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October 19, 2008

Preseason story line No. 23: Hokie dokey

MORE: Top 65 Countdown: No. 37 Virginia Tech

Rivals.com has selected the top 25 story lines for the 2008-09 season and will be revealing one daily. At No. 23, we examine a Virginia Tech program that narrowly missed out on an NCAA tournament bid.

There were about six teams that could have been labeled NCAA tournament snubs last season, but nobody seemed to be as upset about it as Virginia Tech. Or at least no one was upset about it as Hokies coach Seth Greenberg.

After losing to North Carolina on a last-second shot in the ACC Tournament semifinals in Charlotte, N.C., Greenberg said the following at the post-game news conference: "Anyone who watched that game that knows anything about basketball if you don't think this team is one of the top 65 teams in the country, you're certifiably insane."

The Hokies led the nation's No. 1 team for most of the second half, in front of a heavily-pro UNC crowd. The Hokies had beaten Miami, which was given an at-large NCAA bid, by 14 points in the quarterfinals. They also had a 9-7 record in the ACC, a league that finished third in the RPI rankings.

But the Hokies were left out of the NCAAs. In the NIT, the Hokies went on to crush a 23-win UAB team by 26 points before falling to Ole Miss in the quarterfinals.

That should serve as a warning to the rest of the ACC because the Hokies were one of the nation's youngest teams last season. Six freshmen were part of the rotation and two were starters, including point guard Malcolm Delaney, who scored in double figures in the last five games (a stretch that started with the win over Miami), and big man Jeff Allen, who led the team in rebounding and was third in scoring. Allen also ranked second in the ACC in steals.

The Hokies did lose arguably their best player in senior swingman Deron Washington, who was second on the team in scoring and rebounding. Washington was a second-round NBA draft pick.

Shooting guard A.D. Vassallo, who will be a senior this season, emerged as the go-to scorer last season, raising his scoring average from 11.1 points to 16.9. He scored in double figures in all but two games.

The Hokies also have added some much-needed size with the addition of two freshmen: 6-foot-8 Victor Davila and 6-11 Gene Swindle. They won a recruiting battle with ACC rivals Clemson and Wake Forest for Davila, the No. 135 prospect in the 2008 class. The coaching staff believes Davila a native of Puerto Rico (like Vassallo) who played at Boonville (N.C.) Starmount can help immediately.

Vassallo's return, a more mature supporting cast and the addition of more young talent should mean that Greenberg won't be uttering any memorable quotes about the Hokies being left out of the 2009 NCAA tournament. The Hokies have the pieces in place to be one of the more dangerous teams in the nation.

MORE: Top 65 Countdown: No. 37 Virginia Tech

Andrew Skwara is a national writer for Rivals.com. He can be reached at askwara@rivals.com.

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