ACC Network studio analyst Luke Hancock does not expect the Virginia Tech men’s basketball team will rocket up the ACC standings this season.
The Hokies return three starters from a 16-16 team that tied for 10th place in the ACC with a 7-13 league mark last season.
Hancock, a former Hidden Valley High School and Louisville standout, said the Hokies “are going to struggle a little bit this year” and will experience “growing pains.”
“They certainly don’t have the star power that some of the teams in this league have,” Hancock said Wednesday on an ACC Network video conference. “But I think they have a fantastic coach in Mike Young. He’s building something special. I think they need a few more pieces to make a big jump. But I think Virginia Tech basketball’s going [in] the right direction.”
Landers Nolley II, who led Tech in scoring last season, transferred to Memphis.
“Nolley … is a big loss,” Hancock said. “[But] he may not have fit perfectly with their chemistry. They looked like a team that really wanted to get off the court at the ACC Tournament.”
Young has added three graduate transfers and three freshmen. Keve Aluma, who sat out last season after transferring from Wofford, is also eligible this season.
“They have a bunch of new pieces, and I’m actually interested to see how Mike Young brings them together,” said ACC Network analyst and host Dalen Cuff, a former Columbia standout. “They have a lot of questions. But they may have more answers than we know.
“They were by far the most surprising team last year up until about … the last week in January. They started to hit a wall and teams started to figure them out and how to really defend them and how to run them off the 3-point line.
“If he can put all those pieces together and these guys make shots, … they could be the biggest surprise again this year.”
The Hokies lost 11 of their final 13 games last season.
Hancock expects the Hokies to do well offensively this season.
“I think they’ll do better by just sharing the ball a little bit more and playing Mike Young basketball,” Hancock said. “He can get good shots for those guys, and as long as they can knock down some open ones, Virginia Tech is going to be a solid basketball team.
“Nolley wanted to live outside the 3-point line, and they weren’t as successful playing Mike Young basketball that way. I think they’re actually going to be a better team.”
But Hancock said the Hokies must improve inside.
“I’m anxious to see who is going to be an enforcer in there to compete with the size of the ACC,” he said. “Can Virginia Tech secure the paint? Can they rebound? Can they get defensive stops?”
While the Hokies were only picked 11th in the ACC’s preseason media poll last week, Virginia was picked No. 1.
The Cavaliers return three starters from a team that went 23-7 overall and tied for second in the ACC with a 15-5 league mark.
Sam Hauser, who sat out last season after transferring from Marquette, is eligible for UVa this season. Freshman Jabri Abdur-Rahim should boost the offense as well.
“When you’re [312th] in 3-point percentage the way they were last year and you bring in Abdur-Rahim and you bring in Sam Hauser, they’re going to improve very, very quickly,” Hancock said.
Hauser sank 88 3-pointers in the 2018-19 season.
“Hauser will offer them opportunities offensively to knock down shots,” Cuff said. “But from talking to him, … his development in this offseason was really being able to score from different spots — take you into the post at times, develop more of a mid-range game.”
The Cavaliers will be seeking another NCAA title to go with the one they won in 2019.
“They have all the pieces of a team that can win a championship. The difference with that championship team, though, [is] that team had pros,” Cuff said. “I’m not going to say that some of these guys can’t develop into that. Jay Huff will be a pro. … And Sam may find a niche there, too.
“This UVa team no doubt will compete for an ACC title — they’re my favorite to win it — and they’ll be competing for a national title because of the foundation of their program defensively and then adding guys like Hauser with all the great … experience they got.”
Like Tech and UVa, Louisville also helped itself in the transfer market.
Louisville added graduate transfer Carlik Jones, who averaged 20.0 points and 5.5 assists for Radford last season.
Hancock said he has been “blown away” by what Louisville assistant Dino Gaudio, a former Wake Forest coach, and Louisville head coach Chris Mack have told him about Jones. He said they compared Jones to former Wake Forest stars Jeff Teague, Ish Smith and Chris Paul.
“They expect him to not have any problem at all making a step to the ACC,” Hancock said. “Mack keeps talking about this guy as an absolute gamer. He’s not going to shy away from any big moments. … High is not high enough for the praise that they are giving him.”
Washington game not airing locally
WDBJ (Channel 7) will not be televising the Washington Football Team’s game Sunday.
Washington (2-7) is hosting an AFC team (the 2-6-1 Cincinnati Bengals), which means CBS gets to carry the 1 p.m. game. But CBS affiliate WDBJ will be airing the game between Tennessee (6-3) and Baltimore (6-3) at that time instead.
CBS had assigned WDBJ the Pittsburgh-Jacksonville game for that time slot, but WDBJ requested the Tennessee-Baltimore game.
“We looked for the best matchup possible with potential playoff teams and this [Tennessee-Baltimore] game jumped out,” WDBJ vice president and general manager Matt Pumo said in an email.
Pumo said requesting the Baltimore game instead of the Washington game was “absolutely” a tough call. He said if Dwayne Haskins was going to be playing for Washington against his former Ohio State teammate Joe Burrow of Cincinnati, it would have been “a different situation because that’s a compelling story.” But Washington will be starting Alex Smith, not Haskins, at quarterback.
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