Tuesday, February 12, 2013

game preview: Virginia Tech

Date/Time: Tuesday, February 12; 7:00


Record against the Hokies: 83-53

Last meeting: UVA 74, VT 58; 1/24/13, Blacksburg

Last game: UVA 80, Md. 69 (2/10); GT 64, VT 54 (2/9)


UVA: 60.6 (#340)
VT: 68.1 (#93)

UVA: 107.3 (#59)
VT: 104.3 (#105)

UVA: 86.5 (#11)
VT: 103.4 (#232)

UVA: .9006 (#19)
VT: .5215 (#158)

Projected lineups:


PG: Jontel Evans (3.3 ppg, 2.1 rpg, 4.9 apg)
SG: Paul Jesperson (4.6 ppg, 2.1 rpg, 1.2 apg)
SF: Joe Harris (15.9 ppg, 4.1 rpg, 2.3 apg)
SF: Justin Anderson (6.9 ppg, 3.2 rpg, 2.2 apg)
PF: Akil Mitchell (12.6 ppg, 8.8 rpg, 1.5 apg)

Virginia Tech:

PG: Erick Green (25.3 ppg, 4.4 rpg, 4.0 apg)
SG: Robert Brown (9.2 ppg, 2.7 rpg, 2.5 apg)
SF: Jarell Eddie (13.3 ppg, 6.1 rpg, 1.3 apg)
PF: C.J. Barksdale (4.6 ppg, 4.5 rpg, 0.6 apg)
PF: Cadarian Raines (7.1 ppg, 6.7 rpg, 0.5 apg)

Leg two of the Tech series is tonight, after leg one went swimmingly down in Blacksburg.  The game stats made it seem like the game was in Charlottesville, not Blacksburg; Tech looked like the rattled team with more than twice as many turnovers as UVA and not even a third as many assists.  UVA looked perfectly at home in Cassell Coliseum.  Now they'll actually be at home, and coming in on a mini-roll after taking a meat cleaver to Clemson and bouncing Maryland in Maryland's gym.  UVA needs this one to keep the pressure on Duke from below and UNC and NC State from above.  On the flip side, the UVA loss sent VT into a season-ruining death spiral; they haven't won since, and will be looking at this game as a postseason of sorts since their chances at any kind of a postseason tournament are just about shot.

-- UVA on offense

Evan Nolte wasn't bad in the starting lineup, but replacing him with Justin Anderson seems to have paid dividends with both players.  Bringing Nolte off the bench has spread out the shooting threats so that there's rarely a time when a .400 three-point shooter isn't on the floor.  Plus, not many teams have someone on the bench that can easily guard a mismatch forward like Nolte.  And Anderson's slashing is a new dimension in the starting lineup that's opened up the floor for Joe Harris and Paul Jesperson and made for a nice combo with Akil Mitchell at times as well.

Last time we covered this matchup, UVA was 10th of 12 in conference-only O-rating.  Now they're fourth.  Their worst offensive performance since then was not the GT loss; it was actually the win over NC State, with 0.92 points per possession in that game.  If that's your worst in a stretch, that's pretty good.  UVA's torrid three-point shooting has a lot to do with that, but don't fall into the trap of thinking that UVA is a team that relies on the three-pointer.  In fact, UVA is 242nd in the country in the ratio of three-pointers to total field goal attempts.

Where the Hoos are currently most limited is in getting to the line, but that might change for tonight as VT is starting to be one of the fouliest teams in the country.**  Getting Marshall Wood back into the rotation has only made that worse.  Most recently, Wood picked up two fouls in six minutes against Maryland and then three in 16 against Georgia Tech.  If at any time he's guarding Harris or Anderson, it's time to switch into attack mode and get to the line.  Both Cadarian Raines and C.J. Barksdale can also be counted on to hack and slash; in truth, Tech doesn't have a single frontcourt player (other than maybe Jarell Eddie, who's more of a wing really) that doesn't make a habit of putting opponents on the charity stripe.

Tech also is one of the utter worst teams in the country at getting steals and forcing turnovers.  UVA's six-TO performance last time out wasn't a fluke, since the Hoos take care of the ball quite well and Tech doesn't go and get it.  Playing at home, I don't see much reason for this trend to change.

In conference play, Tech's D-rating has been a beautiful 109.2.  If that were their overall rating they'd be tied for 307th in the country.  They don't rebound well, they foul like crazy, and they don't get steals.  I know UVA fans are worried about the team going cold off of this nice hot streak we've got going, but this isn't the team that can make it happen.  Even a cold-shooting UVA will find enough ways to score to pull out a win, and if the hot streak keeps going for another game, it'll be ugly for the Hokies.

**Astute readers may notice I said the opposite in the last preview.  Back then their rotation was thinner and included a higher proportion of non-fouly players.  Their backcourt is mostly non-aggressive and doesn't foul much, particularly Green, Brown, and Eddie.  Expanding the rotation to include Wood plus a little more of Joey Van Zegeren has changed the dynamic, and in conference play the Hokies have been fouling like madmen.

-- UVA on defense

Everybody knows about Erick Green.  The funny thing really is that Jontel Evans has more assists (per game) than Green has.  That's not because he's selfish, it's because his teammates mostly suck.  Tony Bennett said in the coaches' teleconference yesterday that they wouldn't focus just on Green, the Hokies have other weapons blah blah blah.  Popguns, mostly.

That said, Bennett wasn't just coachspeaking.  One thing Bennett has definitely shown the ability to do is shut down a team with one dynamic scorer and a bunch of schmos.  Easy: you focus on the schmos and let the scorer get his.  Terrell Stoglin used to have big days against UVA, and the Hoos still kept on spanking Maryland.  Green had 35 points in the last game.  Which, by the way, I was flabbergasted to hear when the announcers put it on the screen.  His teammates were junk.  Jarell Eddie shot 2-for-11.  Cadarian Raines took three shots.  Those are Tech's other two ACC-level players.

I guess I'd include Barksdale in that two and give Tech four in total, but he's not real assertive.  Barksdale's not a bad shooter but tends to disappear for stretches.  Mainly what you do against Tech is exactly what Bennett did last time: deny Jarell Eddie and you deny Green's main passing option.  The Hoos will let Robert Brown shoot all he likes.  He was 0-for-3 last time out (and had four fouls besides) and is not a threat.

Even though Tech generally takes care of the ball well (which is to say that Erick Green takes care of the ball well) there's not much they do that UVA can't stop.  The Hoos will be content to be occasionally embarrassed by Green, who gets his points no matter what.  UVA simply will not devote extra resources to defending him except as a changeup tactic.  They'll isolate him from his teammates and force him to try and score 50 or else lose.  I wouldn't put it past him to do that, but usually when you don't expect much out of his teammates, you're not disappointed.  Just force Eddie to shoot inside the arc and defend the paint effectively and you can't lose to VT.

-- Outlook

If there's two things that scare me, it's these: UVA tends to do badly when I talk confidently about the game.  And the team that previously lost has an advantage in the second game because they're more likely to make adjustments.  The short time between games may also be a problem, but UVA looked pretty good the last time they had a two-day turnaround (a Saturday against BC after Thursday against VT) and truth is I'm willing to trade prep time for VT in exchange for prep time against UNC, especially since UNC is laser-focused on their trip to Cameron.  I have to like UVA's chances to keep the hot streak going.

Final score: UVA 67, VT 52

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