Don’t look now, but basketball season is set to begin tomorrow. USC Upstate comes to Cassell Coliseum for a noon tip, and the game can be viewed on ESPN3.com.
Virginia Tech’s starting lineup for the first game is projected to look like this…
Junior forward C.J. Barksdale is suspended for the first three games of the season because of a violation of team rules.
Obviously the Hokies will feel the loss of ACC Player of the Year Erick Green, who led the nation in scoring. Many suspect that transfer guard Adam Smith will lead the team in scoring this year. However, how effective can Tech be offensively with a freshman point guard? It’s tough to play Marquis Rankin (6-1, 170, Jr.) on the court with Smith because of their lack of height (both guys are shorter than their listed height of 6-1).
First and foremost, the Hokies will have to play better defense. Tech was very bad on that end of the court last season, and it cost them plenty of opportunities for wins. If they can’t do that, then this season won’t go any better than last season (13-19).
Their first opponent is no pushover. USC Upstate has three All-Atlantic Sun players, including the preseason Atlantic Sun Player of the Year. Here’s a look at their starting lineup…
G Mario Blessing (6-2, 165, Jr.): Blessing started 25 games last season and averaged 3.5 points per game. Despite his lack of scoring, 57 of his 67 career games, and he is a reliable player for head coach Eddie Payne. He went to Urspring High School in Germany, the same schools as current ineligible Virginia Tech freshman point guard Malik Mueller.
G Ty Greene (6-3, 185, Jr.): Greene was the Atlantic Sun Freshman of the Year two years ago. He 63 games in his career, and he’s averaged 12 points per game in that span. He’s a 37.7% shooter from the outside, and he’s one of the top overall guards in the Atlantic Sun.
F Torry Craig (6-6, 215, Sr.): Craig averaged 17.2 points and 6.9 rebounds per game a year ago. He has led the Atlantic Sun in scoring for the past two seasons, and he is the consensus best player in that league. Craig has good size, and he can also step out and hit the three-pointer. He was 36.4% from the outside last season.
F Jodd Maxey (6-8, 200, Sr.): Like Blessing, Green and Craig, Jodd Maxey has been in the starting lineup since he was a freshman. He averaged 7.7 points and 5.9 rebounds per game last season, and he also led the Atlantic Sun with 1.6 blocks per game.
F Ricardo Glenn (6-8, 246, Sr.): Glenn averaged 10.5 points and 8.1 rebounds a year ago while starting every game for the Spartans. He is a big bodied post player who will match up with Cadarian Raines .
Overall, those five players have combined to play in 392 college basketball games, including 331 starts. The Hokies might now see a more experienced team all season. Compare that to Tech’s experience amongst the starters…
That’s a total of 238 games and 128 starts, substantially less than USC Upstate.
The Spartains went 16-17 last season. Two years ago they went 21-13 and advanced to the CIT. This particular group of players is used to winning basketball games, particularly for an Atlantic Sun team.
How do they fare against teams from power conferences? Well, they haven’t faced that many. They were defeated 72-53 by Kansas State last season, and lost to Baylor 73-57. Two years ago they lost to Arkansas (83-63), #2 Ohio State (82-58) and South Carolina (72-66). However, all of those teams are likely better than the 2013-14 Virginia Tech team.
In his preseason ratings, Ken Pomeroy last USC Upstate ranked #129 in the country out of 351 teams. The Hokies are ranked #154. Every year we see teams from power conferences get upset early in the season by foes from smaller leagues, and this game has that type of “upset” written all over it. Tech will have to play a good game to win.