2012-13 Basketball Preview: The Schedule

After spending so much time on the NCAA Tournament bubble, scheduling is obviously a big issue with Virginia Tech basketball fans. Today we’ll take a closer look at Tech’s 2012-13 schedule, which, on the whole, is very favorable.

I think everyone can agree that the NCAA Tournament is not a realistic goal for this season. The focus this year is on James Johnson establishing his system, getting his players to embrace it, and continuing to recruit players who can add quality depth for next season and years beyond.

That said, the goal is always to try and win as many games as possible. The Hokies play 13 non-conference games and 18 ACC games. With two extra conference games this year, the schedule is automatically a bit more difficult.

We’re going to break Tech’s schedule down into a few different parts.

The First Five

In the first two weeks of the season, the Hokies play five games. They host ETSU, Rhode Island, VMI and Appalachian State, and they also play UNC-Greensboro in the Greensboro Coliseum. All five of these games are very winnable, and if the Hokies can start 5-0, that could build some confidence.

ETSU: 17-14 last year. Picked 4th in the Atlantic Sun by the media.
Rhode Island: 7-24 last year. Picked 15th in the A-10.
VMI: 17-16 last year. Picked 2nd in the Big South’s North Division.
UNC-G: 13-19 last year. Picked to win the Southern Conference’s North Division.
Appalachian State: 13-18. Picked 4th in the Southern Conference’s North Division.

Obviously Virginia Tech has more talent than all of those teams. ETSU is a well-coached team, with Murry Bartow leading the charge. He has led the Bucs to three NCAA Tournaments, and he also reached the Big Dance with the UAB Blazers. He has a career record of 265-180. ETSU has won 20+ games in five of Bartow’s nine seasons.

Rhode Island could be an interesting game. The Rams were awful a season ago, but they have a new staff in place: Dan Hurley is their head coach, and Bobby Hurley is their top assistant. They are an unknown at this point.

A 5-0 start against that schedule is desirable.

A Step Up

Following those first five games, Virginia Tech will take a step up in competition. They play three straight games against programs from power conferences, and two of them will be in Cassell Coliseum. They’ll take on Iowa in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge, and then host Oklahoma State. Finally, they’ll head up to Morgantown to renew the rivalry with West Virginia.

Iowa: 18-17 last year. They return four of their top five scorers from last season.
Oklahoma State: 15-18. They are picked to finish 3rd in the Big 12.
West Virginia: 19-14. They are picked to finish 6th in the Big 12.

Virginia Tech has won two ACC/Big Ten Challenge games, and both have come against the Iowa Hawkeyes. Iowa should be an improved basketball team this year, as they have plenty of experience returning.

Tech has defeated Oklahoma State three times in the last two seasons, including twice last year. The Hokies beat the Cowboys 59-57 in Madison Square Garden, and later 67-61 in Stillwater. However, Oklahoma State is picked 3rd in the league this year, and Travis Ford is expected to have a team that can contend for an NCAA Tournament berth. 5-star freshman combo guard Marcus Smart is expected to be a big-time player right out of the gate.

Virginia Tech and West Virginia have not met since the 2003-04 season, when Seth Greenberg was in his first year as VT’s head coach. The Hokies beat the Mountaineers in both meetings. Rookie head coach James Johnson will get to go head-to-head with future Hall of Famer Bob Huggins.

In their last seven meetings with Iowa, Oklahoma State and West Virginia, Virginia Tech has a perfect 7-0 record. Obviously the Hokies will be taking a major step forward in terms of playing against top talent. Virginia Tech will out-talent the first five teams on their schedule. The next three games will be much more evenly matched, and the Hawkeyes, Cowboys and Mountaineers all will surely have better depth than the Hokies.

Continental Tire Las Vegas Classic (And BYU)

After the trip to West Virginia, the Hokies will take part in the Continental Tire Las Vegas Classic. They’ll take on Mississippi Valley State and Georgia Southern in Blacksburg, and then they’ll head west to Las Vegas where they will face Bradley and either Colorado State or Portland.

Mississippi Valley State: 21-13 last year, 17-1 in the SWAC, NCAA Tournament participant.
Georgia Southern: 15-15 year, picked third in Southern Conference’s South Division.
Bradley: 7-25 last year, picked at or near the bottom of the MVC.
Colorado State: 20-12 last year, NCAA Tournament participant, picked 4th in the Mountain