College Basketball

Virginia Tech College Basketball Preview

Five starters return to the Virginia Tech men’s basketball team this season. These are five starters from a 14-16 team, but in a rare example of life intruding into sports, this team has an excuse and a reason to expect more.    Problems on the court were mere glitches in the daily routine of the team. Focusing on tweaking the offense to set up the dump in was not first on the priority list of anyone.
    Among problems much bigger than basketball was the death of starting center Coleman Collins’ father to cancer. As his dad and best friend degenerated with the terminal illness, Collins missed significant chunks of practice and game time.
    Cancer was almost as big an opponent to this team as North Carolina could ever be. Would have been senior leader Allen Calloway was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer that robbed him of his energy and former abilities on the court.
    The only other senior from last year was Shawn Harris, who also missed time as his grandfather died. Wynton Witherspoon had to deal with his mother fighting breast cancer, and young blossoming star A.D. Vassallo had to deal with the loss of the “mother” that brought him to the United States, also to breast cancer.
    In addition to personal tragedy, the team’s collective heart was broken on one miraculous shot in Durham. On Sunday, December 4th, the Hokies went to Duke’s home court and led for the entire second half. Coleman Collins outplayed All-American big man Sheldon Williams and the backcourt of Zabian Dowdell and Jamon Gordon gave Duke’s guards fits.
    Virginia Tech led number one ranked Duke by one point. However, with 1.7 seconds remaining on the clock, Duke lined up in a formation similar to that which Christian Laettner embossed in history against Kentucky, but Tech covered that pass. Instead, they passed the ball in to a crossing Sean Dockery, who ran forward to half court, and a step and a half over the line, he threw up a prayer. It clearly left his hand before the buzzer, and it clearly went in the hoop. The crowd went nuts, and the Hokies stood in disbelief.
    This was just the primary example of coming painfully close to knocking off one of the country’s top ranked teams. The lost by one point to fifteenth ranked Boston College, and then only by two in their second meeting, when BC was number twelve. The margin of defeat was just three to North Carolina. A four point loss to archrival UVA in the ACC Tournament ended the season for a team that featured no consistently contributing seniors.
    However, this often drained and always fighting team managed to show promise, winning at Wake Forest and against Georgia Tech. The scrappy backcourt of Dowdell and Gordon helped Tech be among the top teams in the country in turnover margin.
    This season, all five starters and a few more contributors return. Dowdell, Gordon, Deron Washington, Vassallo, and Collins will be the main attraction. But Greenberg’s recruiting talents are really starting to shine. He has pulled in two freshman that are ready to contribute immediately. Forward Louis Witcher and guard Nigel Munson will add depth. Also thrown into the mix is the seven foot center Robert Krabbendam, who had to be redshirted due to injury last season. Another big man to boost the weakest category of the team, rebounding, is Cheick Diakite, just a sophomore who has shown much improvement.
    Frankly, it is unimaginable that any team could have a season like the last twice. This team is primed with a solid backcourt, sturdy center and two potential star wing players in Washington and Vassallo, for a run at the NCAA Tournament. Georgia Tech and Wake Forest are down compared to the past two years. NC State is nearly out of the picture.
    The ACC will still likely send seven teams to the Big Dance. Unless Murphy’s Law holds completely true, the Virginia Tech Hokies will be one of the seven.

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