Welcome back, folks! Spring is dawning on most of the country and especially so here in Virginia, where the Hokies are preparing for spring football and a potential NCAA Tournament run.
With so much going on, we’re due for a Monday Mail column. So let’s dive into your questions.
Will Buzz stay?
(NARRATOR: Of all the things I’ve ever had a gut feel on in sports over my life, I’ve never had a stronger feeling that he’s leaving, by the way)
— Dave Scarangella (@DullesDistrict) March 16, 2019
You’ve got $100 in chips. Place several best using those chips on the outcome of Buzz’s coaching future. The most chips, of course, on what you think will most likely happen.
— JK (@JKHokie) March 16, 2019
It’s unfortunate that after Virginia Tech secured their third-straight NCAA Tournament bid, we have to yet again discuss the potential of Buzz Williams leaving for newer pastures.
Texas A&M has parted ways with Billy Kennedy after seven seasons. Kennedy has battled health problems for a few years now and the Aggies are going to finish this season under .500.
Williams has been rumored to be a potential candidate for the A&M head coaching position by several media members, most notably Jeff Goodman of Stadium and Seth Davis of The Athletic. It’s more than a Twitter rumor.
Ultimately, I think Williams is on his way out. He’s been angling for other jobs since he arrived in Blacksburg in 2015, flirting with head coaching positions at Texas, Ohio State and Oklahoma State. Williams’ message has been clear, despite what he says publicly — he’s ready to cash in and go home.
Texas A&M could undoubtedly give Williams a worthy raise and being back in his home state would be a huge plus for him.
The stars are aligning. The chance to return home and a fat raise are two reasons for Williams to abandon ship, but so is his potential roster after this season. Justin Robinson and Ahmed Hill are both exhausting their eligibility after the NCAA Tournament, while Kerry Blackshear Jr. and Nickeil Alexander-Walker are both early entry candidates to the 2019 NBA Draft.
Next season, Williams could potentially be down four starters from this season with just one high-level recruit, Anthony Harris, on the way to help.
Using my 100 chips to spend, I’m placing 55 on Texas A&M, 15 on Virginia Tech and the remaining 30 on “other.” Goodman mentioned Williams looking at potential openings at Texas and Arizona, and I think there’s a greater chance of him going to either of those schools than there is of him staying at this point.
We all want Buzz to stay and will hold out hope until its all said and done. If he does go, who are a couple reasonable names Whit could call up?
— CW (@cwaugh7) March 16, 2019
I’ll have to admit my ignorance when it comes to potential coaching candidates. It’s hard to monitor up-and-coming assistants at larger schools or developing head coaches at smaller schools, but some basic research suggests some potential names.
Winthrop head coach Pat Kelsey has accrued 139 wins over nearly seven seasons and has assistant experience at Wake Forest and Xavier. There are obvious questions about whether or not he can recruit at the next level, but Kelsey has garnered attention with his success at Winthrop.
Earl Grant led the College of Charleston to an NCAA Tournament bid last season and his squad is 24-8 right now. Nate Oats of Buffalo is 94-42 since assuming the head coaching position in 2015 and has earned two NCAA Tournament bids. Buffalo is 30-3 and is the 6-seed in the West bracket.
More names will emerge if Williams does indeed leave. Potential candidates will leak to the media and we’ll start watching closely. But here are a couple names that have earned attention on the national stage.
One problem facing Tech is what’s left of the roster once Williams leaves. There likely won’t be much talent left in the cupboard, save for the aforementioned Anthony Harris. Also, it’s worth monitoring Williams’ alleged connection with alleged college basketball sleaze Martin Fox and how that could potentially affect the Tech program moving forward.
These obstacles could scare off some coaches, but it’s far too early in the process to know how things are going to end up. We need to let the situation play out, but it’s fair to start exploring options as a fan.
If Buzz leaves, how far does it set the program back? Which recruits are likely to back out of their commitments?
— Ken Goodrich (@KenGoodrich) March 16, 2019
Williams’ departure would certainly push the program back several steps.
Tech’s entire identity as a program would change. Williams has built the men’s basketball department around his personality, and his absence would deem the rest of the structure moot. Tech would have to start over from scratch, albeit with more credibility than the program had in 2015.
Virginia Tech’s 2019 class would likely change as well. Williams might pull Harris towards his new destination, and the same could be said for Emanuel Miller, Andre Gordon and Yavuz Gultekin. Williams would be under a tight timetable to create his new 2019 class and he’d reach for these guys first.
Williams’ departure would also wreck a fanbase that has by and large rallied around Williams’ personality. His emotion on the sideline and historic success in Blacksburg has earned himself many supporters and defenders, and those members of the fanbase would be devastated. Virginia Tech has been a snakebitten program for years now, mostly due to injuries, and Williams leaving for another program after three-straight NCAA bids would be another instance of Tech being kicked in the stones.
If Justin Robinson does return, which appears to be likely, will it somewhat disrupt the Hokies offense. VT is now just gelling together on the offensive side of the ball without Robinson, but a return could be a little strange after finally feeling comfortable on offense
— Sam Stromberg (@sam_stromb) March 16, 2019
I had this conversation with a friend of mine the other day and I said the same thing.
While I think getting Justin Robinson back will be an immediate help, Tech’s first half vs. 13-seed Saint Louis could be a little rocky. Robinson has missed several contests now and the Hokies have no doubt gotten used to playing without him. Robinson and Wabissa Bede couldn’t be any different, in terms of skill set.
I’m expecting Tech to start a little slow on the offensive end and pick things up closer to halftime. Don’t be surprised if this game is close for a while, but the odds are in Virginia Tech’s favor to win their first-round matchup.
If Tech is able to beat Saint Louis and then knock off the winner of Mississippi State vs. Liberty, then the Hokies’ path likely ends with a Sweet 16 loss to Duke. There’s always a chance, but Tech doesn’t have a single person on the roster capable of defending Zion Williamson. And with Williamson on the floor, shutting down RJ Barrett won’t be as easy as it was just a few weeks ago.