Photo courtesy of Virginia Tech athletics

It’s finally here. 

Eight months removed from the 2020 NCAA Tournament being cancelled and the world shutting down due to the coronavirus pandemic, college basketball has finally returned to the court.

This will also be the second season the newly formed ACC Network will be airing on televisions all across the country — except for those with Comcast. For those with Comcast, we feel your pain. 

Second-year head coach Mike Young and the Virginia Tech Hokies are looking to build off a 16-16 (7-13 ACC) campaign last season, which resulted in them tying for 10th in the ACC standings.

The team of Kelsey Riggs, former Louisville shooter Luke Hancock, former Duke and NBA standout Carlos Boozer, and Dalen Cuff will cover the Young-led Hokies for the ACC Network’s show “Nothing But Net” this upcoming season. Each had plenty to say about the newly-constructed Hokies in a Zoom conference on Wednesday. 

Another Rebuilding Year?

“I think they’re gonna struggle,” Hancock, a forward out of nearby Roanoke, said of the 2020-21 Hokies.

Hancock said Virginia Tech will need to play “Mike Young basketball” if it is going to compete this upcoming season, and mentioned losing Landers Nolley to Memphis as a “huge loss” for the Hokies. Nolley led Virginia Tech in scoring before his exit to the Tigers. 

The former Louisville forward and debated national champion said that sophomore guard Jalen Cone will really help out in Nolley’s absence. But at the end of the day, the Hokies “don’t have the star power some of these teams have.” 

“They’ll Have A Chance”

“It’s a tall task”, said Boozer, a former star for both the Utah Jazz and Chicago Bulls.

Though he did mention some optimism for this upcoming season. “If they can defend though, and if they rebound, they’ll have a chance.”

“They have a lot of questions, but they may have more answers than we know,” fellow analyst and former Columbia guard Dalen Cuff added about the Hokies. 

Virginia Tech was arguably the ACC’s biggest surprise last season until early February when it hit a brick wall. The Hokies eventually finished the campaign by losing 11 of their last 13 contests.

“They could be the biggest surprise again this year…and maybe we’ll see them even take a step further,” Cuff made sure to point out.

Cuff said the Hokies will have to “win a lot of games” this season in order to make the NCAA Tournament, but expressed it was doable. The former Ivy Leaguer also mentioned Cone, Tyrece Radford, Hunter Cattoor, Wabissa Bede, and Wofford transfer Kevin Aluma as guys who will keep Virginia Tech in the thick of things this season. 

Growing Optimism 

“I’m looking forward to seeing the growth and development from year 1 to year 2 [Under Mike Young]”, said host Kelsey Riggs, who played women’s soccer at Charleston Southern. 

Hancock then looked more positively at the 2020-21 Hokies.

“There’s no doubt they’re going to be able to pass and shoot the basketball,” he said. “How they’re going to compete with other teams’ size is going to be huge. They have to play Mike Young basketball and knock down a lot of teams.”

A Slew of Reinforcements

Luckily for Virginia Tech, transfers Cartier Diarra (Kansas State), Cordell Pemsl (Iowa), and Justyn Mutts (Delaware) should all help in those departments.

“These transfers will help immediately,” Cuff stated. “Diarra’s a player. He’s been an impact player on successful teams.”

Diarra was a member of the 2018-19 Kansas State team that advanced to the Sweet 16 the same year as the Hokies did. Cuff then added particular praise for Cordell Pemsl.

“If any guy has a chance to be impactful, it’s Cordell,” the longtime ESPN analyst said, adding that the Iowa transfer’s physicality in the paint will benefit the Hokies greatly. “There’s going to be growing pains for Virginia Tech, but adding guys like this will speed up the process.”

Right Man Up Top

The one common theme throughout the video conference was the overwhelming praise for the head coach.

“They have a phenomenal head coach in Mike Young,” Hancock noted. “There’s no doubt Virginia Tech basketball is trending in the right direction.”

The Hokies will hope that trend continues as fast as possible. That starts next Wednesday, when Virginia Tech hosts Radford in Cassell Coliseum. The game will tip at noon ET on ACC Network Extra.