VPI takes on their old school rival, vmi, at the Cassell on Wednesday in a game that will feature polar opposites in terms of style of play. This game is like the tortoise versus the hare: vmi is a run-and-gun, high octane offense and risk-taking full court press defense, against the Hokies half court style of play. The Hokies are coming off their best game of the year, a 74-62 win over georgia. While Tech obviously has a ton more talent than the keydets, their system will present plenty of challenges for the Hokies.
vmi is #1 in the nation in terms of tempo. In other words, they average the highest number of possessions per game (86.3) of the 347 Division I basketball teams. No one is even close to them. By contrast, the Hokies average 63.9 possessions per game, which is somewhere in the low 300s nationally. vmi leads the nation in points per game with 95.1 and has eclipsed the century mark three times this season. They also give up a lot of points and have seen their opponent go over 100 three times also. In fact, their opponents are averaging an eye-popping 98.7 ppg.
This contest will be 129th all time between VPI and vmi. The Hokies hold a 85-43 edge in the series, but vmi won the last time the two teams play, an embarrassing 72-68 loss in Lexington in 2004 (Greenberg’s second season). Heck, even ricky stokes didn’t lose to vmi. The keydets have won two of the past seven meetings and that includes a five point loss and a one point loss, but the Hokies have been victorious in 36 of the 40 meetings since 1955. The series dates back over 100 years. The first meeting was in February of 1909, a 15-9 vmi victory (talk about a difference in pace). NHL All-Star games have more scoring than that.
The Hokies are led by junior Malcolm Delaney, who is now 11th in the nation in scoring at 22.6 ppg (and leads the ACC by a full five points per game). That would be the ninth highest scoring average in a season for the Hokies if he can keep it up.
SIX PACK OF KEYS TO WINNING:
- Don’t get sucked in: Every basketball player dreams of playing up-tempo, fire-at-will basketball. It is easy to get sucked into vmi’s pace and start forcing shots. In fact, their system encourages you to do so. Guys are going to have wide open dunks and three point shots. While you obviously want to take the wide open looks, you have to remember your system. When a wide open shot isn’t there, pull it back out and set up the offense.
- Legs: Tech has a fairly deep team, especially with Cadarian Raines healthy. They can go five deep on their bench. But vmi’s pace will really test the Hokies’ endurance, especially Delaney. And if you are tired, vmi is going to expose you. If you don’t hustle up court, someone is going to get a wide open look or you commit a foul playing defense with your hands instead of your feet.
- Protect the ball: The Hokies do not have a lot of strong ballhandlers. Delaney is Tech’s only proven quality ballhandler. Erick Green appears to be solid, too. But he will have to play a lot more minutes since Delaney will likely tire running at this pace. It is also important that off-guards like Ben Boggs and Dorenzo Hudson be able to handle the rock against this press. Tech did an excellent job against clemson’s press last year, to the point where they actually called it off. There is no chance vmi does that, but the Hokies should have some confidence against aggressive presses. The way the Hokies beat the tigers press was by passing (lateral passes or vertical passes over the press), not by dribbling through it. Speaking of passing…
- Make the extra pass and keep pouring it on: If the Hokies make that extra pass on offense, there are going to be guys wide open available. vmi’s system requires them to run a kamikaze style press, desperately trying to get steals to setup their quick strike offense. To be honest, they don’t care if you score quickly because it means they get the ball back quickly and can wear you down with tempo. There is a reason why teams are shooting 54% against vmi. If VT can beat the press and go at the hoop, someone is going to be wide open for a dunk or a three. Also, even if VT gets up in this game, no lead is safe. You have to keep taking advantage of open looks when they present themselves, especially since vmi will keep trapping even in the half court set.
- Rebounding: On offense, VT can do just fine only sending three on the offensive glass. vmi has no inside game (they don’t play anyone over 6’6″) and will give up a lot of offensive rebounds (42% of opponents misses are rebounded by the other team). And at least two guys need to focus on getting back to slow up the vmi attack (if not more). On defense, vmi shoots a LOT of threes, so long rebounds will follow. All five Hokies need to put a body on someone when the shot goes up. Defenders on the off-side of where the miss goes can look to leak up court for transition buckets.
- H2O: No beer references in this six pack. Even we, the fans, are going to have to be well hydrated for this rocket-paced game. Your eyeballs will be exhausted by the first media timeout from this one!
vmi will do two things from the time they get off the bus: start launching shots and start pressing. Heck, be careful going to get some popcorn that a keydet doesn’t run up in the stands and trap you trying to get to the concession stand. And they will shoot the ball from the urinals of Cassell if they are open. Their system is based on shooting the ball as quickly as possible and forcing their opponent to either shoot or turn the ball over as quickly as possible. Sometimes it works (their 111-103 win at kentucky last year), sometimes it doesn’t (their 103-59 loss to richmond earlier this year). Since the Hokies play good, sound defense, and likely won’t force shots on offense, I wouldn’t expect 100 points in this game for either team. But we shall see.
A big reason why vmi is #1 in points per game is because they are also #1 in three-pointers made. They shoot 39 threes per game on average! And shoot a very respectable 35% on those threes. In comparison, VT shoots just 16 threes per game and hits just 31%. In the same number of games played, VT has shot just 15 more three-pointers than vmi has made! The keydets have actually attempted more three point shots than two point shots on the season. They prefer the three since they can get it up quickly and only need to make one of three to have the same production as shooting 50% on twos. So Tech must guard everyone from everywhere on the floor and box out once the shot goes up.
The keydets have four guys averaging double-digit points per game. The leader is sophomore guard Keith Gabriel who is 24th in the nation with 20.9 ppg. He shoots a solid 38% on threes and has made as many as six in a game twice. Keith does not pass very much so Tech needs to go aggressively at him and dare him to dish. He only averages 1.4 assists per game, fourth best on the team.
Michael Sparks and Austin Kenon average 17.3 and 16.3 ppg respectively. Both are also guards. Sparks is deadly from three point range, shooting a net-blistering 49% (28 of 57) on the season. 70% of his shots have been from behind the arc, so VT doesn’t need to respect his ability to drive. Kenon is their top ballhandler and is very quick at 5’11″. He will drive and score on layups if you don’t get back, or dish to an open man. Kenon leads vmi in assists at over four per game.
vmi is a young team (five of their top six scorers are underclassmen), but they will not be in awe of the Hokies and the ACC. Most of these guys were a part of the win in Rupp Arena at kentucky last year and will want nothing better than to beat an ACC team. They also played uva tough on the road last year before fading at the end.
|Pts Against||59.1 (4th)||98.7|
|FG %||41% (12th)||42%|
|3-Pt %||31% (12th)||35%|
|FT %||70% (3rd)||67%|
|Scorer||Delaney – 22.6||Gabriel – 20.9|
|Rebounder||Allen – 7.7||Burks – 7.4|
|Assists||Delaney – 4.0||Kenon – 4.4|
|Steals||Allen – 2.0||Burks – 3.1|
|Blocks||Allen – 1.4||Gabriel – 1.3|
|Guard||23 Delaney – 6’3″||1 Lonon – 5’11″|
|Guard||5 Hudson – 6’5″||21 Gabriel – 6’2″|
|Forward||1 Bell – 6’6″||15 Burks – 6’4″|
|Forward||33 Thompson – 6’6″||11 Okoye – 6’5″|
|Forward/Center||14 Davila – 6’8″||30 Gore – 6’6″|
BORING FACTS ABOUT vmi:
- Tech is 50-10 all time at home against vmi in basketball and 15-1 at the Cassell (the only loss was in 1997 when the late Bobby Hussey was the Head Coach)
- In addition to the 128 meetings in basketball, the Hokies and keydets have met 79 times in football. Tech leads the series 49-25-5 but the two teams haven’t played since 1984. The two teams used to meet every year on Thanksgiving Day in Roanoke in the real Turkey Bowl.
- vmi was founded in 1839
- It is a Senior Military College and is public
- All their students are undergraduates with an enrollment of ~1400
- New cadets, or “rats”, have to walk the “Ratline”. It is allegedly similar to walking through the stands at a Philadelphia Eagles game wearing the opponents jersey.
- Their mascot is Moe the kangaroo
- vmi was the last US military school to allow women to attend, with the first entering in 1997. That only came after a Supreme Court ruling (in case you were wondering, the US won 7 to 1 over vmi in that ruling). This prompted the popular bumper sticker: “Women at vmi? What’s is next? Men at uva?”
- Judge Clarence Thomas of “is that a [private] hair on your Coke?” fame sent his son to vmi.
- James Lane – who was one of the original professors at Virginia Tech and is whom Lane Hall and Lane Stadium are named for
- George Marshall
- James Hickey – commanded Operation Red Dawn which captured Saddam Hussein
- Bobby Ross – famous football coach
- Fred Willard
- Around 10 Medal of Honor recipients and nine Four-Star Generals