Preview | #23 wake (8-3 | 18-5) @ VT (7-3 | 20-4) | Tu., 7 PM | ESPN2

THE SETUP:

VT is favored by 5.5. 

It is a silver-out on Tuesday as the Hokies and deacons meet in the Cassell with second place in the ACC on the line.  This game is especially huge for the Hokies for several reasons (in order of importance):

  1. NCAA Tourney – wake sits at 11th in the current RPI.  A win over the deacs would be Tech’s best win by far.  clemson had a good week and is back up to #34 and seton hall sits at #55, but those are the only VT wins ranked higher than #80.
  2. ACC Standings – a win and VT moves into 2nd place all alone at 8-3.  The Hokies would have locked up the tiebreaker against wake, uva, and clemson with a win, the current 2nd, 5th, and 6th place teams.  Tech would have to have a major collapse to not finish in the top four of the final standings.  The top four get a bye in the First Round of the ACC Tournament, something Tech has accomplished three times in their five years in the league already.
  3. Winning Streak – Tech’s current four game ACC winning streak matches their longest since joining the league, something they’ve done four times now.  But they never got the fifth in a row yet.
  4. Home Winning Streak – VT hasn’t started a season 14-0 at home since the 1982-83 season, when they started 15-0 before losing their regular season home finale.  They won a NIT game at home to finish 16-1 at the Cassell this year, the most home wins in the history of the Cassell.  Tech improves to 14-0 at home with a win.
  5. ACC Regular Season Record – the Hokies are 45-45 all time in ACC regular season games.
  6. I dislike wake and would really enjoy this.

So as you can see, this is a huge game for the Hokies!   Let’s make sure the Cassell is even more nuts than it has been the last three games.  TechHoops.com will be at Hard Times Cafe in Clarendon so come on out to root on the Hokies and enjoy chili, wings, and brews.

Player Notes:

  • Jeff Allen has averaged 14.6 ppg over the last five games.  He had reached double digits in just one of the first five VT ACC games.
  • Malcolm Delaney has scored 20 or more points 12 times this season.  He’s hit the 30 point mark three times.
  • Dorenzo Hudson is averaging 16.2 ppg in ACC play, good for 8th in the league, bettering Aminu’s 15.5 ppg in ACC play.
  • Aminu had just 10 points against VT last year as they lost their first game, coming in at 16-0 and #1 in the nation.
  • Ish Smith had 19 points and 19 assists last week in their two wins.
  • Terrell Bell is Tech’s leading rebounder in ACC games at 5.9, just ahead of Jeff Allen’s 5.8.  He is 9th in ACC games in Defensive Rebounds at 2.9.
  • Hudson is 5th in the ACC in FG% in conference games (minimum 5 FG per game) at 47%.  And to think we used to think he couldn’t shoot.
  • Victor Davila is 9th in the ACC in Offensive Rebounds per game at 2.7 in ACC games.
  • Delaney is 4th in ACC play in Assists and FT%.  Allen is 2nd in Steals.

THE SERIES:

The Hokies have owned, and I mean paid for in full, since joining the ACC.  Tech is 5-2 since joining the league against wake and have won five of six.  That is Tech’s best winning percentage against any ACC team other than miami (slightly better at 8-3) and georgia tech, who VT is also 5-2 against.  Even that one loss was when the Hokies collapsed in the final moments in the 2007-08 ACC opener and lost on a jumper just before the buzzer by Ishmael Smith.

Last Game: VT took down the #1 ranked demon deacons in Winston-Salem – Recap.  The Hokies got a bit lucky in that one, as wake lost their massive inside size advantage due to foul trouble and a busted face for Aminu of wake.  In fact, three deacons fouled out.  But even after seeing a 16-point first half lead slowly dwindle down to two with under three minutes to go, the Hokies found a way to win by hitting half their free throws (Tech was just 12/23 from the line in the second half) and poor shooting from the deacs, who were not a good long range shooting team.  Delaney had 21 to lead the Hokies and Allen added 16.

  • ACC Games: VT 5-2
  • All-Time Series: wake 26-25
  • At VT: VT 18-9
  • At Home in ACC Play: VT 2-1

THE OPPONENT:

Gone from last year’s wake squad that was extremely talented are Jeff Teague and James Johnson.  They combined for 41 points in the meeting last year.  And while this team doesn’t have the talent last year’s did, they do play well as a group and are taking advantage of a down ACC year.

wake’s star is sophomore Al-Farouq Aminu.  He would be First Team All-ACC if the season had ended this past weekend.  Aminu averages 16.5 ppg, good for seventh in the league, and 10.9 rebounds per game, tops in the league.  He is also in the top 10 in field goal percentage (6th), steals (7th), and blocked shots (6th).  Al is #1 in the ACC in offensive AND defensive rebounds per game.  At 6’9″ he is a match-up nightmare for most teams.  He isn’t thick but is extremely athletic and has a pretty good midrange jumper.  Aminu will shoot the occasional three but hits under 30%.  But he does most of his damage around the rim, either throwing down insane dunks or grabbing offensive rebounds and putting them back in.

While Aminu is a problem for most teams, Tech is lucky in that they have two games that match-up fairly well with him.  While Terrell Bell and JT Thompson both give up three inches to Aminu, they at least have the athleticism and rebounding skills to stick with him.  And Jeff Allen can match his height and also is a great rebounder.  Whomever guards him must force Aminu to shoot over them from 10-feet plus, and not let him get the ball near the rim or in transition where he can really do damage.

Aminu is the superstar but senior point guard Ishmael Smith is the Ferrari that speeds the wake express.  Smith got benched last year in favor of NBA First Round Pick Jeff Teague and saw his minutes drop to 22 per game (he’s averaged 30-plus every other year including just under 37 this year).  But Smith has really stepped up his game this year and if it wasn’t for a man named Zo Hudson, Ishmael might be considered the most improved player in the league.  Smith still cannot shoot from the outside, hitting just 23% of his 43 threes, but he has finally stopped shooting so many.  The key is his ability to penetrate and finish.  Smith may be the best finisher in the league in the lane.  Ish will shoot some wild, acrobatic runners yet he hits most of them.  Combine that with the fact he is lightning-quick, and is a great passer, and you see why the deacs are 8-3 and maybe the best ACC team in transition.  Smith is averaging a career high 13 ppg (more than double last year), is tied for second in assists per game at 6.1, and is fourth in steals at 1.9 per game.

As Greenberg mentioned Monday night on Tech Talk Live, they love to set screens for him and may have five or six different ways and angles to free him up.  Even in transition he looks to use his bigs running up the court to rub defenders off.

The Hokies must get back and stop Smith on the break.  Tech simply doesn’t have a guy that can guard him one-on-one or keep up with him on the break.  But getting back and cutting him off will help.  I never thought I’d say this, but Hank Thorns would have helped a lot to keep up with him.  Hudson is Tech’s best defensive guard so he’ll likely draw Smith with Erick Green helping out to rest Zo when Erick is in.  Smith is just 6-foot tall so the Hokie guards will have size on him they can exploit on offense.

And when Ish does beat you, foul him.  He is hitting just 48% of his free throws, an amazingly pathetic percentage.

Chas McFarland, a 7-foot senior, hasn’t stepped up his game like I would have thought with James Johnson gone.  He is averaging just 7.6 ppg, his low since his freshman year, but does grab 7.5 rebounds, good for 10th in the ACC.  Despite his height, he isn’t a shot blocking threat (read: he isn’t very athletic).  Chas can finish on the low block if you let him get the ball near the hope.  I’d expect to see Davila draw this assignment and put Allen on a more athletic player, like Aminu in certain situations depending on match-ups.

L.D. Williams, yet another wake senior, is having a solid year with 8.7 ppg and a career high 5.5 rebounds.  He has averaged 8.x ppg all four years, so he is a model of consistency, or lack of progress, depending on your view.  But L.D. is the best leaper in the league and gives the deacs another great athlete, probably their best.  He can really get up and facial or alley-oop dunks are common for him.  Luckily since this game is at VT that stuff cannot insight the crowd, but it sure can extinguish it.  Williams is also the best wake defender and they will have him on Delaney or Hudson.

The big key for wake this year has been the play of two underrated freshman, C.J. Harris (a guy VT really wanted) and Ari Stewart.  C.J. is averaging 10.7 ppg, which I believe is second in the ACC among freshman behind Derrick Favors 11.0.  Stewart averages 7.8 ppg off the bench.  The two freshman finally give the deacons a three-point presence, something they completed lacked last year.  Stewart and Harris have combined to hit 60 of 152 threes (39%).  Stewart is slightly better of the two from deep, while Harris has a more diverse offensive game.  Harris is a 6’2″ guard and Stewart is a 6’7″ forward.  They’ll split their minutes for the most part, as the deacs start with a three guard lineup (Smith, Harris, and Williams) but can go bigger.

Also off the bench are Woods, Weaver, and Clark.  Woods and Weaver are big men, both of which are 6’11”, but just haven’t panned out to date (add 7′ Ty Walker to that list – he doesn’t even play).  Gary Clark is a would-be sharp-shooting guard off the bench that just hasn’t been given much of a chance due to many shooting slumps.

Obviously the deacons have a ton of size to throw at you, but have gone more athletic this year and it has paid off.  It will be interesting to see who Greenberg puts on Aminu.  With Al at 6’9″ and wake starting three guards, it may have to be Jeff Allen.   I like Bell and Thompson on him better but that just may not work since who else could Allen guard?  I think Allen could go on Stewart when he’s in, though he sits on the perimeter mostly.

The key will be Allen staying out of foul trouble.  Though loose whistles would be a big help for the Hokies.  We saw how much VT struggled for points against uva when the refs weren’t calling any fouls.  It would be nice to get wake in foul trouble again like last year.

SIX PACK OF KEYS TO WINNING:

  • Slow Smith: Tech must keep him in front of them.  Even after a make, he’ll accelerate the inbounds pass up the court and make you pay.  The Hokies must cut him off, and if all else fails, use your fouls on him.  His free throw attempts could be called turnovers since he is under 50%.
  • Do Your Thing, Part 1: The Hokies are #1 in the ACC in Turnover Margin and FT%.  Tech must be aggressive and get to the line (and hope the officials don’t swallow their whistles like on Saturday).  wake is not as strong at the line, hitting just 66% compared to VT’s 76% in ACC action.
  • Do Your Thing, Part 2: To win the turnover battle, Tech must protect the ball.  wake has three guys that are in the top 10 in the ACC in steals (Aminu, Smith, and Williams).  Do not let wake get live ball turnovers, where their athleticism can really burn you.  VT, who is second in the league in steals per game in ACC play, must once again create turnovers led by Jeff Allen (who is also second in the league in steals per game) and Malcolm Delaney (who is 10th).  wake has a negative turnover margin in ACC games, so Tech should be able to exploit this area, and needs to in order to win.
  • Windex: Tech has struggled of late on the defensive glass, dropping from #1 in the league in D-Rebound% to 7th at 64%.  wake is 5th in the league in Offensive Rebounding Percentage at 67% and the deacons have a ton of size, so VT must do better  in this area.
  • Battle of Strengths: VT has held their last three opponents to a 33% of less FG%.  They are now 4th in the ACC at 41% in FG%-Defense.  wake is #2 in FG%-Offense in ACC play at 44%.  That is thanks to a lot of layups in transition, and short shots by their bigs.  Again, get back on D and force wake to beat you from the outside.
  • The Undefeated Maroon Dress Jeans: The 7-0 maroon Wrangler dress jeans will NOT be in the building Tuesday due to an extreme odor emanating from them after the victory celebration Saturday night.  But fear not, they will be back for the maryland game in less than two weeks after a cleaning.  So get your Wild Turkey ready (another good luck charm).  Or just believe in VT’s swagger against wake.

STARTERS:

Position VIRGINIA TECH wake
Guard 23 Delaney 6’3″ 10 Smith 6′
Guard 5 Hudson 6’5″ 11 Harris 6’2″
F/G 1 Bell 6’6″ 42 Williams 6’4″
Forward 0 Allen 6’7″ 1 Aminu 6’9″
Center 14 Davila 6’8″ 13 McFarland 7′

STATS:

  Pts Reb Ast
Delaney 19.7 3.7 4.2
Hudson 13.8 3.4 2.1
Allen 11.6 7.3 1.4
Bell 6 5.5 1.8
Thompson 6.6 4.5 0.5
Davila 5.9 4.8 0.4
  Pts Reb Ast
Aminu 16.5 10.9 1.5
Smith 13 4.7 6.1
Harris 10.7 1.8 1.3
Williams 8.7 5.5 1.8
Stewart 7.8 3.2 0.3
McFarland 7.6 7.5 0.9

BORING FACTS ABOUT wake

  • ACC Basketball Championships: 4 (‘61, ‘62, ‘95, ‘96 – in other words, only back-to-backs)
  • Final Four Appearances: 1 (‘62)
  • wake is the only NC school to win an outright ACC football championship (in 2007) since 1980.  Only one school has tied for an ACC title in that stretch: duke.  How sad is that, unc and nc state?
  • Founded in 1834 in Wake Forest, NC, just outside Raleigh.  Moved to Winston-Salem in 1956… that’s right, they aren’t even in the town they are named for!
  • Undergrad Enrollment: 4,400
  • Type: Private (and uppity)
  • Ties: Baptist
  • Students: The screamin’ deacons wear tie-dyed shirts to games even though it looks dumb and has the entire six years they’ve been doing it.
  • Biggest Jerk Alum: Billy Packer
  • Nicest Alums: Arnold Palmer and Tim Duncan
  • Other Famous Students: Chris Paul, Randolph Childress (his performance in the 95 ACC Tourney was nothing short of incredible), Dr. Jerry Punch (sideline reporter… got his doctorate at wake… why does a sideline reporter need that?… played QB for Lou Holtz at nc state… OK, enough about this dude), Brian Piccolo (of Brian’s Song… great movie – see the James Caan version), Rodney Rogers (who recently became paralyzed due to an ATV accident), Lanny Watkins, and Lee Norris (been in a bunch of TV shows I will never watch like 1 Tree Hill and Boy Meets World)

This post was written by:

- who has written 1222 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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