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Despite the loss of last year’s leading scorers Malcolm Delaney and Jeff Allen, Virginia Tech junior point guard Erick Green expects better basketball from the Hokies, the kind that can propel Virginia Tech to its first NCAA tournament since 2007.

In three of the last four seasons, the Hokies have reached 20 wins only to be denied admission to the Big Dance.

Virginia Tech enters the 2011 season ranked sixth in the ACC, two spots below where they finished 2010, but with two starters back and the nation’s 13th best recruiting class, Green thinks the Hokies have as strong a shot as ever to make it to the postseason.

“People say without Jeff and Malcolm we’re not going to be as good of a team,” Green said. “I think honestly we’ll be better. We won’t rely on one or two people to score the ball.”

Forty-six percent of the Hokies’ scoring came from Delaney and Allen last season.

Freshman Dorian Finney-Smith is the most highly touted newcomer for the Hokies. He was ranked eighth among all small forwards in the recruiting class of 2011.

Rounding out the recruiting class is point guard Marquis Rankin, power forward C.J. Barksdale and shooting guard Robert Brown, who all played alongside UNC freshman P.J. Hairston at Hargrave Military Academy.

While injuries have plagued the Hokies over the past few seasons, the Hokies will benefit from the leadership of medical-redshirt senior Dorenzo Hudson after foot surgery sidelined him for most of last season.

Hudson holds himself responsible for pushing younger players on every play because he has seen the slim margins by which Virginia Tech has missed the NCAA tournament before.

“(Coach Seth Greenberg) wants you to play as hard as you can every possession,” Hudson said. “We need to try to instill in the young guys because the game could come down to the last shot or the last rebound.

Redshirt sophomore Cadarian Raines is coming off a season-ending injury as well, but Hudson thinks that Raines may be the low-post player the Hokies need.

“We need somebody to be a presence in the paint, to block shots and step up and take charges, and he could be that,” Hudson said.

The Hokies will also rely upon the experience of senior forward Victor Davila, who has more career starts than any player in the ACC, to fill the statistical void left by Allen, the ACC’s third-best rebounder last season.

“He can’t play like he did against Duke one night, and then become Houdini the next night and disappear,” Greenberg said.

Without a doubt Green will be the leader of this team as it shuffles lineups throughout the season to find the right mix of youth and experience on the court.

Last season, Green surprised the field as the ACC’s most statistically-improved player, but without Delaney to distract opponents, Greenberg expects more of a burden to fall on Green.

“Erick Green is going from basically being Robin to being Batman,” Greenberg said. “He’s going to draw the opponent’s best defender now – that’s a new role.”

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