Virginia Tech is a program on the rise under third-year head coach Mike Young, the 2020-21 ACC Coach of the Year. Young led the Hokies to a third-place conference finish last season, and he has them poised for big things once again this year.
Virginia Tech returns three starters from last season's NCAA Tournament team, including ACC Player of the Year candidate Keve Aluma, and the Hokies also added versatile point guard Storm Murphy via transfer from Wofford.
Aluma ended his flirtation with the NBA in June, electing to return for his senior season after a breakout 2020-21 that saw him lead the Hokies with 15.2 points and 7.9 rebounds per game while earning second-team All-ACC honors and receiving conference Player of the Year votes.
Aluma and returning starting forward Justyn Mutts form one of the top frontcourts in the ACC, and Murphy will lead a cadre of potent guards that also includes returning starter Nahiem Alleyne and key reserve Hunter Cattoor.
With a strong group of returners and some key additions, Virginia Tech hopes to build on its best-ever ACC finish and make its fifth straight NCAA Tournament.
At a Glance
HEAD COACH: Mike Young
2020-21 RECORD (ACC): 15-7 (9-4)
2020-21 POSTSEASON: NCAA: Lost to Florida 75-70 in the first round
G Wabissa Bede (3.9 ppg, 3.1 apg)
G Jalen Cone (9.2 ppg, 0.9 apg)
G Tyrece Radford (12.2 ppg, 5.9 rpg)
Aluma had a breakout season last year, and Young says the hard work the forward has put in this offseason could propel him to even greater things in 2021-22.
The dynamic senior anchors a front line that also includes returning starter Mutts and 6'10" transfer Lynn Kidd, who saw limited minutes last season for Clemson.
Mutts is "strong as an ox," according to Young, and he will be counted on to build on his production from last season, when he finished fourth on the team in points per game (9.5) and second in rebounding average (6.4).
The transfer market has been kind to Young, and he hopes the addition of Kidd continues the trend. The former four-star high school recruit played in only seven games as a freshman last season, but he has the length to be a disruptive presence in the paint.
A strong frontcourt that will also include key reserves David N'Guessan (6'9") and John Ojiako (6'10") could be a catalyst for a Hokies defense that finished in the top five in the ACC last year in points allowed (66.0), 3-point defense (33.1 percent) and rebounding margin (plus-2.4).
Murphy is the second player to follow Young from Wofford to Virginia Tech, joining Aluma last season. The Hokies can only hope Murphy has a similar impact in his new surroundings.
The 6-foot Murphy started 119 career games for the Terriers, earning All-Southern Conference honors in 2020-21. He joins a backcourt that returns two key contributors in Alleyne and Cattoor, who averaged 11.1 and 8.5 points per game, respectively, last season. Murphy averaged 17.8 points and 4.3 assists per game in 2020-21. He will be a welcome addition as a scoring threat and will fill a need as a distributor and floor general.
Alleyne is among the team's top 3-point shooters with a budding reputation as a big-game scorer, like his 28-point performance in last year's first-round NCAA Tournament game. Cattoor is also a talented long-range shooter who could fill up a stat sheet with more playing time. Darius Maddox is an important bench contributor.
Second-leading scorer Tyrece Radford announced at the end of the summer that he was transferring to Texas A&M, so Virginia Tech will have to find a way to replace his production.
Young has built a roster that can compete with anybody in the country. The Hokies beat No. 3 Michigan State two years ago and took down No. 3 Villanova and No. 8 Virginia last season en route to their highest ACC finish ever.
This year's roster is ultra-talented and should challenge once again for a spot in the upper echelon of the ACC. After making four straight NCAA Tournaments and finishing near the top of the ACC, these Hokies could be ready to take the next step toward vying for a conference championship.
Postseason Prediction: NCAA Tournament Round of 32
ACC Prediction: 4