The Cavaliers play at 7 p.m. Friday at
The Hokies and rookie head coach
Both contests are rematches from a year ago. Virginia dusted Mason 68-48 in Charlottesville. Tech defeated visiting ETSU 64-53.
A road game against a perennial postseason contender is hardly the conventional opener for an
Plus, the Cavaliers likely will be without their two best point guards, Jontel Evans and Malcolm Brogdon, both of whom have foot injuries. That leaves wing Joe Harris and freshman Taylor Barnette to man the point.
Veteran Akil Mitchell, Harris, Barnette plus freshmen Mike Tobey and
"I'm kind of eagerly awaiting to see what happens," he said Thursday of the three-rookie lineup. "I know they'll grow from it. … Throw 'em in the deep end and see if they can swim."
Virginia and Mason also are depleted by suspension. Freshman guard Teven Jones will miss the game for the Cavaliers, sophomore forwards Erik Copes and Vaughn Gray for the Patriots, all for violating unspecified team rules.
Jones will return for Monday's home opener against Fairfield. Copes, a projected starter, and Gray will miss two more contests.
Colonial Athletic Association media tabbed Mason to finish third behind Drexel and Delaware. Coach Paul Hewitt's team returns two starters and nine lettermen, guards Sherrod Wright, Vertrail Vaughns and Bryon Allen the most notable.
"They can play fast," Bennett said. "They can pressure you. They have some physicality with their guards."
East Tennessee was picked fourth in the Atlantic Sun behind Mercer, USC Upstate and Florida Gulf Coast. Senior guards Sheldon Cooley and Marcus Dubose headline the Bucs' returnees, but coach Murry Bartow, a former
With only eight scholarship players, Virginia Tech faces the same quandary. A perimeter of Erick Green, Robert Brown and Jarell Eddie is the Hokies' probable strength, with C.J. Barksdale and Cadarian Raines the probable interior starters.
Johnson wants the Hokies, 15-17 last season and tied for last in the ACC at 4-12, to play faster on offense than under former coach
"Defense is usually behind when you start," he said. "Right now I think they've picked up the offensive game plan a little quicker (than the defensive)."
An assistant at seven Division I schools prior to replacing Greenberg, Johnson is only the third rookie head coach in the last 20 years to take over an ACC program, joining Bill Guthridge (