While this is a young starting five (one senior), this is still a group with some experience. I trust this unit on the floor – and many have seen some positive gains in the offseason.
Erick Green (6'3", 185 lbs., Senior, Point Guard) - The best possible news of the off-season was the return of point guard, Erick Green. Many thought he might depart after Greenberg was fired. When Johnson was hired, though, he decided to stay. We know Erick Green is the undisputed team leader - he is going to score (he scored double figures in 30 of 31 games last season) and dish out the assists – he's a baller and would be 1st team all conference in several other leagues not named the ACC. Ed Isaacson, the proprietor of NBA Draft Blog, wrote this terrific article in SLAM about Green – Isaacson is, of course, right – Green is the undisputed team leader in the Hokies locker room. Here is what Jon Rothstein of CBS Sports said on Twitter about Green: “Virginia Tech's Erick Green has a chance to be the best PG in the ACC. Needs to have a memorable year for Hokies to be competitive."
Jarell Eddie (6'7", 218 lbs., Junior, Small Forward/Wing Guard) – Jarell Eddie plays the wing forward in Virginia Tech's offense – and he has great size for a forward – might have one of the best looking pure shots I've seen at Virginia Tech since Dell Curry (if you are looking for an ACC fantasy basketball draft pick, look no farther than Eddie). The Hokies will need his points and leadership – and he's going to deliver – we're going to have a few games this year where his size will cause mismatches and we need to take advantage of these situations.
C.J. Barksdale (6'8", 232 lbs., Power Forward/Small Forward) –C.J. Barksdale was a top 100 recruit coming out of high school – and he will be asked to play at a higher level this season. Here's what is good for him– he will be permitted to play through occasional mistakes and doesn't have to worry that he will be take out of the lineup. Expect his offensive production, his defense, and his rebounding to pick up this year. Here is what Jon Rothstein of CBS Sports said on Twitter about Barksdale: “Word out of Blacksburg is that C.J. Barksdale is a different player than last year. Much more physical. Need to anchor middle 4 V Tech." Count me in as excited!!
Cadarian Raines (6'8", 239 lbs., Junior (R), Power Forward/Center) – I'm hearing excellent off-season reports about Cadarian Raines. From what I understand, Raines is in the best shape of his career. And we're going to need him to be our defensive presence in the post.
The bench? Well, it's pretty thin – in numbers and experience.
Marquis Rankin (6'1", 170 lbs., Sophomore, Point Guard) – Marquis Rankin is one of the few players on our bench that has some playing minutes – he's going to be asked to spell Green – and ensure that there is no drop off.
Marshall Wood (6'8", 210 lbs., Freshman, Power Forward/Small Forward) – How big of a leap can Wood take this year? In an ideal world, this guy would have a redshirt on. He doesn't – and Virginia Tech is going to ask him to produce – this is a big unknown right now.
Joey van Zegeren (6'10", 225 lbs., Freshman (R), Power Forward/Center) – I could be wrong about this, but I think van Zegeren will be the Robert Krabbendam of the 2011-2012 recruiting class. I don't see him getting much playing time at all this year unless everyone else (including Wood) is in major foul trouble.
What Do We Know Going Into 2012-2013? What Needs To Be Answered?
1.We do not know much about Coach Johnson's style of play except if you play for him, you better work on defense. Johnson is not going to play you if you loaf in that area. Due to our lack of roster depth, I expect to see the Hokies play a ton of zone defense this year. Opposing teams with better than average outside shooting (e.g. BYU, Duke) should take advantage of our zone defense – teams that don't have a sharp shooter might have difficulty with Virginia Tech's zone defense, which is more active than most. Given this emphasis on hard-nosed defense, can we stay out of foul trouble?
2.Johnson says Virginia Tech will run a little more on offense. Count me in as skeptical on that – the Hokies have a very serviceable starting five (they are pretty good – and I trust the unit on the floor) – but they are going to get gassed at times due to our lack of depth. Van Zegren is a project – Wood is a true freshman – Rankin is the only bench player with any real serviceable playing minutes. That means – you might see six players with any real meaningful playing time – maybe seven as Wood gets more comfortable on the court later in the year. And the Hokies will press and trap, too? We'll see – not that I wouldn't enjoy a faster tempo – I would for sure.
3.Who has a breakout year for the Hokies? Green is our Batman – who is going to be Robin? My money (not a gambler – don't take this as gambling) is on Jarell Eddie. We need a second consistent scorer.
4.Will we get consistent production in the post? This is the first season that Cadarian Raines has been healthy (knock on wood) – and C.J. Barksdale sounds like he has improved vastly. Need double figures from our post presence.
5.There's always a guy on a Virginia Tech's men's basketball team that's willing to do the dirty work... to play hard defense on the opposing team's offensive wizard... to run for all the loose balls... and to dedicated themselves to rebounding. In 2010-2011, that guy was Terrell Bell. We didn't have that guy in 2011-2012 – does that guy reappear in 2012-2013? That's a big question there.
6.With a rotation of six to seven players (maybe eight if project, Joey van Zegeren gets some minutes), will this team be gassed by the middle of the ACC season? Can we stay injury-free which is so important given this team's lack of depth?
7.Will this team get up for every game? We had difficulty in prior years under Greenberg with motivational issues – up for some games – not up for others. For some reason, I feel better about game readiness under Johnson's leadership – the guys like him and want to play for him.
8.Last year, I predicted the Hokies ACC record at 4-12 and - I was right on the money - exactly. This year, despite the lack of roster depth, the Hokies are going to have a better ACC record. You know why? As I mentioned earlier, Johnson has his players trust (Green would not have come back to if Virginia Tech not hire Johnson). There will be no distractions in the locker room this year. While the roster is not full of scholarship players, this is a close-knit group of players. Team chemistry is big – and often underrated. Johnson will have this team on the same page – something Greenberg was not able to do last year – and that's going to make a big difference in wins and losses – can't call this an NCAA tournament team, but they are for sure going to be better than last year. We'll call the Hokies a potential NIT team for now.
Erick Green was somewhat of a surprise to me last season. Green's ability to create his own shot was Virginia Tech's biggest and perhaps only consistent offense last season. Our projections have Green's production taking a small step forward while his assists take a step up as well as he learns to help create for his teammates. Look for Green early in the 2nd round in your ACC Fantasy Basketball drafts.