Fans of Virginia Tech basketball are known to experience disappointment each season, but after a quick 7-0 start, the program has done nothing but exceed fans’ expectations.
And Saturday, the Hokies will take on long-lost rival West Virginia.
The last time the Hokies played the Mountaineers was in 2004, before Tech decided to join the ACC. At that point, the two teams had played each other since 1968.
Despite that history, this particular team has no idea about the rivalry between the two in the past or what the Mountaineers will bring to the court.
“I didn’t even know the last time we played them was 2004, so those guys don’t have a clue, and that’s not something I’m going to talk to them about, because those guys in 2004 were freshmen, sophomores in high school, even middle school, if that,” said James Johnson, head coach. “I don’t think they knew where West Virginia was unless they were in history class, looking at a map or something.”
In the preseason, the Hokies were looking to rekindle that rivalry by adding the Mountaineers to their 2012-2013 and 2013-2014 schedules, which at that point was one of the biggest names being added to Tech’s schedule.
Saturday, rather than focusing on the rivalry between the Hokies and the Mountaineers, Johnson is treating this just like any other game.
“I haven’t talked about the rivalry at all, it’s just that WVU happens to be the next team on the schedule and it just happens to be on the road and here’s how we’re going to approach it, here’s our game plan,” Johnson said.
Before the season started, the Hokies were plagued with the controversial firing of Seth Greenburg and as a result, many players departed the team in the preseason and added walk-ons to the team. As a result, Johnson and the players have been looking to the leadership of the ACC’s third-leading scorer Erick Green to carry this team to victory.
“He’s leading these guys on and off the floor,” Johnson said. “He’s not a vocal leader, but he’s leading by example. He’s one of the hardest workers we’ve got, he was in the gym at 7 o’clock this morning. I always hear the ball bouncing when I’m in the office, and I know it’s him.”
Despite having star-players like Green in the past, the Hokies have consistently fallen to the Mountaineers because of their quick ball movement and smooth teamwork, but Marshall Wood believes the Hokies are on the flipside of the Mountaineers this year.
“We definitely move a lot faster than them, since they’re kind of big, so they’ll move kind of slow, so we’ll definitely try and get them out of position to get some easy buckets,” the freshman forward said.
But the question is, can the Hokies improve their 7-0 record to a 8-0 record, and are they ready to take on the Mountaineers in unknown territory?
“No question, we’re ready,” Wood said.
Tip-off between the Hokies and Mountaineers is set for 4 p.m. and will be broadcast on ESPN2.