Blacksburg, Va. - Cassell Coliseum
3:30 p.m., Fox Sports Net
"If this was a horse race, they should have to wear a couple of extra weights. They're as efficient offensively as anyone I have seen in a long time." -- Seth Greenberg (on UNC)
"They're whole team [concerns me]…the fact that it's their first game in ACC history. They're going to be fired up. I think their excitement level will be more than that of Miami or Boston College, because for so long Virginia Tech was in ACC territory and not being thought of as good enough for the ACC or not a part of ACC country. Even the governor got involved in this junk. It's going to be a big time atmosphere." -- Roy Williams
"We have to throw the first punch, the second punch and the third -- keep knocking them on their heels and hope they won't be able to come back ... being that it's our first ACC game and on the road, it'll be a key win for us if we can get it." -- David Noel
Season To Date: The young Hokies are still in the process of finding themselves, and fortunately haven't faced a tough schedule to open the season. They've cruised in wins over Loyola (Md.), Maryland-Eastern Shore, William & Mary and James Madison, but were upset by VMI and then lost to St. John's. Neither defeat was to a high major-caliber opponent, and Tech shot less than 40 percent in both losses.
Battered & Bruised: The status of sophomore forward Coleman Collins (8.3 ppg, 3.9 rpg) will likely not be determined until game time. He had surgery on his left foot last week to remove a cyst that according to head coach Seth Greenberg was "about the size of one of those little onions you put in a martini." The coach also noted that he will not play Collins if there is "any discomfort." Meanwhile, starting point guard Jamon Gordon sat out last weekend's win over JMU with an elbow injury and missed some practice this week because of a death in the family. And junior guard Markus Sailes, who started all 29 games for the Hokies last season, is slated to have surgery next month and will redshirt this season.
Senior Leader: With the graduation of star Bryant Matthews (22.1 ppg, 8.9 rpg), Carlos Dixon is being looked upon to help fill that void. Dixon was a double-digit scorer in his first three seasons in Blacksburg, but had to take a medical redshirt last year because of a foot injury. The versatile 6-7 forward is off to a solid start this season, averaging 15.1 points per game, while showing off his range at an impressive 47 percent clip from beyond the arc.
Youth Movement: Other than Dixon, the Hokies only have one other upperclassmen in the regular rotation (reserve Allen Calloway - 2.9 ppg, 2.4 rpg). Coach Greenberg is banking on his first two recruiting classes to lead the team into its ACC era. And based on their performances thus far, they may be up to the challenge. The backcourt of sophomores Jamon Gordon [pictured right] and Zabian Dowdell are putting up solid numbers, with Gordon averaging 5.3 assists and a whopping 4.0 steals (he had six versus St. John's), while Dowdell helps with floor leader duties while also providing a scoring punch. Freshman Deron Washington arrived with a bang, averaging 22.0 points in his first two games in a Hokie uniform, while shooting 83 percent from the field. He's since come back down to earth, but that doesn't mean he can't still put up big numbers. Coming off the bench, three other freshman are also in the rotation. The program has high hopes for Marquie Cooke, a big lead guard who can drive and dish, but can't yet shoot. Forward Wynton Witherspoon has seen minutes as a reserve and 6-11 freshman Robert Krabbendam isn't producing much yet but has the size the team so desperately needs.
Board Work: Krabbendam may start, regardless of Collins' availability. Coach Greenberg is looking for a way to ease the team's rebounding woes and so The Netherlands native has started the last two games. In the loss to St. John's, the Hokies were destroyed on the boards by a count of 48-31 and are -6.0 through seven games. Krabbendam is the only player on the roster over 6-8 and no one weighs more than Collins, who is just at 228 pounds. Prior to the season, Greenberg cited the need to use an up-tempo style to counter the disadvantage in the post -- but that would be playing right into the hands of the Tar Heels.
Background Location: Blacksburg, Va Enrollment: 28,000 Conference: ACC Nickname: Hokies Colors: Chicago Maroon & Burnt Orange Arena: Cassell Coliseum (10,052) Head Coach: Seth Greenberg Record at VT: 20-16
Projected Starters: 22 Jamon Gordon (6-3, G, So.) – 10.3 ppg, 5.3 apg, 4.0 spg 1 Zabian Dowdell (6-2, G, So.) – 13.4 ppg, 3.3 reb 13 Deron Washington (6-7, F, Fr.) - 12.6 ppg, 5.9 rpg 32 Carlos Dixon (6-7, F, Sr.) - 15.1 ppg, 4.6 rpg, 47% 3pt 33 Coleman Collins (6-8, F, So.) – 8.3 ppg, 3.9 rpg Key Reserves: 15 Marquie Cooke (6-3, G, Fr.) – 6.0 ppg, 3.1 apg 11 Wynton Witherspoon (6-7, F, Fr.) – 3.8 ppg, 3.0 rpg 21 Allen Calloway (6-8, F, Jr.) – 2.9 ppg, 2.4 rpg 14 Robert Krabbendam (6-11, C, Fr.) – 1.4 ppg, 2.3 rpg
Collins ... Dowdell
Calloway ... Greenberg
(Photos by Getty Images)