Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Virginia Tech Basketball: Frontcourt Depth Could Put Breakout Season in Jeopardy

Whatever coach Seth Greenberg did to anger the basketball gods, he needs to figure out how to atone for it before he loses his entire frontcourt.
Despite the fact many fans have been waiting for this season for two years now—anticipating it would be the year the Hokies burst onto the national stage—the success of this season could be in serious jeopardy, as a series of injuries has left the Hokies frontcourt as thin as the Dallas Cowboys' Super Bowl hopes.
At the end of last season, the Hokies thought the frontcourt was one of their deepest positions. In addition to starters Jeff Allen, Terrell Bell and Victor Davila, Greenberg had JT Thompson, Cadarian Raines and University of Florida transfer Allan Chaney on the bench.
Unfortunately for the Hokies, many of those names will be unavailable when the season starts tonight against Campbell.
Thompson is out for the season after tearing his left ACL back in September. Raines is nursing a broken foot, and Chaney is out for at least this season because of an unknown heart problem that caused him to collapse during a practice in March.
With those guys out of the picture—especially Raines and Chaney—Davila is left as the only true big man on the roster and must make vast improvements from the 5.3 points and 4.2 rebounds he averaged last season.
“I’m just looking to help the team any way I can,” Davila said. “Whether it be rebounding the ball or scoring points—whatever they need me to do, I’m going to perform.”
Because the other two big men have been injured, Davila has been forced to practice against people much smaller than he is.
In the past weeks, he has been going up against Paul Debnam, who is only 6'3".
With Davila unable to practice against players his size, it is possible he could struggle when defended by players of comparable size.
Another key to the Hokies' success in the frontcourt will be whether Allen can stay on the court and out of foul trouble. Allen had 14 games last season where he was limited to 25 minutes of play or less because of foul trouble.
If he can consistently play 30 to 35 minutes a night, the Hokies' lack of depth behind him will be less of an issue.
While Chaney and Thompson are definitely out for the season, Raines will recover and be available this season.
The biggest issue for Raines when he returns is his confidence with that foot.
“It might take me a whole year, maybe, like the whole season and into the summertime to be 100 percent confident in it,” Raines said.
The foot has been a fairly chronic issue since he initially hurt it in the preseason of last year. During his time at Tech, he has broken the foot at least twice, with the most recent injury possibly being a break that went undiagnosed.
Though there is no doubt the Hokies will be excited to have him back when he finally makes his debut, Greenberg is making sure he takes it slow in order to avoid further injury to the foot.
“We’re going to take a very cautious path. Let’s face it, he’s had a lot of trauma in that foot and there’s no sense in rushing him back,” Greenberg said. “He might be 100 percent healthy, it’s just the path we are taking.”
With the Hokies thin in the frontcourt, Greenberg will most likely elect to go with a smaller lineup and try to create a faster tempo.
However, when Tech plays teams such as Purdue, who have big men such as JaJuan Johnson—who averaged 15.5 points, 7.1 rebounds a game last season—defending the interior might become an issue.
Luckily for the Hokies, there isn’t a team in the ACC that has a feared low post scorer to worry about. The two biggest talents at forward in the conference are North Carolina State’s Tracy Smith and Florida State’s Chris Singleton, neither of which plays for a team as talented as Tech.
Every time you hear about a team having a “breakout season,” there is always a story of it overcoming adversity to be successful.
If the Hokies end up having that kind of season, it will be the injury-depleted frontcourt that is considered the adversity they overcame.