Friday, February 18, 2011
game preview: Virginia Tech
Date/Time: February 19; 1:00
TV: ACC Network; ESPN3
History against the Hokies: 80-53
Last matchup: UVA 57, VT 54 (12/5/10)
Last game: Duke 56, UVA 41 (2/16); VT 91, Md. 83 (2/15)
Opposing blogs: Gobbler Country, The Key Play
National: UVA #120; VT #25
Offense: UVA #154; VT #36
Defense: UVA #98; VT #28
We meet again. It wouldn't be accurate to say the tables have turned, but these two teams have been moving clearly in opposite directions since the last meeting. Mike Scott's injury has helped drop UVA over 100 places in KenPom's offensive rankings; Tech has actually found an answer for their injury troubles. Instead of dropping out of the NCAA conversation as it looked like they might after losing at home to UVA in December, Tech finds themselves in a familiar place: the bottom of the bubble. They're still probably on the outside looking in: they sit at #56 in the RPI, below Belmont and two spots above where they finished last year. They can't afford any slips; Saturday's game is a golden, golden opportunity to play the spoiler.
HOW WE CAN WIN
- Attack the basket. Remember, Tech has nobody over 6'8" in their rotation. There won't be any galoots like Duke's Ryan Kelly running around, no seven-footers camped out in the lane to turn every layup into Cirque du Soleil. Plus, their notoriously short rotation has gotten even shorter as the season drags on. Manny Atkins, Tyrone Garland, and Jarrell Eddie have seen their minutes dwindle, and they're not real useful anyway: since New Year's Day, Eddie has hit five baskets against teams not named Wake Forest. Jeff Allen still dominates when he feels like it and fouls when he doesn't - lately, he's been feeling it more often, but a leopard don't change his spots. The strategy should be to send Farrakhan, Harris, and Evans at the rim as often as practicable and tell them to dish to the outside only if they see a wide-open man. Otherwise, attack and try and get the foul. (The basket would be nice, too.) Tech is the most vulnerable team in the league to foul trouble because of their short rotation.
- Find something for Tech's new wrinkle. That wrinkle would be Erick Green, who's outperformed Dorenzo Hudson, the guy he's replaced in the lineup. Outperformed badly. Green actually has a slightly higher offensive rating than Malcolm Delaney, and is a better defender, too - much better at coming up with a steal. Oh, and his asst/turnover ratio is much better than Delaney's, too. Green's been the key to Tech's mini-resurgence, and they tend to only lose when Green plays poorly. Case in point: in Tech's ACC wins, he's shooting 37-for-57 (65%), and in their losses, he's 7-for-35 (20%.) 0-for-8 in losing to BC, and 3-for-15 in their loss to GT. Stop Green, stop the Hokies.
- Get the home crowd going. It's a sellout and a big day for UVA sports with the lacrosse game later in the day. Hopefully the crowd isn't too maroon. Good opportunity to establish a big home-court advantage.
HOW WE CAN LOSE
- Miss free throws. This is my way of mentioning what an annoying problem this has been of late. It's fair to say free throws alone cost us the Miami game. Besides, it won't do any good to follow my suggestion of trying to get to the line and then clunking half the shots from there.
- Fatigue. I said this in the last VT game preview, but I meant it differently. Then, it was because of the end of the long road trip. Now, it's because so many of our key players are playing their first college season. I do think the recent freefall on offense has a lot to do with fatigue, because the only ways we can score (attacking the rim and shooting threes) are the most susceptible to tired legs. VT remains a very athletic team, and the short rotation is something they're used to.
HOW THE GAME WILL GO
As usual, close. These games just are, because of the pace and style of the teams. Low-scoring, too, for the same reason. Tech is playing fairly well, but UVA is better-equipped to beat them than most of the rest of the teams on our schedule, so this is a great chance to steal a win. It's getting close to that time of the year where Seth Greenberg opens his flap to politic for a spot in the tournament. It's gotten to be such a common thing that it's now official: to whine, moan, bitch, bellyache, and otherwise throw a hissyfit about being in the tournament is now "going Seth Greenberg." This game will be close, and then in the end it comes down to better playmakers on Tech's side vs. home-court advantage on ours. I like our chances to get the win and put a big dent in the VT tourney bandwagon.