Friday, January 20, 2012
game preview: Virginia Tech
Date/Time: Sunday, January 22; 6:00
Record against the Hokies: 81-52
Last matchup: UVA 61, VT 54; 2/19/11; Charlottesville
Last game: UVA 70, GT 38 (1/19); UNC 82, VT 68 (1/19)
Opposing blogs: Gobbler Country, The Key Play
UVA: 60.4 (#338)
VT: 64.3 (#280)
UVA: 106.7 (#77)
VT: 107.6 (#62)
UVA: 84.1 (#4)
VT: 94.0 (#62)
UVA: .9198 (#13)
VT: .8004 (#56)
Common opponents: none
Projected starting lineups:
PG: Jontel Evans (5.6 ppg, 1.9 rpg, 3.7 apg)
SG: Sammy Zeglinski (9.3 ppg, 2.7 rpg, 2.7 apg)
SF: Joe Harris (12.6 ppg, 3.9 rpg, 1.6 apg)
PF: Mike Scott (16.9 ppg, 8.8 rpg, 1.6 apg)
C: Assane Sene (4.9 ppg, 3.7 rpg, 0.4 apg)
PG: Erick Green (16.1 ppg, 3.4 rpg, 3.3 apg)
SG: Dorenzo Hudson (11.7 ppg, 2.9 rpg, 1.7 apg)
SF: Jarell Eddie (9.8 ppg, 4.9 rpg, 1.1 apg)
F: Dorian Finney-Smith (6.5 ppg, 7.8 rpg, 2.3 apg)
PF: Victor Davila (6.8 ppg, 3.8 rpg, 0.5 apg)
That was fun. I don't really enjoy beating up on Georgia Tech specifically, but any time you get an ACC game that looks like Somalia State, you have to enjoy it. I can't remember UVA beating an ACC team like that, ever. Some old-timer who used to be a brontosaurus hunter back in the day can probably tell us a story about the time Ralph Sampson did something or other, but semi-recent history has nothing quite like that.
So UVA is now "on a roll" and hoping to keep it that way on Sunday when the other Tech shows up. The only negative from the GT game was Assane Sene rolling his ankle and spending the second half in warmups. Whether he'll play on Sunday probably won't be known til someone strolls out to take the opening tip, but if he's going to miss time, this is the place to do it - VT doesn't use a center and the next opponent, Boston College, is Boston College.
-- UVA on offense
The 38 points scored by GT got all the attention, but what shouldn't be overlooked is that UVA scored almost 1.2 points per possession - on the road. It was the fourth-best performance of the year in that regard, and far and away the best opponent we've inflicted it on - the only three games that topped it were Winthrop, Seattle, and Longwood.
If Sene plays, he could be a weapon in this game, as Tech's starting lineup features nobody over 6'8". They simply do not have a center. If Victor Davila, the largest man in the Tech starting lineup, is assigned to Sene, then that probably leaves Jarell Eddie or Dorian Finney-Smith - both athletic but kind of skinny - to try their hand at guarding Mike Scott. Or does Davila, a better defender in general, take Scott? Either way, UVA will have a very exploitable matchup advantage in the frontcourt. Tech may try out 6'9" Cadarian Raines in the starting lineup instead. IF Sene is healthy enough to play.
If not, you'll probably see Akil Mitchell take his place in the starting lineup, and UVA will still be bigger than Tech, but otherwise rather similarly put-together. It doesn't negate the problem of trying to decide whether to defend Scott with someone who's either slower or much less powerful.
This is a matchup of two teams that defend the three-pointer at a nationally awesome level. Specifically, UVA is 2nd and VT is 4th in the country at defending threes. And we haven't been shooting them too well lately, so long-distance opportunities will be tough to come by. Tech is simply athletic enough at all positions to consistently shut down opponent three-pointers, and Finney-Smith is long-armed dude. It's likely that Joe Harris will be his assignment, and that's a tough deal for Joey Hoops, because his game is based on being just quick enough to get past bigger players guarding him and tall enough to hit threes over guards. Finney-Smith out-athletes Harris by a ton and presents a tough barrier to try and shoot over.
No, the way to attack the Hokies is inside-out. Mike Scott is a guy that few teams in the ACC are prepared to deal with, VT among the least of all. And you know they'll foul. Tech is undisciplined and it shows in their foul totals, as by the end of the game, at least one of their bigs is always in foul trouble. Against Wake, it was Eddie; Raines fouled out of the FSU game, and Finney-Smith from the UNC game. Against BC, guard Marquis Rankin fouled out, and no fewer than three other players finished with four. This despite the relatively slow pace that VT employs. Not only do they foul, they might be the one team against whom we look to crash the offensive boards. Tony Bennett emphasizes getting back on defense over the offensive glass, of course, but Tech is so bad at defensive rebounding we might end up with a bunch of boards on this end just by accident. UNC actually outrebounded them in this area, with more offensive boards than Tech had defensive. That is hard to do. Against ACC competition, VT has been allowing opponents 40% of their offensive boards. By working the ball inside and letting Mike Scott be Mike Scott, putback opportunities should be there for the taking. UVA should look to pound, pound, pound inside, take advantage of the inevitable fouls, and get our threes, to employ a galactically overused phrase, the old-fashioned way.
EDIT - so much for the seven-foot mismatch, as Sene will be out six weeks (GGGGGRRRHHHGGGRHRHRHR) with a broken ankle. "Virginia" is ancient Latin for "we can't ever have nice things around here."
-- UVA on defense
Let me go off-topic for a second. Here is a short list of teams for you to peruse:
What do these teams have in common, besides being bad at basketball? They all beat Boston College by at least 14 points. In the case of Holy Cross, which plays in the Patriot League, it was a 22-point beatdown. You don't want to know the UMass score if you like the ACC. And this is to say nothing of the double-OT loss to 3-16 Rhode Island.
And to illustrate just how important Erick Green is to the VT offense, the Hokies lost to BC without him.
Green is simply an excellent, highly efficient player. KenPom gives him an offensive rating of 120.9. He's got a shooting percentage of .484, 40% from three-land, a solid A/T ratio, and a FT% of .885. He can hurt you a lot of ways. Jarell Eddie is even better from downtown; this season, he's over 50% in that regard. Those two, plus Dorenzo Hudson, are guys you just don't want to send to the line, either, because they're nigh-automatic.
Unfortunately for Tech, a lot of their offensive efficiency gets eaten up by Hudson, a brute-force volume-scorer who shoots a ton of threes and hits only 27% of them. Hudson actually came off the bench for the first time this season against Carolina, in favor of freshman Robert Brown, but Brown isn't much of an improvement. He and fellow freshman Finney-Smith are combining to make only 35% of their shots.
Part of the reason Tech is so maddeningly (to their fans - or enjoyably to us) streaky is that they like to bomb from three; any one of five players is liable to give it a try. Only Eddie and Green are much good at it. Outside of transition, their other preferred scoring method is to slash at the hoop and either beat you with athleticism, or draw a foul, or both. The top four scorers are all guard-types (with Eddie being listed as "G/F"); the bigs like Raines and Davila are well down the list.
Not to be forgotten is Finney-Smith - he "looks lost" on offense, to quote Gobbler Country, and appears to be hitting a freshman wall of sorts, but what he can definitely do is crash the offensive boards. Nobody else is really noteworthy in this regard one way or the other, but Finney-Smith's nose for the ball is an asset. He has pulled in 11.2% of available boards on offense alone, and is by far VT's leading rebounder overall. UVA, of course, is one of the best rebounding teams in the nation - third-best at defensive rebounding after the GT game, in fact - but Finney-Smith will be a challenge.
On paper, VT looks like a team that can really hurt you. Despite losses to two horrible ACC teams and an 0-4 start in the conference, their KenPom numbers still look decent. They have viable scorers and play perfectly acceptable defense. On paper.
But they play the games on a court made of hardwood, and Tech's season is on the brink at the moment. No tournament bid is likely coming, and they're teetering on the edge of blowing even any shot at the NIT. They were looking good against UNC, taking a 44-36 lead, and then UNC remembered how to play basketball and blew them out. Tech plays an undisciplined, freelancing style, good at out-athleting inferior teams but generally unable to break down a determined, patient effort or a really well-executed system. And what looked like a challenger for non-Tobacco Road supremacy in the ACC is now staring over a ledge and wondering where the bottom is; Tech fans are wondering about an 0-7 start, and even 0-9 is not implausible. The arena will be sold out and loud, and UVA is a confident bunch. This is no time to slow our roll, and I don't think the Hokies will be able to.
-- Final score: UVA 68, VT 56