UPDATE: For the third year in a row the Hokies will face the c-a-n-e-s canes in their first ACC Tournament game. The u, playing without their leading scorer Dwayne Collins, absolutely took the deacs behind the woodshed to advance to the quarterfinals (props to Balla for picking the u). The Hokies and canes split their two games this year (more on that below), but Tech beat miami two years ago in the quarters and last year in the first round. In the early game, uva stunned bc even without Landesberg. What an odd start to the tourney.
Alright, ladies, play time is over. The clock has tolled and it is officially March Madness. The Hokies head to Greensberg-o to participate in the granddaddy of them all, the ACC Tournament. This will be the first ‘true’ tournament Tech has played in all season, but the Hokies have some great tournament mojo working. VT has won their first game in 10 consecutive tournaments, and the current junior class is 8-0 in tournament openers.
The Hokies, thanks to their victory over georgia tech last weekend, get to enjoy an extra day of rest as the #4 seed with a First Round bye. The Hokies will have to wait and see who their opponent is as the #5 seed wake forest battles the #12 seed miami hurricanes at approximately 2:20 PM on Thursday. The extra rest is huge for Tech, who have two starters (Jeff Allen – shoulder and Zo Hudson – foot) battling injuries, along with reserve Cadarian Raines. Both Allen and Hudson should be good to go for Friday but we will see how well they hold up, especially Hudson who has been battling the foot injury for a while and missed the georgia tech game to rest it. While these injuries may not be a factor on Friday, they certainly could come into play as the tournament goes on if VT survives. The Hokie starters play a lot of minutes and playing on consecutive days can take its toll. Again, that’s why the bye was so big. We’ll see if Head Coach Seth Greenberg uses a guy like Manny Atkins, who played more minutes against georgia tech than he had in all other ACC games combined, to rest Zo. Allen’s foul trouble usually insures him plenty of rest, and senior Lewis Witcher has played well off the bench of late.
Having a bye has other advantages, too. While you don’t know specifically who your opponent will be, you have a general idea. Especially in a 5/12 game where you figure wake will win (though the 12 seed beat the #5 last year). So while Greenberg spent part of this week focusing on just improving as a team, you know they’ve also prepared for both wake and miami to a degree. Both wake and miami, on the other hand, had had to focus on each other. Tech will also be rested on Friday. That can equal rust early on and give their opponent an early shooting advantage, but VT should have better legs as the game goes on once they get in the flow. Plus, you had the bye because you were better to begin with, which is always a nice advantage.
The Hokies haven’t had much luck in Greensberg-o before, Tech is just 3-7 in the Greensboro Coliseum, including 1-7 against ACC teams. Tech did win their last game there three years ago, but that was against unc-g’boro. VT lost at the Coliseum to uva in the 2006 ACC Tournament. I was there to watch VT play a great game but fall late to the #3 unc tar heels back in 1995, when the heels had Rasheed Wallace and Jerry Stackhouse. But this is a different Hokie team and they are all about breaking trends, so let’s see how they do in the Gate City this time around (I have no idea why it is called the Gate City).
Note: Dwayne Collins, miami’s leading scorer, is out for the entire ACC Tournament with an injury.
SIX PACK OF KEYS TO WINNING:
- Come out fast: Tech’s opponent will have played the day before and will have a game feel early. Tech needs to match that intensity. It will help that this game is the second game of the day. As Greenberg pointed out the other night, the noon game stinks. There is no intensity (or people) in the arena for the noon game. That picks up as the game gets late, but you can be done by that point if you fall asleep, too. The Hokies need to have a good start. If they are around even (or ahead) at the first and second media timeouts, that is a good sign.
- Ride the Inner Tube (#0): Jeff Allen, aka the Big Donut, has been riding the gravy train with biscuit wheels lately. He’s averaged 20 points and 11.3 rebounds in his last three games and has avoided foul trouble. Jeff has hit double-digits in points 9 of his last 11 games. He owned miami this year, averaging 16.5 points and 7 rebounds in the two games, but Allen had just 8 and 5 against wake, largely due to foul trouble. If the Hokies do face wake, Allen is vital to be in there to defend the wake bigs inside like Aminu, McFarland, and Woods.
- Call the M.D.: Malcolm Delaney, fresh off being named ACC Player of the Week and All-ACC First Team, has been red hot of late. He’s scored 19 or more points in six straight games (two of those he went over 30). He’s also 22/44 from the field and 8/17 on three-pointers in his last three games. If he can get hot like he was two years ago in the ACC Tourney, he could put on an absolute show and carry the Hokies to great heights, like Randolph Childress did about 15 years ago for the deacons in the ACC Tourney in Greensboro. Two years ago Malcolm went for 30 points on 10/15 shooting, including an amazing 6/8 on three-pointers in two games in the ACC Tourney. Let’s hope he can re-channel that magic.
- Shoot the Boot: Let’s hope All-ACC Third Team member, Dorenzo Hudson, can ditch his walking boot and be strong for the tourney. We know he’s tough, having played through the foot injury for a while. He’s reached double-digits in points in 18 of his last 20 games, including averaging 18.1 ppg over his last seven. Tech must have him to survive in this tournament, even if it is with some slightly reduced minutes. Tech got 37 minutes out of Zo against nc state last week and will need to him to battle as much as he can in this one.
- Don’t rest on your laurels: Everyone thinks the Hokies are in the Big Dance. They probably are. It would be easy to come out and play a ‘ho hum’ game because there’s nothing to prove. But THIS tournament is a big deal. Winning it would be simply awesome. It would mean more to me than anything the football team has accomplished since joining the ACC (I mean that). It would mean more to me than making the NCAA Tournament (heck, we could skip it and I wouldn’t care). uva has just one ACC Tournament title in over 50 years (and hasn’t even made it to the semifinals in 15 years). clemson has never won it. Heck, only duke, unc, and nc state have more than four. So this is a BIG deal. Play like this is do or die and give it everything you have. And a win in the quarters would surely lock up a NCAA bid as a nice safety clause.
- Stop [X]: For miami it is… well, to be honest, they don’t have anyone that scares me. You just have to hope they aren’t hot as a whole team like they were in miami or on Thursday against wake.
c-a-n-e-s canes: Wow, what a tale of two games it was versus miami. In the meeting in Blacksburg, VT jumped out to a 48-13 lead in the first half and led by 27 at the break. The Hokies hit 7 of 9 threes in the first half, topped only by their 8 against georgia tech last week. miami made a bit of a run in the second half but they simply had to far to go.
In miami, it was the exact opposite. miami hit 5/8 on threes in the first half and 14/20 total shots (70%)! The canes led by 17 at the half, a 44 -point turnaround. Hudson, Delaney, and Allen scored all 30 of the Hokie first half points. In the second half, JT Thompson led the Hokies back with 14 points, and VT cut the lead to 5 on eight occasions but could never get over that hump and lost by an 82-75 score.
miami’s top three scorers (without Collins) are all guards. They have three guys (Dews, Grant, and Thomas) with 50 or more made 3-pointers, so defending the perimeter is a must. And without Collins, the canes have no true scorer inside. But Reggie Johnson had a career high 22 in the first round and played well against VT in the second meeting. But with his weight (290) he has to be worn down playing on consecutive days.
The canes had lost 5 of 6 and 11 of 14, I didn’t expect to see them Friday (especially with Collins hurt) but stranger things have happened (like a 2-14 georgia tech team beating a ranked clemson team last year). Tech must take away the three-pointer from the canes and exploit their porous defense by getting out in transition, or making the extra pass on defense as lazy defenders get lost. miami will likely to slow this game down and play in the half court. The Hokies usually do well in games like that with their solid defense but VT must also fuel their transition game with steals an turnovers from the canes. And let’s hope miami is fat and happy won a game in the tourney.
|Guard||23 Delaney 6’3″|
|Guard||5 Hudson 6’5″|
|F/G||1 Bell 6’6″|
|Forward||0 Allen 6’7″|
|Center||14 Davila 6’8″|
|Guard||3 Grant – 6’1″|
|Guard||23 Dews – 6’4″|
|Forward||31 Jones – 6’6″|
|Forward||20 McGowan – 6’9″|
|Forward||45 Gamble – 6’9″|
|Bench||1 Scott – 6’5″|
|Bench||30 Thomas – 6’7″|
|Bench||42 Johnson – 6’9″|
* I excluded Collins from miami since he isn’t supposed to play.
@ miami 82, VT 75:
@ VT 81, miami 66: