Update: According to the Roanoke Times, Delaney had some limited action on Friday but did not practice. For unc, Ginyard is out and Graves and McDonald (all 3 are guards) are questionable for tonight, all with ankle injuries. You have to think Malcolm is very questionable, and while the unc injuries could level the playing field, it is still a huge blow to the Hokies’ chances.
NOVA Hokies – please come to our Viewing Party at the Clarendon Hard Times Cafe to watch the game – Featuring half price wings and a 22 oz. Beer Mug Special – first one is $3 then $1.50 refills starting at 7:45 PM.
Remember that kid in elementary school, the one that took your lunch money every day? Remember that bully, that king of the mountain, that beat you up every time you went outside for recess? Your remember that ugly red-head from A Christmas Story that beats up on Ralph all the time? Yeah, well, that’s unc. At least in basketball it is. Virginia Tech is just 12-59 all time against the tar holes, and just 2-22 since 1967 versus them.
Well, you know what? The ugly red-head is a bit vulnerable this year. And we’ve been working out on the Chuck Norris Total Gym, and by-golly, if we aren’t in the best shape we’ve been in for 14 years. The Hokies are 12-1 and headed to Chapel Hill against a powder blue team that just lost to college o’ charleston without two of their few guards.
This game could be decided by ankles: the ankles of the ACC’s leading scorer, Virginia Tech’s Malcolm Delaney, and unc’s Will Graves and Marcus Ginyard. All are backcourt players and all missed their team’s last game. Delaney has missed the better part of two games, Ginyard has missed three, and Graves one. All were “questionable” for Sunday as of Monday. Greenberg was hoping Delaney could be back playing defense by this point in the week and Roy Williams on Monday said neither would have played, even if the VT game was that night instead of this weekend. He was hopeful to have one of them back and wasn’t sure which it would be. The team that is missing any of these guys will have a greatly reduced backcourt in terms of depth for Sunday Night Hoops.
While the Hokies need Delaney more than unc needs Ginyard or Graves, Tech has to have confidence coming off their OT win over seton hall without him. In fact, the Hokies have produced two of the last four ACC Players of the Week and neither of them have been named Malcolm Delaney. Jeff Allen won it a month ago and Dorenzo Hudson, fresh off his 41 point game against seton hall, won it last week. That is diversity and that is VT basketball right now. That said, the Hokies need Delaney’s ballhandling skills (and scoring) to win this game.
The junior Hokies also have to have confidence against the tar heels. These are no longer the baby Hokies of two years ago that went down to Chapel Hill and got absolutely woodshedded by the heels 92-53 in maybe VT’s worst game of the Seth Greenberg era. Since then, Tech has played the heels tough three times in a row:
- a 68-66 loss to #1 unc in the 2008 ACC Semis on a Tyler Hansbrough put-back with less than 2 seconds left
- an 86-78 loss in the Cassell last regular season to #2 unc in a game that was tied with under 10 to play
- a 79-76 loss to #1 unc in the 2009 ACC Quarters that VT led with under a minute to play, fell behind on a Tyler Hansbrough layup, and then couldn’t convert on two late possessions (including a questionable no call on a JT Thompson turnover)
So don’t expect the Hokie upperclassmen to be in awe of the Dean Dome. In fact, expect them to have a chip on their shoulder for their 39 point drubbing just two years ago. You know Seth is reminding the guys of that this week, and his teams have always responded well to these situations.
Down Low: The heels are as talented as ever in the low post, in fact, they may have the best collection of painters in the country. Mechanicsville, VA product Ed Davis has really developed into a star this year. He is 11th in the conference in scoring at 15.2 ppg and 2nd in rebounding at 10.2.
Deon Thompson has also stepped up his game to fill the void left by Tyler Hansbrough (yes, he is really gone, I promise). Thompson is 8th in the ACC in scoring at 15.9 ppg and 13th in rebounds at 7.4. That’s a nice little 31 ppg and 18 rpg combined.
If that wasn’t enough, they have 7′ Tyler Zeller coming off the bench to provide 10.1 ppg and 4.4 rpg in just 16 minutes per game! The heels also have 5-star freshman recruit John Henson, who is 6’10″. He has not shown his potential yet and gets just limited minutes, but would likely be a star anywhere else. Mix in the 6’10″ Wear twins, who play about 20 mpg and score 6 ppg combined, bake at 375 for 40 minutes, and you have a heck of a low post casserole for the heels.
Perimeter: This is the unc’s Achilles heel (yes, I’ve been waiting all offseason to use that). They lost Ty Lawson, Danny Green, and Wayne Ellington from last year (and to a lesser extent, even Bobby Frasor is gone). So Larry Drew II is the starter at point guard, after playing less than 10 mpg and averaging less than 2 ppg last year. He is doing OK with 8.4 ppg and 6.2 assists per game (unc assist stats are always inflated due to the number of points they score and the bigs they have inside you can feed the rock to). But he commits over 3 turnovers per game. Drew does hit 44% from three-point land.
Defensive stopper and Virginian Marcus Ginyard is back for his redshirt-senior year. He has greatly improved his offensive game, scoring 11 ppg and distributing 4.3 apg, to go with 1.7 steals per game. But he has missed the last three games with an ankle injury as I mentioned above and his status for Sunday is uncertain.
Will Graves has become a deadly three point shooter on the wing and presents mismatches at 6’6″. But he also is battling an ankle injury. Ginyard and Graves are a combined 37 of 88 from behind the arc (42%), so if they are out, that is a huge hit to unc’s outside shooting.
If Graves and Ginyard cannot go, stud frosh recruit Dexter Strickland will step in. He was just 2 of 11 against charleston, though. Fellow freshman Leslie McDonald will also see minutes, but both these guys are inexperienced, similar to Erick Green of the Hokies.
This backcourt gets a lot of open looks from deep as teams compact their defensive to help out inside. The unc guards must exploit that to be successful. Against charleston they hit just 1 of 6 threes without Ginyard or Graves, and that three came in overtime.
As usual the tar heels can score. They love to get out and run, though like I said, Drew isn’t the Ferrari Ty Lawson was. The heels are #1 in the ACC at 85.3 ppg. unc is #4 in the league in three-point percentage at 38.5%, but just 10th in makes. In other words, their game is to either penetrate and dish, or feed it inside to the bigs. unc does commit a lot of turnovers and that has been a problem. They give it up as much as one of Tiger’s call girls, committing over 16 turnovers per game, third most in the ACC. As usual, they get to the line a lot, with 384 free throw attempts, tops in the league.
The heels are last in the ACC by far, giving up 72.9 ppg (the next closest is at 65). They can be beat in transition, but that can be a bad thing, too, if you get sucked into their up-tempo game. And despite their size, the heels are just 9th in the ACC in defensive rebounding percentage. Opponents are getting the offensive rebound on 33% of their misses. That means the young heels are not boxing out well and perhaps are not hustling after 50/50 balls.
This is not the unc team that won the national title last year. Their top four scorers, who combined for 66 ppg, are gone. Only Thompson and Ginyard have much playing experience on this team (both are seniors) and Ginyard redshirted last year due to injuries. If he doesn’t play, they are very inexperienced, and that can be exploited by a Hokie team that now is one of the more veteran teams in the league.
SIX PACK OF KEYS TO A HOKIE VICTORY:
- Rebound: unc is #2 in the ACC in offensive rebounding percentage. Tech must limit their second chances, something that has been an issue in past match-ups. Plus, VT must scrap and claw on the offensive glass to get themselves additional scoring opportunities.
- Allen: unc can throw big men at you as if they had a big man Pez dispenser. The Hokies cannot. If Jeff Allen gets in early foul trouble, this could be a long night. He must use his four fouls wisely. Be aggressive, but selectively and intelligently.
- Handle: Not talking whiskey here (for once), I’m talking the point guard position. Can Malcolm Delaney play and play well? If so, no worries here. But Erick Green looked raw running the offense against seton hall and Zo Hudson is not a point guard. Tech badly needs Delaney or this will be a big issue. The point guard for VT also needs to help keep the tempo down. Tech wants this game to be in the 60s or 70s, not the 80s where unc wants it. Tech gives up just 60 ppg, compared to the 85 the heels average. Point guard play is key to that.
- Opening Night Jitters: Tech has not faired well in ACC openers. They lost by 25 at duke last year, lost at wake two years ago, beat wake to open in 2006-07 (with a veteran team), lost on that 40-footer to duke in 2005-06, and got blown out by unc 34 points in the Cassell in VT’s ACC debut in 2004-05. But this is now an experienced group, I expect them to be ready for unc and not be intimidated.
- Believe: Tech almost beat the heels in the last two ACC Tournaments. Tech is 12-1. The Hokies have won in Chapel Hill before (those Lewis Witcher is the only guy left from the team that did it three years ago). Tech is poised to get a marque win. This could really springboard the whole rest of the season with a win over a top 10 team. You can do it!
- Handle Part 2: If Malcolm Delaney isn’t playing, you might want a handle of bourbon for this game. Just kidding, the guys will be ready to play and ready to give it all regardless… but you might want to have some WT nearby.
|Guard||23 Delaney 6’3″||1 Ginyard 6’5″|
|or||11 Green 6’4″||5 Strickland 6’3″|
|Guard||5 Hudson – 6’5″||11 Drew 6’2″|
|Forward/Guard||1 Bell – 6’6″||Graves 6’6″ or Wear 6’10″|
|Forward||0 Allen – 6’7″||21 Thompson 6’9″|
|Forward||14 Davila – 6’8″||32 Davis 6’10″|
BORING FACTS ABOUT unc:
- Founded in 1789
- Undergrads: 18k
- Postgrads: 8k
- Stayed open during the Civil War
- The Hokies own Franklin Street during football season!
- Mascot is a live ram named “Rameses”
- 37 NCAA Championships in six different team sports (20 are women’s soccer… yawn)
- 5 Men’s bball titles: 1957, 1982, 1993, 2005, 2009
- Bball: Michael Jordan, Vince Carter, Awtawn Jamison, Rasheed Wallace, Jerry Stackhouse, James Worthy, Larry Brown, Tyler Hansbrough, Ronald Curry
- Other Sports: Lawrence Taylor (guessing he didn’t graduate), Dre Bly, Ronald Curry again (did you know he was the #1 football and bball recruit back in the late ’90s at Hampton HS? Check out his stats/their margins of victory some time – insane), Moonlight Graham, Mia Hamm, Julius Peppers, Marion Jones, B.J. Surhoff
- Jim Halpert (character on the Office) supposedly went there – not the real one, the real person went to one of our early opponents – Brown
- Others: John Edwards, James K. Polk (11th President of the USA), Stuart Scott, Chris Matthews, Andy Griffith, Lewis Black, Thomas Wolfe,