Every single basketball team has a hierarchy of players and personnel that rank in matter of importance to their team. It's something that has been a part of basketball longer than any other facet of the game (yes, it's even been around longer than Billy Packer). There are players that impact the course of a season (think Michael Jordan), players that have the potential to impact a few games here and there (think Toni Kukoc) and players that have no bearing on the season whatsoever (think Jud Buechler).
It's the reason that the talented kids in youth basketball are considered "ball hogs", many college and NBA superstars are considered "prima donnas" and why guys like Mike Krzyzewski, John Calipari or Gregg Popovich can command high multi-million dollar salaries. They're incredibly important to their team, and they know it.
This goes for literally every basketball team or organization on the planet. From your local high school team, to the Lakers, to the random Chinese team that Stephon Marbury currently plays for (the Beijing Ducks), everyone has a hierarchy.
I'm sure you all can see where this is going. Because I'm a sucker for gimmicky columns, I'm going to power rank the hierarchy of the Virginia Tech men's basketball team.
14. The Person That Gives This Team Flu Shots: Okay, maybe this person is actually important, but are they doing their job? I feel like this team has had more players go down with the flu than New York City residents in I Am Legend.
13. The Caucasian Persuasion: I know a bunch of you love the Johnston/Beyer combo and think that they provide the "grit and grind" that everyone seems to be searching for. In all actuality they provide five fouls, fresh legs during those short breaks before TV timeouts and very average towel waving on the bench. I would definitely want more from them in the towel waving department.
12. Maurice Kirby: I honestly have no idea how important Kirby is, but at least he makes Tech look impressive in the airport. The power of intimidation knows no bounds, well, that is until they realize that he's not getting off the bench.
11. Trevor Thompson: I like Thompson, I think I've made that much clear. But he's often the second or third big off the bench, which limits his minutes. When he does play, however, I feel that he is timid offensively, and I hope that this doesn't stem from some sub-par shooting games (2-7 against VMI, 1-5 against VCU). Maybe he needs a confidence booster off the floor. You know what? I'll volunteer to be his wingman. Just something to get him off the schnide.
(You laugh, but I've heard multiple stories about one former player who had such a crazy girlfriend that it legitimately impacted his play on the court, getting worse and worse as the season progressed.)
10. Malik Mueller: By all accounts, Mueller would have been the starting point guard on this team, and instead he's relegated to wearing suits on the bench. Obviously we don't know how he'd play this year, but with point guard being the shallowest position on the squad he could only have helped. Now we can only wonder what this team would be with him, and whether or not he's slowly teaching Kirby and Johnston how to speak German on the bench.
9. Marshall Wood: We're getting to the point where a lot of these guys are really close on this list. I put Wood here, however, because he's the worst of the players in a weirdly deep positional group (jump shooting forwards). I'm pleased that he's kept up his rebounding rate, an inconsistent part of his game last year, but I can't help but think that he's going to cool off from 3 soon (he's currently shooting 41.7%). Not only that, but he doesn't have the flat top anymore, which lowered him about three spots on the list.
8. Adam Smith: You thought he would be higher, didn't you? Forgive me for not being enamored with a 3-point shooting specialist who is barely taller than me and is shooting 30 percent from the field since the Miami game. The worst part, is that I'm not really sure how to fix it. He's too small to play consistently good defense and will struggle to get good shots against better, read: ACC, competition.
7. Cadarian Raines: Yes, Cadarian Raines is seventh on this list. Also, yes, he hasn't played much over the last eight games. This is why I think that Raines' stretch in the doghouse is really hurting this team. Big C is not only the best back to the basket big on this team, but he's also the best on-ball post defender. Many times when I see Joey van Zegeren muscled out of position or has a rebound taken away I think about Raines leaping up and throwing one of those patented "I didn't do it" elbows into a defender. I don't know what he did, and frankly I don't really care. This whole situation seems toxic, and hurts the squad both on and off the court.
6. Joey van Zegeren: JVZ's development as a shot blocker has been really fun to watch. Last year I thought that his ability to move his feet while simultaneously timing a block was poor, and that he may not become the shot blocker that he thought he was. I think that it's safe to say that van Zegeren is one of the most improved players on this team, and he's vital to a team that lets so many opposing players get to the hoop. Now, he's not the most polished offensive player, and I'd rather be stuck reading a blog solely written by Jose Canseco for 24 hours straight than watch another offensive set with JVZ in the high post, but hey, at least he's consistently good on defense. Progress!
5. Devin Wilson: In my season preview, I said that the Hokie offense would go as far as Wilson would allow it. Now while that's not entirely true, we've seen much more of Jarell Eddie acting as a primary ball handler than I ever thought we would, Wilson is still vital to the Tech offense (particularly in the open floor). His turnovers are starting to come down a little bit, and it will be interesting to see how his assist numbers follow. I really wonder how much being forced into action will impact his development as a player. Some guys who play before they're ready mature quickly into their role (think Malcolm Delaney). Others develop bad habits in their game that they can never quite break (think reckless Jeff Allen one-on-ones).
4. Ben Emelogu: To think that many thought Emelogu could have been on top of this list by now. Let me see if I can clearly articulate why it seems that everyone's favorite freshman is hitting a wall: HE. SHOOTS. TOO. MANY. F-ING. THREES. Seriously, it's starting to get annoying. He is explosive and can take guys off the bounce, yet fifty percent of the shots he's taken over the last two months have been from behind the arc, including a 2-8 performance against Syracuse. That all being said, he's starting to morph into Tech's most dangerous ball handler in the half court and is therefore vital to offensive success. All-in-all, he's an upgrade over Robert Brown, but Bobby burned me with early promise during his freshman season too. I've been hurt before, and don't know when I'll be able to trust a freshman shooting guard again.
3. C.J. Barksdale: While watching the Syracuse game the other night, I came to a very odd conclusion. Considering both offense and defense, is Barksdale the team's best player? After several minutes of thought, I decided that he probably was. I then immediately stood up, walked over to my bourbon and poured enough of a glass to make me feel better about what I just realized. (It didn't make me feel better).
I feel that if I had to write an obituary for this 2013-2014 basketball season, I would simply copy and paste the above paragraph.
2. Jarell Eddie: This team has already come to a weird crossroads in which it's most important player is also not its best. Eddie takes so many of his team's shots that he doesn't really have any other option than to be its most important player. The thing about Jarell, though, is that he's not a guy that goes on hot and cold streaks. After nearly two whole seasons of watching him struggle against longer, quicker defenders, I think that there will be teams that just play him well. That being said, I think that the guy sitting on top of this list needs to get him into positions to succeed, because the team has little other choice (again, see the bourbon paragraph).
1. James Johnson: I'm going to write a piece on JJ that I'll publish soon, but let's just say I am very mixed about the job that he's done thus far, yet do not think he deserves much of the criticism that he receives. That being said, the head coach will always be the most important position in college basketball. A good one can make an average team good, a good team great and so on. I think it's still too early to decide what kind of head coach JJ is, and while he's definitely had his moments of struggle, he's not the lame duck coach some people are pegging him to be.