Virginia Tech’s 2015-16 basketball season tips off on Saturday night when the Alabama State Hornets visit Cassell Coliseum. The Hokies hope to improve on last season’s 11-22 record. Judging from their non-conference schedule, they should be able to do just that.
ESPN has ranked all teams in college basketball, and here’s where Tech’s non-conference opponents rank:
Alabama State: 288
Jacksonville State: 326
NC A&T: 286
Iowa State: 6
Arkansas Pine Bluff: 333
Grambling State: 349
St. Joe’s: 76
West Virginia: 28
For what it’s worth, the Hokies are #116.
Even if the Hokies drop all four games against good competition (ISU, Northwestern, St. Joe’s and WVU), if they win all of their gimme games they’ll already have eight wins before the ACC schedule begins. However, they can’t afford to slip up like they did a year ago against Appalachian State and Radford.
Alabama State represents Tech’s first test, and they have been a pretty good program over the last 10 years under head coach Lewis Jackson. He’s won 157 games since he arrived in 2005-06. He’s led the Hornets to two NCAA Tournaments, an NIT and a CIT. His team has won 19 games in each of the past two seasons. They are a very capable small-conference team.
However, like most small-conference teams, they like size. Check out their potential starting lineup…
G Jamel Waters (5-9, 160, Sr.)
G Steve Rogers (5-11, 160, So.)
G Torloft Thomas (6-4, 180, Jr.)
G Chidozie Omile (6-5, 215, Sr.)
F Bobby Brown (6-6, 195, Sr.)
There’s not a true post player in that group. Waters is the best player, as he averaged over 14 points per game a year ago and is an All-SWAC player. However, he’s just 5-9 and he doesn’t have much help from the rest of the lineup. From a depth standpoint, the Hornets only have two backups who have ever appeared in a Division I college game.
Alabama State does have size on the bench…
Glenn Halloway (6-10, 195, So.): Halloway is a JUCO transfer in his first season at Alabama State.
Robert Ojeah (6-9, 245, Sr.): Another JUCO. He hasn’t played since the 2012-13 season at Aiken State, where he averaged just 2.8 points.
Folorunsho Akande (6-9, 237, Jr.): Yet another JUCO. Akande didn’t see much playing time at the JUCO level.
Branden Johnson (6-8, 205, Fr.): A true freshman who has yet to play in a college game.
Obviously the Alabama State staff knew that they needed post help this year, and they decided to address the issue by dipping into the JUCO ranks. However, the talent level of Halloway, Ojeah and Akande is extremely questionable.
Last year, Virginia Tech did not resemble an ACC team in the paint, particularly when Joey van Zegeren left the team. This year the Hokies have added Johnny Hamilton (7-0, 230) and Kerry Blackshear (6-10, 240) to combine with Satchel Pierce (7-0, 255) at center, and South Florida transfer Zach LeDay (6-7, 235) will boost the power forward position. Tech will actually look like an ACC team this season, and though their post players have a ways to go, we should see a big upgrade in performance this year. That should start against the undersized Hornets.