Back in late August, I examined Virginia Tech men’s basketball’s non-conference schedule for the 2021-22 season and provided some analysis for each opponent.
This story will be similar, though focused on the ACC schedule. It’s part one of a four-part preseason preview of the Hokies. Today is ACC opponents A-M alphabetically (Boston College-Miami), and on Friday, we’ll publish N-Z (North Carolina-Wake Forest). On Wednesday, Nov. 3, I’ll have a position-by-position breakdown of Virginia Tech’s roster, and on Thursday, Nov. 4, Chris Coleman will have a column following up on my preview.
The Hokies open up their season on Tuesday, Nov. 9 in Cassell Coliseum vs. Maine. It’s an 8 p.m. ET tip on ACC Network Extra, and it follows the women’s basketball game at 5 p.m. vs. Davidson.
For this preview, we’ll go through the ACC schools in alphabetical order and hit on a number of things:
- Number of “returning starters” for each program – players that recorded 10-plus starts at that school last season
- Last season’s record and finish for each school, plus this year’s predicted order of finish and where they fall in Ken Pomeroy’s rankings
- Meeting details: how many times the Hokies saw each team in 2020-21 and how many times Tech will see them this year
- Ranking each individual game on a scale of 1-3, with 1 being a “should win” game, 2 being a toss-up and 3 being a “difficult task”
Here’s a breakdown of every ACC team and their statistics in a chart, which makes it easier for comparison:
Returning Starters: 1
Last Season’s Record and ACC Finish: 4-16 (2-11 ACC), 15th
2021-22 Projection: Media (ACC): 15; KenPom (D-I): 146
Meeting Details: 0 in 2020-21; 1, away, in 2021-22 – Saturday, Jan. 22. (12 p.m. ET, RSN)
The Eagles return just one player who started double-digit games last season: Makai Ashton-Langford. BC Coach Earl Grant did hit the transfer portal ahead of his first season, adding a handful of players, but the program lost eight men in the offseason to the transfer portal. It’s going to take some time for Grant to get his program where he wants it, and though a road trip to Conte Forum is never easy, the Hokies are much more talented this season. Due to COVID-19, Virginia Tech did not see Boston College last season, so the last meeting in this series was Feb. of 2020. The Eagles have won the last two meetings, but the Hokies have the depth and the talent this year.
Returning Starters: 4
Last Season’s Record and ACC Finish: 16-8 (10-6 ACC), T-5th
2021-22 Projection: Media (ACC): 11; KenPom (D-I): 59
Meeting Details: 1 in 2020-21; 1, away in 2021-22 – Saturday, March 5 (2 p.m. ET, RSN)
Synopsis: I’m interested to see where the Tigers stand after last season. Though Brad Brownell & Co. lost Aamir Simms, there’s still a ton of depth, just no flashy names, outside of Al-Amir Dawes. Hunter Tyson returns, plus Alex Hemenway and Nick Honor, the 2020-21 ACC Sixth Man of the Year. Mike Young is 3-0 against Clemson in two seasons, though two of the games have been decided by seven points or less. This is a group that is always challenging and was one of the best defensive teams in the country last season.
Returning Starters: 3
Last Season’s Record and ACC Finish: 13-11 (9-9 ACC), 10th
2021-22 Projection: Media (ACC): 1; KenPom (D-I): 10
Meeting Details: 1 in 2020-21; 1, away, in 2021-22 – Wednesday, Dec. 22 (9 p.m. ET, ESPN2)
Synopsis: It’s Mike Krzyzewski’s final season in charge of the Blue Devils, which is hard to believe. The Hokies only get Duke once in his final go-round, in Cameron Indoor in December. I’m sure Coach K is happy about that, considering Duke is 1-4 in its last five trips to Cassell Coliseum. The Blue Devils return Wendell Moore, Mark Williams and Jeremy Roach, and they added the 6-foot-9 Paolo Banchero, the No. 2 recruit in the country. This meeting will be difficult, especially since it’s early in the season and on the road, but Mike Young got the best of Duke in Blacksburg this past January.
Returning Starters: 2
Last Season’s Record and ACC Finish: 18-7 (11-4 ACC), 2nd
2021-22 Projection: Media (ACC): 2; KenPom (D-I): 24
Meeting Details: 0 in 2020-21; 1, away, in 2021-22 – Saturday, January 29 (3 p.m. ET, ABC)
Synopsis: The Seminoles are always difficult to match up with, particularly in the Donald L. Tucker Civic Center. Only two starters – RayQuan Evans and Anthony Polite – return from Leonard Hamilton’s Sweet 16 team in 2020-21, but the ‘Noles are always deep. Florida State has the most players listed on their roster (20) in the entire ACC, a number that revolves around the players that returned to school but don’t count against scholarship numbers thanks to COVID-19. The Seminoles have four seven-footers on their roster, and seven seniors. Tech has lost five straight to FSU and hasn’t won in Tallahassee since 1989 (lost 12 in a row @ FSU). This is always one of the most difficult games on the schedule, and it remains that way this season.
Returning Starters: 4
Last Season’s Record and ACC Finish: 17-9 (11-6 ACC), 4th
2021-22 Projection: Media (ACC): 10; KenPom (D-I): 54
Meeting Details: 1 in 2020-21; 2 in 2021-22 – Wed., Feb. 2 at home (9 p.m. ET, ACCN), Wed., Feb. 23 away (9 p.m. ET, ESPN/2)
Synopsis: Last year’s ACC Tournament champions won their last eight ACC games (six regular season, two ACC Tournament) before being bounced in the first round of the NCAA Tournament by Loyola Chicago. How does one replace Moses Wright and Jose Alvarado, though? Josh Pastner has a solid core built by Michael Devoe, Jordan Usher, Bubba Parham and Khalid Moore, but is one of those players going to be a game-changer? Devoe is the No. 1 option if so. The Yellow Jackets ate the Hokies up last season in Cassell Coliseum in a 16-point win. VT has lost the last two in the series, and Young has yet to beat Pastner. Two 9 p.m. games aren’t fun, but the matchups will surely be.
Returning Starters: 3
Last Season’s Record and ACC Finish: 13-7 (8-5 ACC), 7th
2021-22 Projection: Media (ACC): 6; KenPom (D-I): 36
Meeting Details: 1 in 2020-21; 1, home, in 2021-22 – Tuesday, March 1 (9 p.m. ET, ESPN/2)
Synopsis: Every year when the Louisville game comes around, the first thing that is mentioned is how the Hokies haven’t beaten the Cardinals since 1991 – they’ve lost 17 straight. Tech was close last season in the KFC Yum! Center, though Hunter Cattoor’s heave at the buzzer just missed in the 73-71 loss. Dre Davis, Samuell Williamson and Jae’Lyn Withers, who caused Tech a lot of problems last year, are all back. So is Malik Williams, who only played in three games in 2020-21 due to injury. His presence is going to be huge. The Cardinals come to Blacksburg, which is a huge plus, but the fact that Chris Mack and Louisville have always had Tech’s number still makes this game a difficulty rating of 3.
Returning Starters: 4
Last Season’s Record and ACC Finish: 10-17 (4-15 ACC), 13th
2021-22 Projection: Media (ACC): 12; KenPom (D-I): 83
Meeting Details: 2 in 2020-21; 2 in 2021-22 – Wed., Jan. 26 at home (7 p.m. ET, ACCN), Sat., Feb. 26 away (3 p.m. ET, RSN)
Synopsis: The Canes are one of the teams I’m really high on this season. I picked them ninth, though the media consensus was 12th. They’re going to be in the top-half of the conference if they can stay healthy. That’s one of the reasons why Jim Larrañaga’s bunch finished 13th last season – injuries and COVID. Isaiah Wong is back, as are Kameron McGusty, Sam Waardenburg and Anthony Walker. Tech’s won the last two in the series, though the last three games against the Hurricanes in the Mike Young era have all been close – a 3OT thriller in 2020, a two-point game last December and a four-point overtime win for the Hokies in February. Don’t be surprised if Tech splits this series.
I’ll be back tomorrow with the rest of the ACC.