Wednesday, January 27, 2010

game preview: Virginia Tech

Oh, you want a preview? Lemme see, I got one in my pocket,, yeah, there's your f**kin' preview.

Tomorrow is the all-important Virginia Tech game, sometimes also known as Just-Wait-Til-Basketball-Season Week. Well, basketball season is upon us, and I will tell you what: for really the first time this year, except for maybe the NJIT game or something, I am feeling juuust a bit cocky about our chances here. Just like old times.

See, back when I was a bright-eyed and bushy-tailed first year and still learning the ways, Virginia Tech basketball was explained to me thusly: "Tsch. Patsies - they don't count." The notion was reaffirmed when the team played a truly lackluster game and won by 16 anyway, and the game wasn't even that close. Ever since then it's been kind of imprinted on me that Poly is a team we should be kicking the snot out of just about every time we play them, even though they've improved pretty dramatically thanks to having that ACC magic rub off on them.

So why do I feel like that now? Why so frisky about our chances tomorrow night? Let me bulletize the ways:

- Much like UAB, VT is the kind of team we're so well geared to stop. Nobody on that team is a consistent three-point threat - Malcolm Delaney can usually be counted on to knock a few down but he hoists up so damn many that he basically can't help but that a few go in. They don't get a lot of scoring from the post either. VT is a drive-to-the-basket team, the kind that the pack-line defense loves to snarf up.

- We're at home.

- Delaney is playing on a bum ankle. He sprained it against Longwood, missed a game, and ever since then he's been shooting .367, well below what he was doing before. To take advantage gameplan-wise, we can't control who he guards, but we can control how many screens he has to run through.

- Jeff Allen is....well, to put it kindly, inconsistent. In the words of esteemed Hokie blog Gobbler Country, "we don't know from game to game what kind of effort we're going to get from Jeff Allen." More accurately perhaps, they don't know from half to half what kind of effort they'll get. Allen's been known to have a monster first half and then decide he's put in enough sweat for the evening and pack it in, leading GC to also observe that Hokies can't tell if he's "injured or just useless." Allen also happens to be their only real post scoring threat, so if he's decided not to care, Tech is left with something of a donut team. Allen, by the way, also fouls a ridiculous 3.4 times per game.

- Seth Greenberg thinks those guys sitting on the bench are there for moral support only. In the absence of a team's star player, most coaches opt to spread the minutes around a bit more, spread the ball around, try to make it more of a team effort. Against Seton Hall without Delaney, Greenberg just shoved Erick Green in for 32 basically unproductive minutes, during which Green fouled out and committed three turnovers. Meanwhile, Dorenzo Hudson snarfed all the shots and scored 41 points. In the Boston College game, the starters all played 30+ minutes and three other players got in the game - for 9, 2, and 16 minutes. That's a rotation?

- This leads directly to the Hokies' gameplan: stand around and watch one of the big three try and score. Kind of a risky system when scorer #1 is hobbling and scorer #3 doesn't always want to.

So what is there to watch out for from Virginia Tech? After all that you'd think they hadn't a prayer. Well:

- Hudson is actually quite a dangerous #2 scoring threat and perfectly capable of being a #1, too. His only problems are that he and Delaney are too similar and don't complement too well, and Hudson also can't shoot a three to save his life. But then again, he's also not a turnover machine like Delaney is prone to being.

- Allen does have a way of being a pest on defense when he wants to be. He has 33 steals this season, which isn't out of the ordinary for him. Two-ish steals a game would be notable for a guard; it's pretty darn good for a forward.

- UVA is the best team in the league at allowing the fewest opponents' offensive rebounds, but VT is also right up there, and also like us, they take good care of the ball. These are two major advantages we tend to have, but we won't have them in spades against VT.

So, having thrown the Hokies a bone there, yup: I still think we'll win this game. I hope it's not close, too, because it has a chance not to be. We stumbled a bit there against Wake Forest, but there's no shame in that, and we stand in good position to take two of the next three. A win tomorrow night will put us right back on track to keep chugging toward a postseason invite of some kind, and it would also match our ACC win total from last season.

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