5:50 PM EDT, October 20, 2010
CHARLOTTE, N.C. —
A serious knee injury shelved their sixth man. An unusual heart virus sidelined their acclaimed transfer and a broken foot continues to nag a top frontcourt reserve.
Oh, and the program has made two NCAA tournaments in the last 20 years.
But those issues haven't tempered the expectations surrounding Virginia Tech this basketball season.
Nor should they.
With five starters returning from a team that finished 25-9, 10-6 in the ACC, the Hokies need only address one question: If not now, when?
Conference bigfoot and defending national champion Duke notwithstanding, if Virginia Tech doesn't contend for an ACC title this season, then when?
More to the point, if the Hokies don't advance in the 2011 NCAA tournament, then when?
Those are fair questions for coach Seth Greenberg and his four senior starters: All-ACC guards Malcolm Delaney and Dorenzo Hudson, and forwards Jeff Allen and Terrell Bell.
"I feel like we'll have a special year," Hudson said Wednesday at the conference's preseason media gathering. "ACC championship, NCAA tournament, everything we set as goals that we haven't accomplished yet."
Those goals were attainable last season, but a soft non-conference schedule and ACC tournament loss to last-place Miami relegated Tech to a third consecutive NIT.
Greenberg fiercely defends last season's squad – beating Seton Hall without Delaney and Georgia Tech without Hudson were signature moments – but in the ACC, no one should define success by the NIT.
As Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said, "Our conference isn't about just making the NCAA tournament. It's about winning the NCAA tournament."
Tough room, ey? But the ACC claims five of the last 10 national champions and eight of the last 20.
"We feel like we deserved to be in (the NCAA) the last two years," Hudson said, "so we've got a chip on our shoulders."
Greenberg coaches the same way, portraying his Hokies as the conference's unwanted stepchildren. It makes for amusing one-liners, but only Duke, North Carolina and Maryland have won more ACC games in the last four years than Virginia Tech.
Yet none of these Hokies has played in the NCAA tournament or an ACC championship game.
"We've got all the players we need," Hudson said. "I feel like it's our season to come out."
Tech figured to have more players. But sixth man JT Thompson tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee, Florida transfer Allan Chaney contracted a heart virus, and Cadarian Raines is out at least a few more weeks with a nagging foot ailment.
If Raines heals and contributes to the Hokies' post defense and rebounding, "everything else is in place," Greenberg said.
Thompson leaves a significant void, but Greenberg raved about freshman Jarell Eddie, who at 6-foot-7, 209 pounds, mirrors Thompson's presence. Moreover, Greenberg said Allen is practicing better than ever, and that sophomore reserve guard Erick Green is poised for a breakout year.
"I feel like we can make a run in the NCAA tournament and compete for an ACC championship," Delaney said, "and that's the feeling around Blacksburg."
That was the feeling Wednesday, too, when media brainiacs picked Tech to finish second behind Duke.
Can the Hokies hang with the Blue Devils?
"All day," Hudson said. "I definitely feel like my guys can compete with anybody in the league."
And if the Hokies can compete with anybody in the ACC, why not the entire country?
"We're looking to go all the way – the Final Four," Hudson said.
Greenberg doesn't discourage such chatter.
"There's a buzz," he said. "The white elephant in the room is the expectations. We have to address that. It can't be a burden."
The solution to expectations? Embrace, enjoy, exceed.
David Teel can be reached at 247-4636 or by e-mail at email@example.com. For more from Teel, read his blog at dailypress.com/teeltime, and follow him at twitter.com/DavidTeelatDP. Sign up for text alerts by texting "BIGSPORTS" to 71593
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