Preview | nc state (12-8, 2-5) @ VT (14-7, 4-3) | Sun., 1:30 PM

THE SETUP

The Opposing View  |  Old School nc state Brick of the Game

Superman has kryptonite, Achilles has his heel, Niemo has that cafeteria chicken salad wrap he ate for lunch, the Weekend Warrior has Wild Turkey bourbon, uva has, well, anything VT, and the Virginia Tech basketball team has the nc state wolfpack.  Since Tech joined the ACC, nc state is just 28-43 (under 40%) in ACC regular season play, yet five of those 28 wins have come against the Hokies.  nc state also ruined VT’s chance of reaching the ACC Tournament Finals by defeating the Hokies in the Semi-Finals of the 2007 ACC Tournament, even though state was just 5-11 during the ACC regular season that year with two of those five victories against the Hokies (yes, they beat Tech three times in probably Tech’s best basketball season ever and one of state’s worst).

It is bad enough to lose to nc state over and over again, but the games haven’t even been close for the most part.  In Tech’s six losses, they have lost by an average of 13 points.  And VT’s lone win was by just a point, where the Hokies overcame a late 10-point deficit.

Well, I’m here to tell you people: this crap ends Sunday!  Enough is enough.  I’m tired of losing to the worst coach in the ACC, Sidney Lowe, and his bright red sport coat that would make a pimp throw up.  You heard it here: the Hokies are neutering the pack on Sunday!

Niemo’s News & Notes 6-Pack:

  • Tech is trying to avoid their first three-game losing streak of the season.  They have lost two in a row twice.
  • Of the top-nine Hokie scoring efforts in an ACC game, Delaney’s 37 against clemson last week marks the only time the Hokies have lost one of those games.
  • With a win, Tech will clinch a winning record at home this season.  Tech has only had a losing record once at the Cassell in its 48-year history (ricky stokes was the coach).
  • Delaney is fourth in the ACC in scoring with 18.5 ppg.
  • A win Sunday would put VT at 5-3 at the halfway point of the ACC season, the same mark they had last year.
  • Vassallo is sixth in the ACC in scoring with 18.0 ppg.

THE SERIES

Warning!  It ain’t pretty…

  • All-Time: 10-34
  • At the Cassell: 1-3
  • In the ACC: 1-6
  • Streak: nc state six in a row
  • Last Meeting: 2/5/08 – nc state 73, VT 63 (Recap)
  • Of Note: The Hokies have not won at nc state since 1917.  After winning the first two road games in the series, Tech has dropped 19 in a row.  The wolfpack are one of just two ACC teams that VT hasn’t beaten on the road since joining the ACC.  fsu is the other.  Luckily, this game isn’t in Raleigh.

LINEUPS

Virginia Tech

Position

Player

Height

PPG

Year

Point Guard

23 – Delaney

6′3″

18.5

So

Shooting Guard

40 – Vassallo

6′6″

18.1

Sr

Small Forward

33 – Thompson

6′6″

4.5

So

Power Forward

0 – Allen

6′7″

14.4

So

Center

14 – Davila

6′8″

4.1

Fr

Bench

1 – Bell

6′6″

2.5

So

 

5 – Hudson

6′5″

3.4

So

 

10 – Thorns

5′9″

2.9

So

 

21 – Witcher

6′9″

2.4

Jr

34 – Diakite

6′9″

3.7

Sr

 nc state

Position

Player

Height

PPG

Year

Point Guard

12 – Degand

6′3″

4.9

Jr

Shooting Guard

4 – Fells

6′6″

11.8

Sr

Small Forward

23 – T. Smith

6′8″

8.2

So

Power Forward

33 – Costner

6′9″

15.0

Jr

Center

34 – McCauley

6′9″

12.9

Sr

Bench

10 – Gonzalez

5’11″

3.4

So

 

15 – Ferguson

6’5″

5.8

Jr

 

24 – Mays

6’2″

4.5

Fr

 

30 – Thomas

6′5″

2.3

Fr

 

31 – Horner

6′9″

5.3

Jr

Depending on if state goes big or small to start, Ferguson could get the nod over Tracy Smith and begin the game at the two, moving Fells to the three — this is their smaller lineup.

THE OPPONENT

  • ACC Tournament Titles: 10 (third most in the ACC by far)
  • Last Title: 1987

nc state is a bad road team.  They are 1-5 on opposing home courts this season, including five losses in a row.  Their lone win was at uno (new orleans).  The pack did play davidson and florida tough away from Raleigh, but have lost their last three road games to clemson, duke, and bc by double digits.

I’ll let Steven from Section Six (nc state blog) break down the pack team in detail.  Here’s what he said in our Q&A:

Niemo: What are the strengths and weaknesses of this year’s wolfpack squad?
 
Steven: Pretty much what they’ve been throughout the Lowe era. At the offensive end, we shoot reasonably well, but we turn the ball over too much. We were offensive rebounding well in the non-conference portion of the schedule, but we’ve slid predictably in conference play. Defensively, we’re among the worst teams in the country at forcing turnovers, and we give up a lot of second chance opportunities.
 
Niemo: Tell me about your players.
 
Steven: Brandon Costner has regained much of his form from two years ago, and he does a little bit of everything — he’s a pretty good rebounder and passer, and will block some shots, in addition to scoring. He has a tendency to score 3-4 buckets in a row and then promptly disappear for long stretches. But some of that is on the coaching staff.

Ben McCauley has also had a bounce-back year shooting the basketball, and he is rebounding better than he has at any point in his career. Courtney Fells remains an enigma, scoring effortlessly in some games while being a complete non-factor in others. He’s prone to poor decisions, be they shots with a hand in his face or lazy passes.

Julius Mays has been a pleasant surprise at the point, playing about as well as could reasonably be expected. But he’s not much of a factor at the offensive end, and neither is Farnold Degand, the other point guard. Both have had turnover problems.

Though not so much of late, Tracy Smith has been an excellent high-energy contributor off the bench. He’s an outstanding offensive rebounder.
 
Niemo: This might predate most people reading this column, but on the TV show Dallas I’m pretty sure they had a season without J.R. Ewing (he was supposedly dead), then brought him back and pretended like that previous season was just a dream. For some reason, that’s how I look at this year’s nc state team. It is almost like last year, with J.J. Hickson playing for you guys, didn’t really happen and now you’re back to basically the same team you had two years ago except for Atsur and Grant. Agree?
 
Steven: In the sense that Courtney Fells, Brandon Costner, and Ben McCauley are once again the team’s primary sources of production, that’s true, but there is one big difference: the lack of a competent distributor at the point. Engin Atsur really complemented those guys well — McCauley in particular — and we’re missing that. 

For more, see The Opposing View.

KEYS TO THE GAME

Big 3 > Dynamic Duo: Two years ago, Brandon Costner and Ben McCauley killed the Hokies.  McCauley averaged 15 ppg and 6 rpg in the pack’s three wins.  Costner went for 11 ppg and 7 rpg.  Last year, only McCauley played and had just eight points, but that team was the J.J. Hickson show. 

This year’s state team is much more like two years ago.  Costner and McCauley are averaging 28 ppg and 14 rpg this year to lead the wolfpack.  The Hokies are going to have to limit their points.  Costner is solid with his back to the basket or facing up, while McCauley is better in the low post.  Both are terrific passers.  Ben used to be the better passer, but Costner is averaging an impressive 2.5 apg this season, good for second on the team.  Tech must guard Costner on the perimeter — he has attempted 82 three-pointers at a 37% clip.

Vassallo and Allen had good games last year (31 points combined), but Delaney was a no-show.  He had just four points on 1/5 shooting.  He must abuse the poor nc state defense this year.

Attack the pack: nc state is not a good defensive team.  In ACC play, they are dead last in field-goal-percentage defense and 10th in scoring defense.  Costner and McCauley are good on offense, but can be lazy on D and aren’t very athletic.  Plus, their guards have trouble shutting down talented opponents.  Delaney needs to attack the paint and either score or look for an open teammate.  Or,since state is used to collapsing the lane on help defense, Delaney’s teammates (Vassallo or Allen off a pick and pop) should be open on the perimeter for a three.  Allen should be able to beat McCauley or Costner.  Tracy Smith is a high-energy guy in the low post for state that could present more problems for Jeff.

On offense, state is last in scoring offense.  They don’t have a lot of consistent productivity beyond Costner and McCauley.  Focus on these guys and force someone else to beat you.  Courtney Fells is a good long range shooter, hitting 41% of his threes.  He doesn’t get to the hoop much, and therefore doesn’t get to the line much.  state does not have a quality slasher that can get to the hoop and create points.

In the intangibles, the pack are dead last in rebounding margin and 11th in turnover margin.  The Hokies need to pressure the ball.  state lacks an experienced point guard.  Also, Costner will force passes at times leading to turnovers, and he can be stripped (Allen) when he’s on the perimeter.

The Past is History: Tech has lost six in a row to nc state.  Big deal.  The Hokies are a better team than nc state and this game is in the Cassell.  Tech will be well rested in this one, having had eight days off.  The Hokies may be a little rusty at first, but Delaney and Vassallo should have fresh legs in this one, which perhaps has been an issue of late at times.  If VT can get off to a decent start, they should be fine.

This post was written by:

- who has written 1217 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.

Contact the author | Visit the author's website | Follow Niemo on Twitter

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