Virginia Tech Preseason Basketball Preview, Part 2: ACC Opponents, N-Z

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Virginia Tech should be one of the best teams in the ACC this season. Where do the other teams in the conference stand? (Virginia Tech sports photography)

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 two (part one, ACC schools A-M, was posted on Thursday) of a four-part preseason preview of the Hokies. Today is ACC opponents 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. Full schedule: link.

For this preview, which will start with North Carolina, 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:

North Carolina

Returning Starters: 5

Last Season’s Record and ACC Finish: 18-11 (10-6 ACC), T-5th

2021-22 Projection: Media (ACC): 3; KenPom (D-I): 40

Meeting Details: 1 in 2020-21* – ACC Tournament; 2 in 2021-22 – Wed., Dec. 29 away (7 p.m. ET, ESPN2), Sat., Feb. 19 at home (4 p.m. ET, ESPN2)

Difficulty: 3

Synopsis:

They don’t return all five starters from last year, but the Tar Heels do return five players that started ten-plus games last season. The only other ACC school that can say that is Notre Dame. Hubert Davis is in year one, but he inherits a fantastic roster. Leaky Black, Caleb Love, R.J. Davis, Kerwin Walton and Armando Bacot are all back. Anthony Harris, who missed part of last season with an injury, returns as well, and Justin McKoy (Virginia transfer) will have an impact off the bench. The most intriguing thing about UNC is how Davis will be in his first season as a coach. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Hokies and Heels split the two meetings, with the home team winning each. Tech’s lost the last two in the series and hasn’t won in Chapel Hill since Jamon Gordon and Zabian Dowdell did it in 2007 (five straight losses in the Dean Dome).

NC State

Returning Starters: 4

Last Season’s Record and ACC Finish: 14-11 (9-8 ACC), 9th

2021-22 Projection: Media (ACC): 9; KenPom (D-I): 56

Meeting Details: 0 in 2020-21; 2 in 2021-22 – Tue., Jan. 4 at home (7 p.m. ET, ACCN), Wed., Jan. 19 away (7 p.m. ET, ACCN)

Difficulty: 2

Synopsis:

Ironically, Virginia Tech and NC State have only met once in the Mike Young era, a 14-point Hokies win in Jan. 2020. Kevin Keatts has four big-name players back from last season, headlined by ACC Defensive Player of the Year Manny Bates. I had the Wolfpack lower (12th) than the media did as a whole (9th), but this is going to be a competitive group. Cam Hayes, Jericole Hellems and Thomas Allen provide experience, as does Virginia transfer Casey Morsell. The Hokies will see NC State twice in 15 days in January, but Tech should be able to get past the Wolfpack, who should be a mid-tier ACC program this year.

Mike Young and the Hokies had Mike Brey’s number last year, but the Irish return a ton of talent. (Matt Gentry/The Roanoke Times)

Notre Dame

Returning Starters: 5

Last Season’s Record and ACC Finish: 11-15 (7-11 ACC), 11th

2021-22 Projection: Media (ACC): 8; KenPom (D-I): 27

Meeting Details: 1 in 2020-21; 1, home, in 2021-22 – Saturday, Jan. 15 (6 p.m. ET, ACCN)

Difficulty: 2

Synopsis:

The Irish were sub-par under Mike Brey last season, though they’re poised for a big year in 2021-22. Notre Dame returns five players with ten-plus starts from last season: Prentiss Hubb, Nate Laszewski, Dane Goodwin, Cormac Ryan and Trey Wertz. That’s a lot of production they’re getting back. I had the Irish seventh in my preseason ballot, though they’re eighth in the overall media. Getting Notre Dame at home in Cassell Coliseum is huge. Young’s had the Irish’s number in the last two meetings, both Tech wins last season (77-63 in Blacksburg, 62-51 in South Bend). Mike Brey admitted it at the ACC Tip-Off in Charlotte, too: “It [VT] was the one team where we had no answers.” The Hokies should win, but it’s no guarantee with Mike Brey and a veteran group.

Pittsburgh

Returning Starters: 1

Last Season’s Record and ACC Finish: 10-12 (6-10 ACC), 12th

2021-22 Projection: Media (ACC): 14; KenPom (D-I): 145

Meeting Details: 1 in 2020-21; 2 in 2021-22 – Sat., Jan. 1 at home (4 p.m. ET, ESPNU), Sat., Feb. 5 away (7 p.m. ET, ACCN)

Difficulty: 1

Synopsis:

The Panthers are scrappy, but this is more of a rebuilding year for Jeff Capel. He lost all three of his top scorers from last season’s team to the transfer portal, and the lone returning starter is Ithiel Horton. Pitt did hit the transfer portal and pick up some solid prospects, including former Texas Tech guard Jamarius Burton. However, these are two games in which the Hokies should overpower and outmatch the Panthers with talent and depth. Pitt lost 10 of its last 12 games to end the 2020-21 season, and one of those two wins came against the Hokies (83-72). Tech will be seeking revenge this year, especially on Feb. 5 in the Petersen Events Center.

Syracuse

Returning Starters: 2

Last Season’s Record and ACC Finish: 18-10 (9-7 ACC), 8th

2021-22 Projection: Media (ACC): 7; KenPom (D-I): 41

Meeting Details: 1 in 2020-21; 1, home, in 2021-22 – Saturday, Feb. 12 (6 p.m. ET, ESPN2/U)

Difficulty: 2

Synopsis:

The Orange are one of the teams I’m most interested to watch this season, up there with Notre Dame and Miami. Buddy Boeheim and Joe Girard return, and Bourama Sidibe is back. The losses of Quincy Guerrier, Marek Dolezaj and Alan Griffin hurt, but Jim Boeheim picked up his other son, Jimmy, and made a few splashes in the transfer portal. Virginia Tech has lost the last two against the Orange, including last season’s 78-60 drubbing in the Carrier Dome. Syracuse ventures to Blacksburg this season, and it’s a game the Hokies should realistically win, but never count out Buddy Boeheim. Last time in Cassell, Boeheim had 26 and the Orange won as Landers Nolley’s three at the buzzer didn’t fall.

For the first time last season, Virginia Tech got past Virginia and Tony Bennett under Mike Young. (Ivan Morozov)

Virginia

Returning Starters: 2

Last Season’s Record and ACC Finish: 18-7 (13-4), 1st

2021-22 Projection: Media (ACC): 4; KenPom (D-I): 45

Meeting Details: 1 in 2020-21; 2 in 2021-22 – Wed., Jan. 12 away (9 p.m. ET, ESPN2), Mon., Feb. 14 at home (7 p.m. ET, ESPN)

Difficulty: 2

Synopsis:

The Cavaliers are always difficult to play against. I actually had UVa at six in my preseason ballot, simply because only Kihei Clark and Reece Beekman return, in terms of players who saw significant minutes last year. Of the nine guys that played over 100 minutes last season, six are gone. Clark, Beekman and Francisco Caffaro are left. Kadin Shedrick, a 6-11 forward, is talented, but UVa lost Sam Hauser (16 ppg), Jay Huff (13 ppg) and Trey Murphy (11 ppg). Who picks up the scoring? I think the Hokies should get Tony Bennett & Co. in Blacksburg, just like last year, but it’s a toss-up as far as the late game in John Paul Jones Arena is concerned.

Wake Forest

Returning Starters: 3

Last Season’s Record and ACC Finish: 6-16 (3-15 ACC), 14th

2021-22 Projection: Media (ACC): 13; KenPom (D-I): 104

Meeting Details: 2 in 2020-21; 1, home, in 2021-22 – Saturday, Dec. 4 (2 p.m. ET, ACCN)

Difficulty: 1

Synopsis:

Virginia Tech is 3-0 under Mike Young against Wake Forest, and the Hokies open up their ACC slate with the Demon Deacons in early December. Young and Steve Forbes are great friends, back to their SoCon days at Wofford and ETSU. At the ACC Tip-off, Forbes said he’s trying to use the template that Young has used in Blacksburg to turn the Wake Forest program around. While they do have three returning players that had 10-plus starts – Isaiah Mucius, Daiven Williamson and Carter Whitt – the Deacs are still a young team (eight freshmen). Former Hokie Khadim Sy is on roster, too. VT gets WF right after a trip to College Park, so Tech should be well prepared.

I’ll be back next Wednesday with a position-by-position breakdown. 

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6 Responses You are logged in as Test

  1. Very good and succinct analysis. Not giving up on VT football this year (at least not yet), but I’m really excited about being the Castle for basketball. Think we are gonna be very competitive and fun to watch.

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