Preview | NIT 2nd Round | #5 uab (23-10) at #1 VT (20-13) | Mon., 9 PM | ESPN

THE SETUP

uab continues their tour of Virginia, though hopefully this will be their last stop.  puff the magic dragon (aka: the blazers) jumped out to a big lead at vcu last week and held on to capture an 80-77 win over the rams in Round One.

uab finished second in Conference USA in the regular season but were upset by #7 seed tulsa in the C-USA quarterfinals.  Just to show you how poor C-USA was this year, uab was not even on the bubble despite finishing second in the conference.  memphis was the only top 50 RPI team they played.  The blazers nearly beat them at home, losing 79-78, but as VT learned, close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades.  At memphis, the tigers woodshedded uab by 38 (really sounds like VT/unc, doesn’t it?).

The Hokies, meanwhile, absolutely pasted the visiting morgan state bears over the final 30 minutes, winning 94-62.  A.D. Vassallo tied his season high of 27 points in just 25 minutes of action.  Delaney (13), Washington (11), and Allen (10) also reached double-digits for the balanced Hokie attack. 

In the game, VT looked slow on defense early on.  They were beaten off the dribble in the first 10 minutes, leading to some easy buckets.  The bears were also scrappy on the boards, getting some offensive rebounds.  But after morgan state went up 16-14, the Hokies used an 18-5 run to put the game away by halftime.  Tech played their best offensive half ever in the second half, hitting their first 15 shots from the floor and going 19/23 (82%) for the half.  That’s a VT record for a half.

THE GAME

uab likes to run and force tempo.  They broke 100 in regulation late in the season against houston and have hit 80 in seven of their last 14 games.  The Hokies must get back on defense to negate uab getting easy buckets and force them to run their half court offense.  If this is a half court game, VT should win.

Also, the Hokies must do a good job of protecting the ball against the aggressive uab defense.  The freshman guards will be key for VT.

#24 Robert Vaden is by far uab’s best offensive player.  Expect Deron to draw that assignment.  Vaden is a 6’5″ wing player who has reached double-figures in every game but one this season.  Robert has eclipsed 30 points four times and had 41 against utep.  He shoots more threes than twos and shoots 41% from long range.  He was tied with (ugh) Stephen Curry of davidson for most three-pointers made this season (139) heading into the postseason tournaments.  Vaden has hit seven or more three-pointers seven times this season!  So Deron needs to get out on him and play him tight, daring him to go at the hoop.  Terrell Bell might also get some minutes (Vaden rarely goes out) and must show he can be the next defensive stopper for the Hokies.

Inside, uab does not have many scoring threats.  Just some bodies to clog the lane.  Their best low post scorer, #21 Lawrence Kinnard, is not a back to the basket player and is actually their second best three-point shooter (though Vaden is the only real threat).  So VT can afford to stay out on the perimeter on D and not collapse on low post players.  Also, point guard #10 Ed Berrios is a pass-only guard, similar to Hank Thorns.  The Hokies do not need to respect his shot or penetration.  The only offensive players that will challenge VT are their wings: Vaden and #25 Channing Toney, along with small forward Kinnard.

uab is without the services of two starters from early in the season: Paul Delaney III and Walter Sharpe.  But neither has played for over two months, so the blazers are used to dealing without them.  It has thinned their bench though.

THE NUMBERS:

  • VT is 9-0 all time at the Cassell in NIT play and home teams are 17-3 thus far in the NIT.

Category

VT

VT

uab

uab

2007-08 Record

 

20-13

 

23-10

Points/Game

 

70.0

 

74.3

Scoring Defense

 

64.7

 

67.1

Leading Scorers

Vassallo

16.9

Vaden

21.4

 

Washington

12.7

Kinnard

11.2

Leading Rebounder

Allen

7.8

Kinnard

6.8

Assists Leader

Thorns

3.4

Berrios

2.7

Blocks Leader

Diakite

1.3

Kinnard

0.8

Steals Leader

Allen

2.1

Johnson

1.0

VT’s NIT HISTORY

This year marks Virginia Tech’s ninth appearance in the NIT, which used to be the premiere basketball tournament until the 1960s. In fact, the Hokies 1973 NIT Championship is regarded as the biggest moment in program history by many, including me. In that game, Bobby Stevens recovered his own miss and hit a 12 foot jumpshot at the buzzer for a 92-91 overtime win in the championship game. The Hokies won their four NIT games that year by a total of seven points and each of the last three wins were by one point. I watched the tape of the game in the VT library and I have to tell you, I got chills when Stevens hit the winning shot, even 25 years later.

Tech also won the NIT back in 1995, again in dramatic fashion as Shawn Smith hit two free throws with less then five seconds left for a 65-65 overtime win over marquette (for you hoops junkies, William Gates from the movie Hoop Dreams was on that marquette team but did not play in the game). This tournament included one of my favorite all-time VT games, a 64-61 win over new mexico state on a Travis Jackson three-pointer in the final seconds. The win sent VT to New York and nearly sent me to the hospital. I was one of the first to try and jump on the court but one of the cops caught me in mid-air and slammed me down onto the railing right on my twig and two berries. It was still worth it. After the championship game, students flooded Main Street and it had to be closed off.

The Hokies finished third in the NIT in 1984 using an ABA style multi-colored ball. Their last appearance in the NIT was three years ago. VT won at home over temple before falling to a memphis squad that included several of the players they have this year.

THE OPPONENT

  • The university of alabama at birmingham is in… you guessed it, Birmingham, Alabama.
  • Founded: 1936
  • Conference: Conference USA
  • Enrollment: 11,500 undergrad and 4,500 grad (3rd biggest in Alabama)
  • Head Coach Mike Davis replaced Bobby Knight at indiana, before being removed a year ago.
  • uab has 13 NCAA Tournament appearances, 3 Sweet 16 appearances, and even made a trip to the Elite 8.
  • Famous Alums: None (I reviewed their list and didn’t recognize anyone except for Roddy White who plays for the Atlanta Falcons and they certainly don’t have a former Miss America like VT does!)

This post was written by:

- who has written 1245 posts on Tech Hoops.

Niemo is a member of the VT Class of '98. While not a professional journalist by any stretch, Niemo analyzes and breaks down every minute of Hokie hoop action. He also researches topics of interest such as Hokie recruits, program revenue, statistical data on the team, previews VT opponents, and discusses his favorite bourbons/Scotches. In addition to his passion for Hokie hoops, Niemo has attended 126 straight VT football home games (every game since '94), eclipsing the 100 mark in September of '09 and recently attended his 20th consecutive VT/uva game. During the final home basketball game of his senior year, he was brought onto the court and was awarded 2 passes to the Atlantic 10 Basketball Tournament in Philly during a timeout for being a "Super Fan" during his time at VT. The Hokie Bird made the award on behalf of Athletic Director Jim Weaver. Niemo was known to be in the front row of every home game with his familiar red afro hairdo.

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  • jcsaund

    what would stephen curry do for this team…and why everyone like roy williams said ” we just missed this guy” he had to dominate is high school if he is doing it now how can he be overlooked, did we give out to many scholarships that year or what??

  • Niemo

    nigel munson basically took Curry’s scholarship, so to speak. Greenberg wanted Curry to walk-on for a year, redshirt behind Dowdell and Gordon, and then have a chance at a schollie. But Curry was not a big time prospect in high school, period. He didn’t have the body to deal with ACC play – 6’2″ 165 lbs, and the 6’2″ came very late in HS. He has really blossomed in a good situation for him. Heck, David Robinson grew about 9 inches at the Naval Academy. It happens, some people develop later than others.

    And keep this in mind: his brother is going to liberty next year. Obviously no one wanted to take a chance on him either.

  • jcsaund

    that makes sense, but why was he so hung up on a scholarship? his dad has money and as a player isnt it more intriguing to play acc then at davidson, i guess the PT was the issue for him at some level. thanks for the info tho

  • vatechhokies50

    We kicked UAB’s ass tonight… we came with an intensity that was incredible… we locked down Vaden… yeah, he got a few points… but he scored a heck of a lot more on Memphis… we have one more home game and then it’s on to the Big Apple… heavens, I’m looking forward to next year already!!

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2014-2015 Schedule/Results

November

11/14 - Hokies 71, md. eastern shore 46
11/19 - Hokies 73, liberty 63
11/22 - appalachian state 65, Hokies 63
**********
Cancun Classic
11/25 - n. iowa 73, Hokies 54
11/26 - Hokies 78, miami ohio 63
**********
11/30 - morgan state | 3pm, ESPN3

December

12/03 - @ penn state | 7:15pm, ESPNU
12/07 - vs. radford | 3pm, ESPN3
12/14 - vs. alabama a&m | 3pm, ESPN3
12/20 - vs. the citadel | 1pm, ESPN3
12/22 - vs. vmi | 7pm, ESPN3
12/27 - vs. presbyterian | 7pm, ESPN3
12/30 - @ west virginia | 2pm, ESPNU

January

01/03 - vs. syracuse | Noon, RSN
01/06 - @ fsu | 7pm, RSN
01/13 - @ louisville | 7pm, RSN
01/18 - @ unc | 6:30pm, ESPNU
01/22 - vs. notre dame | 7pm, RSN
01/25 - vs. uva | 1pm, ACCN
01/27 - vs. pittsburgh | 7pm, ESPNU
01/31 - @ wake forest | 2pm, RSN

February

02/03 - @ syracuse | 9pm, ESPNU
02/07 - vs. fsu | 3pm, ACCN
02/09 - vs. georgia tech | 9pm, ESPNU
02/14 - @ clemson | Noon, RSN
02/18 - @ miami | 7pm, RSN
02/21 - @ nc state | 6pm, ESPN2
02/25 - vs. duke | 9pm, ESPN2
02/28 - @ uva | 4pm, ACCN

March

03/02 - vs. boston college | 9pm, ESPNU
03/07 - vs. miami | Noon, RSN
**********
ACC Tournament
03/10 - 1st rd.
03/11 - 2nd rd.
03/12 - quarterfinals
03/13 - semifinals
03/14 - championship

Photos on flickr