads.
Virginia Tech is one of only 20 schools in the nation and one of nine high-major schools to welcome 10 or more players to its roster this year, with the Hokies having 10 newcomers.
A victory would give Virginia Tech head coach Mike Young his 300th career win, his first Virginia Tech win and first ACC victory.
The Hokies are 5-10 all-time in ACC openers (4-4 home, 1-6 road). Their lone ACC-opening road win came at Miami (Fla.) during the 2013-14 season. However, Tech has won three of its last four ACC openers.