As a lifelong Hokie, there are a few non-gametime moments that I will remember for the rest of my life. I'll remember where I was, who I was with, what I was doing, and why it was important enough to stick in my brain.
There aren't a ton of them. They are, in order:
Frank Beamer not taking the UNC job in the winter of 2000. (At the breakfast table, reading the paper over my dad's shoulder. It meant that the momentum from '99 could keep rolling on. Looking back it also was Bud Foster's only true chance to get the head coaching job.)
Marcus Vick getting kicked off the team in January 2006. (I was at school on a Saturday for a band competition — please insert your jokes below — and it was broken to me by the parent of another kid. It blew up Virginia Tech's last great chance to make a run at the national title.)
Tyrod Taylor committing to the Hokies in June 2006. (Being from the same area, my dad, brother, and I watched his press conference live on local news. I'm pretty sure they broke in over a regular newscast to show the announcement, which was the first in roughly three billion cool things Tyrod did over his career.)
Frank Beamer's retirement press conference in November 2015. (With my now-wife, sitting in my car in the parking lot of a Gold's Gym in Richmond, trying not to cry before a workout.)
The Justin Fuente news leaking against UVA later that November. (Sitting in my living room, making some calls to see if Shane Beamer really did make the cut for Fuente's staff. Still the weirdest part of a very surreal day.)
Notice a theme?
Growing up, I lived and died with Hokie football. My Saturdays were reserved for rec soccer and Tech game days. If the two happened to coincide, my dad would listen on a small hand-held radio, and I'd jog over during breaks in the action to check the score. It was always the most important team in my life.
Virginia Tech basketball, on the other hand, was nothing more than an extra thing to watch if I was bored during the winter. There was little to no emotional investment for me, and it had never in my lifetime given me a memory off the court.
And then they hired Buzz Williams.
My now-wife and I were driving past Farmville on route 460, heading from Blacksburg to Richmond. She was driving. I was frantically searching for signal in God's nowhere Virginia, because the Williams news had just broken and I needed to make sure it wasn't a joke.
This isn't going to be another heartfelt retrospective on what Buzz has done for the program. Henry already covered that very eloquently this week.
But it's important to remember how big that news was. What it meant for a school that had been most famous for having a coach that cried conspiracy after falling short every Selection Sunday. Hokie fans might have been ready for a winning hoops team again, but they really just wanted someone they could rally around.
That was Buzz. The new face of Virginia Tech basketball.
Whether he meant to or not, the head coach made fans fall in love with him right away. (Side note, for someone who frequently says he doesn't understand social cues, Buzz is a master at winning people over.) It was going to be a process. It was going to be a tough climb to get back to .500, let alone relevance. But people were ready for it.
And when the Hokies won just 11 games in year one, all was fine. Buzz was bringing in talent, hitting the transfer market, and doing everything he could just to rebuild the roster.
But then things went as well as any Tech fan could have hoped. The Hokies won over 20 games in each of the next three seasons, nabbing 10 ACC wins in each campaign. They earned two NCAA Tournament berths, hosted an NIT game, and finished seventh in the conference three times in a row.
It's impressively consistent performance from a squad that won eight ACC games total between 2012-13 and 2014-15. The Hokies are winning, and it's not a fluke.
But something interesting has happened over the last four years. Through impressive recruiting and constant roster shuffling, the Hokies have improved dramatically season over season. They don't just keep getting better, they keep getting more talented.
Yet even as Williams transforms the program into a legitimate basketball operation, fan expectations have largely remained the same. The conversation around every big win is basically "wow, I can't believe that happened! This is great!", while the talk after a loss is often "I'm still proud of this team! I can't believe the things they've accomplished this year!"
And it's hard to blame Tech fans for being so happy-go-lucky. They've followed a program that's only been ranked in the preseason top 25 once in the past two decades, and sometimes it's best to just bask in the glow of victory. But at some point, the expectations have to match the talent of the team.
According to 247, of the 20 highest rated signees in team history, seven are currently on the roster. We are about to watch the most talented basketball team in Virginia Tech history take the floor. They have an all-ACC caliber point guard in Justin Robinson, one of the league's most skilled big men in Kerry Blackshear, and the kind of talent on the wing that would make any five seed blush.
Ahmed Hill and Ty Outlaw are both seniors. Nickeil Alexander-Walker is a returning starter, P.J. Horne became a reliable contributor in February, and Wabissa Bede can—if nothing else—play the Devin Wilson role of defensive third guard. That doesn't even get to four-star freshman Landers Nolley, who at least one person has said looks like Kevin Durant.*
(*Statement from our TKP Hot Takes division: while we support our friend Pierson's quest to find the hottest basketball take out there, we as a website cannot endorse his claim. We will take no further questions about the matter going forward, thank you.)
That's a solid eight man rotation, before considering any potential contributions from Isaiah Wilkins or Jonathan Kabongo. Yes, the Chris Clarke news hurt, but that's still an impressive collection of players.
And with that talent should come great expectation. This team isn't young. It doesn't lack depth. It doesn't have coaching issues. They suffer from none of the prior ailments we've seen in the recent past.
That's why it's okay to set the bar higher this season. To abandon the football school mentality of simply taking any semblance of success on the hardwood as a bonus. To start treating the basketball team with the same reverence as the one that plays in Lane Stadium.
It's okay to want more than a seven seed in the ACC Tournament. It's okay to dream bigger than hoping the Hokies make it into the field of 68. It's okay to look at the head coach and wonder why he hasn't won a tournament game since 2013 (at Marquette).
I'm not asking for the fanbase to get irrational. On the contrary, I'm asking them to get rational. To have appropriately high standards for a team with a great head coach and potential back-end NBA talent. To look at what Williams did with that Golden Eagles team in 2013 (one that was similar in size, age, and talent to this year's squad) and wonder why Tech can't go to the Sweet 16 this spring.
From the day Buzz was hired, we've all walked on eggshells waiting for the other shoe to drop. When would he leave and end this extended honeymoon?
That day may come soon. It may not. It may not happen for a really long time (which I think we all doubt, but there's always a chance.) But here's the deal: it doesn't matter.
And worrying about that, or just being happy with a moderately successful 2018-19 does a disservice to the team that's directly in front of you.
Buzzketball is very good. And it's time we start treating them like it.