Thursday, January 24, 2013
game preview: Virginia Tech
Date/Time: Thursday, January 24; 8:00
TV: ACC Network, ESPN3
Record against the Hokies: 81-52
Last matchup: UVA 61, VT 59; 2/21/12, Blacksburg
Last game: UVA 56, FSU 36 (1/19); VT 66, WF 65 (1/19)
UVA: 59.7 (#344)
VT: 70.1 (#48)
UVA: 102.0 (#132)
VT: 105.7 (#79)
UVA: 85.9 (#8)
VT: 104.2 (#252)
UVA: .8540 (#39)
VT: .5370 (#151)
PG: Jontel Evans (3.0 ppg, 2.3 rpg, 3.8 apg)
SG: Paul Jesperson (4.5 ppg, 2.1 rpg, 1.2 apg)
SF: Joe Harris (15.2 ppg, 4.1 rpg, 2.4 apg)
PF: Evan Nolte (6.4 ppg, 2.5 rpg, 1.3 apg)
PF: Akil Mitchell (12.3 ppg, 9.1 rpg, 1.9 apg)
PG: Erick Green (24.6 ppg, 4.2 rpg, 4.4 apg)
SG: Robert Brown (10.2 ppg, 2.8 rpg, 2.6 apg)
SF: Jarell Eddie (14.5 ppg, 6.6 rpg, 1.4 apg)
F: C.J. Barksdale (5.5 ppg, 4.8 rpg, 0.7 apg)
F: Cadarian Raines (6.8 ppg, 6.9 rpg, 0.6 apg)
The Hoos righted the ship last weekend against Florida State, or so I'd like to believe. If they're going to have any kind of success this season, though, they'll have to figure out how to win on the road, where so far ACC play has been very unkind. There wouldn't be a better place to get that figured out than Blacksburg. Virginia Tech sports the same 2-2 record as UVA, but they've largely played the dregs of the conference; the best team they've faced has been Maryland, and their wins have been of the skin-of-teeth variety. Nevertheless, any team with Erick Green is going to be dangerous.
-- UVA on offense
KenPom-wise, there aren't many bigger pillowfights in the ACC than this side of the matchup. In conference-only play, UVA's offense rates 10th of 12, and VT's defense is bottom-of-the-barrel bad. Tech isn't a great rebounding team, and doesn't create turnovers. Only Erick Green is a threat in that regard, and not a big one. If turnovers again plague the Hoos and their point guards, they'll have only themselves to blame.
Tech also allows teams to shoot a large number of threes; though their opponents' make percentage is pretty low, the high number of attempts still allows extra points to creep in. If VT wants to let UVA shoot threes, UVA will probably be happy to oblige, so it'd be nice if we could get the same kind of performance we saw in the first half against FSU thank you very much.
VT is a thin team - their rotation will mainly feature seven players - so it's to their credit that they do a decent job of staying out of foul trouble. Green is a good defender, and Jontel Evans will find it tough to find the rim, so ball movement will be important. Tech can be broken down this way. They still have some of Seth Greenberg's habits to break and have that good shot-blocking athleticism, but don't always rotate and help quickly. UVA shouldn't be afraid to shoot the open three; Tony Bennett has talked of having only three players that have the green light (likely Joe Harris, Paul Jesperson, and Evan Nolte) but some of those yellow-light guys, like Justin Anderson, will at some point find themselves with an opportunity; they should bomb away as well.
There may also be some good second-chance opportunities, a good time for Akil Mitchell to shine. Mitchell will easily be the best rebounder on the court, and if his ankle allows it, Bennett might do well to allow Mitchell to crash the offensive glass instead of ordering him quickly back on defense like usual. There will be some points to be found this way; VT's starting frontcourt of Raines, Eddie, and Barksdale are okay rebounders and bench center Joey van Zegeren isn't aggressive on the boards.
Ultimately, the Hoos' fate will be in their own hands. Tech doesn't defend well enough to stop most teams. UVA can be stubbornly bad at offense when it tries, though. Shoot passably well and don't turn the ball over and they'll earn enough points to win.
-- UVA on defense
Any discussion of Tech's offense starts and ends with Erick Green. There's no getting around it; the guy is legitimately good and probably a lock for first team all-ACC at the end of the year. Green takes care of the ball, he distributes it well, he's an extremely-high-usage player who can get to the rim with ease. He draws a bazillion fouls and shoots from the line exceedingly well. If there's a hole in his game it's that he's merely a respectable three-point shooter. He's been held under 20 points just once this season - in Tech's debacle against BYU - and he could easily get his 20 against UVA, too.
The best way to go is to try and limit the rest of the team. Green loves to drive and kick to his big, shooting wing Jarell Eddie, who can be dangerous behind the arc. C.J. Barksdale is probably underused and is a good scorer down low, and Cadarian Raines must be kept off the glass; he is one of the country's better offensive rebounders. Nor can you feel comfortable putting most of these guys on the line; most are solid free-throw shooters.
UVA should try to funnel the ball to Robert Brown, the weakest link in Tech's starting lineup. Brown scores 10 a game and is Tech's third-leading scorer, but is the very definition of a volume scorer with just a .343 shooting percentage, and .234 behind the arc.
The good news for UVA is that Tech's weapons are potent, but they're limited in number. Brown, I don't consider much of a scorer. VT's sixth man is Marquis Rankin, in the game for his defense, most definitely not his offense. Joey van Zegeren is the only other player likely to get much time off the bench. The Hokies will sub in Will Johnston if they want someone to knock down a quick three; Johnston has taken 29 shots this year and 27 have been threes. But his minutes have diminished of late and they've been inconsistently given all season.
In the end, Green will probably have his points. UVA is a tough defense to drive on, yes, but Green is the best player they've faced all season. The game will almost certainly hinge on whether the others get their points as well. If UVA can limit Tech's complementary players, they'll have a clear upper hand.
Tech still looks a lot like the team that Seth Greenberg ran, but with better discipline. Somewhat. They like to score quickly, though - they have a fast tempo, and since they don't hardly ever get steals, the tempo isn't borne of a transition game. It's from a desire to hurry things up in the halfcourt. Tony Bennett prefers you don't do that. Whoever can impose their tempo is very, very likely to win this game.
I expect a close one, though. Both games last year were, and this is on the road and likely won't be much different. Tech gets up for these games and will give us a fight. I still think the Hoos have legitimate tournament hopes, and since I think that, I really have no choice but to step back out on the limb and call for a win. We're not going to have an easy time convincing a committee otherwise.
Final score: UVA 59, VT 55