Preview | #2 unc (11-3, 25-3) @ VT (7-7, 17-11) | Wed., 7 PM | ESPN

THE SETUP

Note: Wednesday is Senior Night.  Please come out to Cassell and show some love for A.D. Vassallo and Cheick Diakite!

Spread: unc by 9.5

If unc was ranked #1, I’d have a lot of confidence coming into this game — Tech is 2-2 against #1′s under Greenberg, with one win over #1 unc in 2007 and a two-point loss to #1 unc in the ACC Tournament thanks to a Hansbrough shot with less than a second left.  But unc aren’t #1.  The heels are “only” #2. 

That aside, Tech obviously still has everything to gain in this game.  A win secures a VT finish of at least .500 in conference play for the fourth time in five ACC seasons, and may lock up an NCAA Tournament bid.  But unc is playing for a #1 seed in the Big Dance, and will want to avoid a slip-up heading into their game at home against duke this weekend.  So don’t expect the heels to coast through this one.  That said, Tech does have more on the line and should come out scratching and clawing, much like they did in the ACC Tournament, playing for their lives (which in some ways they are).  The Hokies cannot afford to wait until the ACC Tournament to make a statement this year.

Stats Six Pack:

  • VT is 5-1 on Wednesdays this season including 3-1 in ACC play (the wins over #1 wake and #12 clemson were both on Wednesdays).  Tech is 3-0 at home on Wednesdays. 
  • The Hokes are 4-1 against ACC teams that Tech only plays once this season (unc is the last team VT plays once), and 2-0 at home against those teams
  • With a win, Tech will clinch their fourth winning record at home in ACC play in five seasons.  Tech has gone 6-2, 2-6, 6-2, 6-2 in past seasons, and are 4-3 this year at the Cassell.
  • Senior A.D. Vassallo will move into 8th place on the all-time VT scoring list with nine points in this game.  He currently sits eight points behind Ace Custis.
  • Senior Cheick Diakite is 5th on the all-time shot block list at Tech with 123.
  • This senior class has won 74 games to date.  That’s the most wins for a class since the 1997 seniors finished with 81 wins (that class included Ace Custis).

THE SERIES

  • The Series: 12-57
  • Since VT joined the ACC: 2-4
  • At the Cassell: 1-2

Last Meeting: ACC Tournament Semis — unc 68, VT 66: Yeah, this one stung.  Tech lead most of the second half, but Hansbrough’s baseline jumper with .8 seconds left killed the Hokies’ NCAA Tournament hopes in the ACC Tournament Semi-Finals.  And this was after unc beat Tech by 39 in Chapel Hill a month earlier.

LINEUPS

Virginia Tech

Position

Player

Height

PPG

Year

Point Guard

23 – Delaney

6′3″

18.4

So

Shooting Guard

5 – Hudson

6’5″

3.9

So

Small Forward

40 – Vassallo

6′6″

18.7

Sr

Power Forward

0 – Allen

6′7″

14.0

So

Center

34 – Diakite

6′9″

3.9

Sr

Bench

1 – Bell

6′6″

2.6

So

 

10 – Thorns*

5’9″

3.0

So

 

14 – Davila

6′8″

3.4

Fr

 

21 – Witcher

6′9″

2.2

Jr

33 – Thompson

6’6″

4.8

So

 unc

Position

Player

Height

PPG

Year

Point Guard

5 – Lawson

5’11″

15.8

Jr

Shooting Guard

22 – Ellington

6′4″

14.9

Jr

Wing

14 – Green

6′6″

14.1

Sr

Forward

21 – Thompson

6′8″

11.2

Jr

Forward

50 – Hansbrough

6′9″

21.3

Sr

Bench

4 – Frasor

6′3″

2.7

Sr

 

11 – Drew

6’1″

1.6

Fr

 

32 – Davis

6’6″

6.3

Fr

 

44 – Zeller

7’0″

6.4

Fr

 

 

 

 

 

* We’ll have to wait and see if Hank Thorns is cleared to play in this game.  He had to sit the duke game after coming down with the flu on the clemson trip.  His playing status and playing time will depend on how tests go this week.  Since Lawson is just 5’11″, and lightning quick, Tech could use the speedy Thorns on defense.  And it would be nice to rest Delaney some and allow him to play off the ball.  You can be sure his 2/12 shooting performance against duke had a lot to do with tired legs and not running off screens (plus Elliot Williams is a big time defender in the making).

Click ‘Read more’ to see the rest of the preview…

THE OPPONENT

Yeah, that’s right, the heels have five guys averaging double-digit points.  They average 92 points per game!  They shoot 76.5% from the free throw line, and every starter except Thompson shoots over 80% from the line!  They have made 100 more free throws than their opponents have attempted!  Lawson, Ellington, and Green average between 1.5 and 2.0 threes made per game and shoot 49%, 38%, and 45% from downtown respectively!  Yes, they are an offensive juggernaut.

But 77 of unc’s 92 ppg come from their starters.  If, much like in the wake game, the Hokies can somehow get unc in foul trouble, the heels don’t have much offense off the bench.  Ed Davis is a rebounder/shot blocker.  Tyler Zeller has some post moves and is a 7-footer, but has struggled since coming back from his injury.  Larry Drew II is a defensive guard, and Bobby Frasor, a three-point specialist, is hitting just 24% from deep this year.  Tech must force the heels to go to their bench.

Just to pile on to the offensive stats, the heels also out-rebound their opponents by 7.6, tops in the ACC.  Ed Davis, from Richmond, averages an amazing 7 rpg in just 19 minutes.  Tech must compete on the glass.  J.T. Thompson is going to have to throw his body around like he did against duke and hope the whistles don’t fly.  Since it is unc, I wouldn’t expect VT to get the calls.

The heels main weakness is defense.  Marcus Ginyard, their best on-ball defender, is out for the season.  Lawson is their next best defender and gets over two steals per game.  But unc has given up a lot of points at times this year.  They gave up 85, 92, and 88 in their three losses.  The heels have also given up 80+ points five times this year and won.  The Hokies need to find ways to score, but the key will be stopping the flood of unc points.

KEY TO THE GAME

Every game I throw out all these things the Hokies have to do.  Blah, blah, blah.  This game comes down to one thing:

START STRONG!  I did a little analysis on the Hokies starts to ACC games this season.  Let me tell you — it ain’t pretty.  Let’s break this down by different points in the first half:

First Media Timeout (usually 4-5 minutes into the game): Tech is -42 on the ACC season at the first media timeout.  They have trailed at this point in 12 of their 14 ACC games, including five in a row.  In VT’s last three games they have trailed by six or seven points in each contest.  And that’s after just 4-5 minutes of play!  This puts the Hokies instantly in a hole and shows how much Tech struggles out of the gate.

Second Media Timeout (usually 8-9 minutes into the game): Tech is -51 in ACC play.  VT has trailed nine times at this point, been ahead four times, and tied once.   In Tech’s last two losses to fsu and duke, they trailed by 11 points both times at this point.  Eleven!  That is a very difficult hole to overcome, and though the Hokies tied or led in both those games, that up-hill battle takes a lot out of a team.

Halftime: The Hokies are -24 on the season.  But in their last three losses, they have trailed by double digits at the break in each game.  VT has led at halftime just once in their last eight games, the game against the jackets.  Tech won that game and are 4-1 when leading at the half in ACC action.  They are just 3-6 when trailing at the half.

If the Hokies want any chance at competing with the heels, they have to come out gunning and make some shots.  Cold starts from the field have become the norm.  If the heels jump out to an early lead like most opponents have of late, it may be too much to overcome.   Wouldn’t it be nice to play with a lead for once?  Easier said than done against this talented tar heel team, but if VT wants to pull off the upset and punch their ticket to the Big Dance, they have to find a way.

This post was written by:

- who has written 1215 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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