A first-time head coach, new assistant coaches, only eight eligible scholarship players and 10 freshmen or sophomores isn't exactly a recipe for success. The Virginia Tech men’s basketball team was chosen by ACC coaches to finish tied for second-to-last with Wake Forest, finishing ahead of only Boston College, in the first preseason ACC coaches’ poll.
However, the new-look, new-feel Hokies were not interested in the opinions of their critics.
The first few games on most teams’ schedules could be considered preparation games, and Tech’s was no exception. It was the favorite in its first five games, and coach James Johnson hoped they would not only result in victories, but in opportunities for his young team to grow. Tech did not disappoint, as it won its first five games over 13 days, four of which were at home.
The first real test of the year came against the Iowa Hawkeyes at home on November 26. It was the first game for the Hokies in the 2012-2013 season against a school from a BCS conference and Tech, once again, answered the call. The Hokies shot 52 percent as a team from the field and 90 percent from the free throw line. Coach Johnson passed his first challenge, 95-79.
Just four days later Coach Johnson would get the biggest win of his very young coaching career. The Hokies hosted the then-No.15 and undefeated Oklahoma State Cowboys. Cowboy freshman guard Marcus Smart put up 18 points and 11 rebounds, but thanks to Hokies standout Erick Green, Smart would not be the star of the show. Green scored 28 points in only 26 minutes en route to an 81-71 Tech win.
On December 2, the Hokies were 7-0 and had an upset against a nationally ranked team under their belt. Although six of the first seven games were at home in Cassell Coliseum and the Hokies were considered favorites in a majority of them, their perfect start had swept across the campus and had Hokies’ fans jubilated over the early season's successes. The feeling would not last long.
The first hiccup of the season came a week later against West Virginia in the teams’ first meeting since 2003-2004. After Robert Brown banked in a three-pointer with 15 seconds left to give the Hokies a one-point lead, Juwan Staten drove through a non-existent Hokies’ defense and made a layup with just five ticks left to secure a West Virginia victory, 68-67.
The loss to West Virginia did more than give the Hokies their first loss of the season; it marked the beginning of a 2-6 span that included losses to Georgia Southern and BYU. In the final four games of the streak, all losses, Tech allowed an average of more than 91 points a game.
Perhaps, the lowest point of the season came on December 15. The Hokies dropped what should have been another home victory to a 4-5 Georgia Southern team. To exacerbate the loss, Tech lost 6-foot-8 forward Marshall Wood to a broken foot. Wood, who was averaging 5.8 points and 4.5 rebounds off the bench, will not require surgery, but a timetable for his return is still unknown.
The high-powered offense that had propelled Tech to a great start had stalled right before they would need it most. ACC play started for the Hokies on December 5 in College Park, Maryland. The Terrapins proved too much to for Tech, who was outscored by 16 points in the first half.
The Hokies returned home four days later, only to drop their ACC home opener by 11 points to a struggling Boston College team.
Two hard-fought victories — the first coming at Georgia Tech in overtime, and the second at home against Wake Forest — have put the Hokies at .500 in the ACC. Tech won both games by a total of six points against teams that, prior to competition, had a combined conference record of 2-6.
Though perhaps the wins did not come as easily as they should have, the winning streak may be just what the Hokies needed to get back on track.
If the Hokies are to continue their recent successes, Brown — who has struggled mightily over the past few weeks — will need to be a viable second option for the Hokies to compliment senior guard Erick Green. Brown has been battling flu symptoms for a major portion of the season, but he's still missed 22 of 24 shots from behind the arc during Tech's struggles.
The season thus far has been a roller coaster ride, but the 11-6 Hokies (2-2) have a constant source of points in Green.
Many were pleased to hear the news that Green had decided to return to Blacksburg for his senior year after Seth Greenberg had been fired in the offseason, but few predicted the level of success he had experienced thus far.
Green leads the nation in points-per-game at 24.6 and leads the team with more than four assists per game. While Green’s success is not surprising, the extent of it is truly astonishing. He has been a steady port for a Tech team going through rocky waters, and will look to be such all year long.
The Hokies will continue ACC play on Thursday with a matchup against in-state rival Virginia in Blacksburg. The Cavaliers are 12-5 (2-2), and will be coming into Cassell Coliseum hot off of a 56-36 rout of the Florida State Seminoles.
You can follow the writer on Twitter at @JacobEmert