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Virginia Tech's season could hinge on the health of Cadarian Raines

Virginia Tech Coach Seth Greenberg should have been in a great mood as he walked into a small ballroom in Charlotte on Wednesday for the ACC's annual media day. He was about to be voted second in the conference preseason poll, the highest honor bestowed on his Hokies since they joined the ACC in 2004.

With all five of his 2009 starters returning, Greenberg has a more experienced lineup than anybody in the league, including defending national champion Duke. He also has the ACC's leading scorer, senior Malcolm Delaney, who declared for the NBA draft last spring before deciding to stay in school.

But even though Virginia Tech has close to 89 percent of its scoring back, Greenberg admitted he's been on edge during these first few days of practice.

“It’s not great when [6-foot-3 guard] Paul Debnam is the post guy on your second unit, I can tell you that much," Greenberg said.

That, more than anything, was why Greenberg wasn't ready to celebrate despite getting some of the league-wide recognition he's sought since coming from the Big East six years ago. The loss of forward J.T Thompson for the season because of a torn ACL, combined with the ongoing uncertainty surrounding the heart ailment of 6-foot-9 Florida transfer Allan Chaney, has left the Hokies with a serious shortage of bodies in the front court.

Greenberg once again sounded pessimistic about having Chaney available this season, which means the Hokies have just one remaining player taller than 6-7. That would be 6-9 sophomore Cadarian Raines, who is still in a walking boot after breaking his left foot for the second time in less than two years. Greenberg spent a good amount of his time Wednesday explaining how the presence of Raines, a Richmond native who averaged 1.5 points and 1.8 rebounds in 21 appearances a year ago, could make or break the Hokies' 2010 season.

“I think a key for our team is Cadarian Raines's health," said Greenberg. "If Cadarian Raines can get healthy, then we’ve got legitimate depth ... and we can play a certain way defensively. If he’s not healthy, it’s gonna affect how we’re gonna double the post, how we guard ball screens, how far we extend our defense. His health affects a lot of the things that we are doing and would like to do.”

Greenberg said Raines will get the walking boot off on Monday and could be cleared to practice Nov. 8, when he'll get a bone scan to see if everything has healed properly.

Raines has tried to keep fit with workouts in the pool and on a stationary bike. Greenberg has also been walking him through offensive sets and defensive rotations during practice, but even he admits "the reality is we won’t know until he gets out of the boot. ... We have little control over the healing process.”

The amount of attention and respect Virginia Tech received Wednesday in the heart of ACC country was another step in the development of Greenberg's program. But it could be rendered meaningless if the Hokies have nobody to guard the likes of North Carolina's Tyler Zeller and John Henson, Duke's Plumlee brothers or Maryland's Jordan Williams.

"I like our team," Greenberg said. "We’ve got good guards, we’ve got depth in the perimeter. It’s whether we’ll be able to post defend and rebound with our numbers. Everything else is in place. ... The question is will we have another guy who can post defend, who can rebound the ball, who’s a big body, who can protect the front of the rim. That’s what it really comes down to.”

By Mark Giannotto  | October 21, 2010; 1:17 PM ET
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Next: Virginia Tech basketball ranked in preseason coaches' poll


What? We're really #2 in preseason ACC rankings? I thought we were the football team in a basketball conf...

Posted by: dolan83 | October 21, 2010 2:16 PM | Report abuse

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