— JW Gravley (@jwgravley) November 11, 2016
2015-16 Virginia Tech record: 20-15 (10-8 ACC)
This is the most talented team top to bottom that Buzz Williams has had in his short time in Blacksburg.
Tech returns its top four scorers from a year ago and six of the top seven, having lost only guard Jalen Hudson who transferred to Florida. The stars of the lineup will be two seniors in Zach LeDay and Seth Allen.
LeDay surprised many last season when he emerged as the team’s leading scorer and rebounder when he averaged 15.5 points and 7.9 rebounds per game. He also had 1.7 blocks per contest despite being an undersized forward at 6’7″, 235.
Allen proved to be the kind of player that thrives with Buzz Williams’ guard-oriented system. He averaged 14.7 points, 3.0 rebounds, and 2.5 assists. He helped lead the Hokies to the second round of the NIT, but he’s looking for more in his collegiate swan song.
“Personally I was not happy with the NIT because I had higher goals,” Allen said at Operation Basketball.
“I think the NIT was good postseason reps for our team. So younger guys like Justin Robinson, Kerry Blackshear, Chris Clarke, being able to play in a postseason and see how serious it is, it was good for us.”
— Buzz Williams (@TeamCoachBuzz) November 5, 2016
Justin Bibbs also emerged as a star last season and proved himself to be the best outside shooter on the team. Bibbs made 45 percent of his three-point attempts which was third best in the ACC. He also averaged 11.7 points and 3.3 rebounds.
Transfer Ty Outlaw is finally eligible after sitting out last season due to a medical condition. Before coming to Tech he averaged 21.8 points and 5.0 rebounds per game at Lee College. That was good for 12th best in the junior college ranks. He adds to the plethora of talented wings on this team and should contribute significantly.
Another strong, young wing is sophomore Chris Clarke, who averaged 8.4 points and 6.0 rebounds per game last season despite missing time with an injury. His energy and versatility provides a wildcard similar to that of former wing Deron Washington.
A quick break for Deron.
Post depth will once again be a concern for the Hokies with Kerry Blackshear (6.2 points, 5.4 rebounds) still recovering from offseason surgery. A redshirt is still a possibility, but the timetable for his return remains unclear. If he plays this season, that’s an enormous boost.
6’10” Freshman Khadim Sy will see playing time and may be asked to do a lot given the lack of big men on the roster. Of course, Buzz Williams hasn’t shied away from playing small lineups in the past and this year will likely be no different.
The schedule isn’t particularly daunting for the Hokies with a road trip to Michigan for the ACC/Big Ten Challenge looming as the major non-conference obstacle. Tech plays in the Wooden Legacy tournament as well where they’ll open with New Mexico.
The ACC schedule broke fairly well for the Hokies, with just one game against ranked #1 Duke, #6 North Carolina, #13 Louisville, and #19 Syracuse. Tech faces rival #8 Virginia two times.
The Hokies are among the deepest teams in the conference, but will once again be one of the smallest. Still, there’s no question the talent is there for a potential return to the NCAA Tournament.
“I think we’re a little ahead of where anybody could have thought, but we’re thankful that we’re there,” Buzz Williams said. “…We just need to continue to be efficient and work in the same manner that brought us here, but also understand that the air we’re breathing today is a little different than when we first got there, and so we need to be aware of that and make sure that we have wisdom in the decisions that we make going forward.”