- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Coach: James Johnson. First season

Last season: 16-17

Key player: G Erick Green. The senior led the Hokies in scoring and assists last season and will likely do so again. He ranked in the top 10 in the ACC in scoring, assists, steals, field goal percentage, free throw percentage and minutes as a junior.

Biggest loss: F Dorian Finney-Smith. While he was still raw offensively as a freshman, Finney-Smith averaged 7.0 rebounds last season. His transfer to Florida took away a significant option from a thin team.

Top newcomer: F Marshall Wood. There are only eight scholarship players on the roster; hence, the Hokies’ lone scholarship freshman will need to provide help immediately as a complement to forwards C.J. Barksdale, Jarell Eddie and Cadarian Raines.

Best case: Priority No. 1 is an injury-free season. If Virginia Tech stays healthy, it will have a chance to poach some victories with Green running the point and the development of an intriguing if overlooked frontcourt. An NCAA bid is unlikely, but this could be an NIT team if things break right.

Worst case: Injuries would wreck the Hokies’ season, but they also require significant strides from Barksdale and guards Robert Brown and Marquis Rankin. Without a step forward from its sophomore class and some luck staying healthy, Virginia Tech could reside at or near the ACC cellar.

Key games

Nov. 10 vs. East Tennessee State. Johnson, a Hokies assistant the previous five seasons who got the job after Seth Greenberg’s firing, makes his head coaching debut.

Dec. 8 at West Virginia. The Hokies renew their rivalry with an old Big East foe in what should be one of their early bellwether games. Visits from Iowa (Nov. 27) and Oklahoma State (Dec. 1) also stand out.

Jan. 5 at Maryland. Of Virginia Tech’s first six league games, the opener in College Park is the only one against a team picked to finish in the top half of the ACC. With that schedule, the Hokies need to bank wins early.