5 Questions For 5 games

Okay, so I think that it’s safe to say that anyone who thinks they will know exactly how the 2012-2013 Virginia Tech men’s basketball team will play is either a liar or a physic. New coach, a different roster…it will be interesting to say the least.

The team, and the new coaching staff in particular, will have five games in 13 days to show whatever sort of identity they will adopt under coach James Johnson. That’s why I am going to hold off on a basketball preview until after those five games, so I can write an informed preview after watching a few things.

But in the mean time, here are five questions I will be asking while watching the Hokies take on the slate of East Tennessee State, Rhode Island, VMI, UNC Greensboro and Appalachian State:

1. What kind of offense will we be watching?

Don’t get me wrong…we can’t expect a lot. Under the Greenberg tenure, the team offense devolved slowly but surely from offense to “offense” by last season –I put “offense” in quotes because even pretending that last season’s attempt at a motion offense was an insult to the word.

So that being said, I have no idea what offensive system JJ wants to install. I know they have been pushing the ball, probably because that’s the best chance to put points on the board, but when they can’t what will we see? Dribble drive with Erick Green kicking to Robert Brown and Jarell Eddie? Will there be more low post stuff with Raines? He looked really good at the tail end of last season after Davila got hurt, and while that is a small sample size it may be the best chance to score come ACC play.

2. Who will step up to be the second offensive threat?

It’s already obvious that Green will get his points…or at least his shots. He is by far the best player on the team, and naturally will (and should) have the ball in his hands frequently. But when he’s having a rough night, who can the team go for scoring? The three obvious candidates have already been mentioned. Eddie, Brown and Raines will also all score, just simply because the touches will be there.

I have always loved Brown’s shot, and he may benefit most from getting open 3s in transition. I think, however, that Eddie will have to be the guy. He may seem like a glorified jump shooter at times, but the dude can play. He will have to be the focal point if Green has to miss any time (gulp), so it will be interesting to see how much he worked on his game over the summer.

3. How much will we see of Joey van Zegeren?

It may seem like a random question, but I think that van Zegeren will be essential to the success of the Hokies. The 6’10” Dutchman will probably be the 7th or 8th guy off the bench, but he is very skilled offensively and will provided much needed bench scoring. I have actually never seen him play, but hope to do so on Monday against Rhode Island. He has to limit his fouls and move his feet better on defense, but if he can develop into a nice lost post presence off the bench that will help the team tremendously.

4. Who among the “other” players will step up?

“The others”, a club I made up of three players who aren’t getting a lot of buzz this preseason, consisting of Marquis Rankin, C.J. Barksdale and Marshall Wood. Rankin is an excellent on-ball defender as a point guard, and is really quick and pesky. The only problem is that he is not really compatible with Green. Green is not particularly good off-ball, and playing Rankin off-ball would basically mean playing 4 on 5 offensively.

Wood and Barksdale are still in a position battle for the starting 4 spot. Wood is a freshman and would be playing a little out of position (he is more of a 3) but can really add a wrinkle by both stretching the floor with his jumper and taking slower defenders off the dribble. Barksdale couldn’t ever see the floor that much last season, and can also probably considered something of a ‘stretch 4’. He’s got a decent midrange jumper, but tends to pick up fouls quickly, especially when taken down low.

I have no idea which of these guys will step up...but at least one of them needs to in order for the Hokies to find any kind of success.

5. Is there ANY potential for a “nobody believes in us” theory

Okay, okay, OKKAAYYYYY…I know the season looks pretty bleak, but this is how I’ve already talked myself into it. The players are going to have so much more fun playing under JJ that they will be energized and motivated every game (instead of seeing a squad that tended to take a night or two off every once in a while…). The energy will be so abundant from the obvious need of a coaching change that it will make up for the fact that they only have 8 scholarship guys, and will come out of the shadows and unpredictability that is every ACC spot between 5 and 11 and win the games they need to win.

That may sound dumb, but it’s what I am holding on to. Johnson can get the guys energized with one of those “No one thinks we can play well, no one believes in us, let’s shock the world!” speeches…right?

Anyone? (crickets) Anyone at all?

Fine, whatever. I’m buying into it anyways.

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2. Who will step up to be the second offensive threat?

Well, Green hasn't had a bad night yet, but if two games are any indication, which they aren't, that next guy will be either Eddie or Brown.

Like you hit on in point 5., it's obvious these guys are playing harder for, and believing in, Johnson's system more they did Seth's last year. For a fan, this offense is actually fun to watch. Who knows if running the floor will be able to offset the talent gap against better teams, but I'm enjoying the product.