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3 questions for the Virginia Tech Hokies entering the CBB season

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After a year of rebuilding under new head coach Mike Young, well it's time to do it all over again. The young Virginia Tech star from last season, Landers Nolley II, transferred to Kentucky and took away the growth that could have been this year. 

But that is the simple nature of a rebuild. Players continue to transfer in and out of the program as the new staff gets its affairs in order. 

It may even take a little bit longer given Young's experience in the coaching ranks. He was a long-time head coach at Wofford before taking this job. His predecessor Buzz Williams knew how to have success at the Power 5 level before heading to Blacksburg. 

Youth will define this team with some key transfers brought in to try and make this a competitive season. Keve Aluma (Wofford) is eligible to play this year after sitting out, the Hokies also get the services of Justin Mutts (Delaware) in addition to grad transfers Cordell Pemsl (Iowa) and Cartier Diarra (Kansas State).

The make up of this team will be an interesting one, but if Young can balance it all out the Hokies could be a formidable foe in the ACC at year's end. 

Here are three questions they must answer though to get to that point. 

Who fills in the Landers Nolley II void?

Not including the other losses, Nolley was responsible for 23% of the Hokies' offensive production last season. That's a lot to make up, no matter who is on the roster. One would assume that the two sophomores Jalen Cone and Tyrece Radford would be the ones to take the natural step forward on the team. 

 

Already Radford had a pretty prevalent role in Virginia Tech's rotation. The then-redshirt freshman was the second-leading scorer with 10.2 points a game and a phenomenal rebounder from the guard position with 6.2 boards a game. Alongside Wabissa Bebe, he was one of the top perimeter defenders. Any hesitation of his level of impact on the team is due to his lack of a 3-point game after only taking 12 attempts last season. Still, Radford has the skills to lead the Hokies even with the attention now turning toward him. 

Cone was an electric 3-point option off the bench a year ago. In fact, his job was to just hit threes. Over 71% of all his shots last season were from beyond the arc and in the process, he shot at an astounding 45.7%. Making the transition to a starter as a 3-point specialist is hard for some. Cone, however, was already playing starters minutes anyways. 

Those two will likely be the two Young turns to for production. There are also some talented transfers that should have an impact as well. 

Does Virginia Tech have the talent to compete in the ACC?

Rebuilds always take time and they are especially difficult in the strongest conference in college basketball. It took Buzz Williams three seasons to get Virginia Tech into the NCAA Tournament and then another two years (his last) to get the team into the competitive section of the league.

When Williams left so did a lot of talent. And even in Young's first season, there was talent that also departed. 

Right now the Hokies just do not have the five-stars and the four-stars to measure up to the Dukes, North Carolinas and Virginias of the ACC. How Virginia Tech gets it done in the conference is with experience and comradery — like a lot that was seen during 2018-19 season. 

There isn't much of that in Blacksburg for this season, at least not from the top players.

Keep in mind, Williams is a great head coach and took the program to places no one else has before. Doing what he did takes time. 

A lot of ACC losses will pile up this season. But if Young can show progression, the near future does look bright to where they can get back to a 2018-19 level. 

Can the Hokies improve their rebounding?

Rebounding is only a statistic that is relevant with context. Here's the context for Virginia Tech, they ranked as one of the worst 80 rebounding teams in the sport last year (33.9 per game). Their shooting percentage — which leads to offensive rebounds — was also in the bottom-80 (41.9%). Their opponents' shooting percentage (41.6%) — leading to defensive rebounds — was in the top 100 of the 353 teams. 

That means there were a lot of opportunities for boards on both ends of the court last season. The Hokies just didn't take advantage. 

It shows when the team's top rebounder is a 6'2 freshman guard in Radford who had 6.2 rpg. To Young's credit though, the roster was smaller without the ball grabbing forwards on typical teams. Their staff made a concerted effort to get the guards active on the glass. 

 

The addition of Delaware transfer Justin Mutts is where the team will be relying on for the extra possessions. Last season he averaged 8.4 rebounds as a starter, which would have led the Hokies. Many assume his experience will earn him a spot in the starting rotation amongst a ton of guards leaving the responsibility on him.

Other transfers, Cordell Pemsl and Keve Aluma will also provide the bench support that was lacking in previous seasons too.