Spread: VT is favored by 2
All you can ask for is a chance and opportunity knocks for the fourth time this season on Wednesday night for the Hokies. Virginia Tech became the first ACC team ever to go 10-6 in conference and not make the NCAA Tournament last season. Two years before that VT became just the second ACC team to go 9-7 in conference and not make the Big Dance. Why? Their out of conference schedule was too weak and they didn’t post enough big wins in league play. The latter is going to be tough this year, as only duke looks like an elite team in the ACC this year and VT plays the devils just once. Tech did give themselves plenty of opportunities to win some big out of conference games this year with perhaps their most challenging non-ACC slate ever. But opportunities are running out. First, VT faded late and lost by 16 at #3 kansas state. Next, the Hokies rose up at the end thanks to their zone trap and beat oklahoma state, a NCAA Tourney team a year ago. Sunday night, the Hokies just could not overcome unlv’s aggressive press and again faded after Jeff Allen got in foul trouble and lost to the rebels by 12 (unlv is now ranked). Wednesday night Tech finally gets a game on their home court, playing a reduced but still very talented purdue team that won 29 games last year and advanced to the Sweet 16 before losing to duke, the eventual champion.
The biggest issues for VT to date have been a flaccid offense and Jeff Allen’s diarrhea of fouls. In Tech’s three games against quality opponents this year, the Hokies have failed to even reach 60 points in any of the games. Luckily, okie state shot under 30% and VT pulled out a late win. Tech has averaged 16.3 turnovers per game this year, up from 12.3 per game last year (and that includes a full ACC schedule). Malcolm Delaney is averaging 6 turnovers per game, double what he averaged last year. Four of VT’s five starters have an assist-to-turnover ratio of 1:1 or worse. Only Bell has more assists than turnovers. They do not look like a veteran lineup with four seniors and a junior starting. Spacing has been poor, flashing to open areas has been non-existant, and standing around has been the norm at times.
Shooting has been poor for the Hokies, too. Outside of Delaney and Terrell Bell, who are a combined 22/49 (45%) on three-pointers, the rest of the team is 8/47 (17%). Dorenzo Hudson is really fighting it, just 2/11 on threes and 13/20 on free throws. Jarell Eddie is 1/13 from behind the arc. Tech is actually shooting 44% as a team, which is decent, but were under 35% against kansas state and okie state.
The other issue has been Jeff Allen staying on the court. He has been called for 26 fouls on the season, an average of more than 4 per game and he’s been disqualified 3 times. Without him on the floor, Tech doesn’t have a post player that can create his own shots (Davila has to be fed inside or get offensive rebounds), and have to go small, leading to more offensive rebounds for opponents.
The purdue game is not a must win for the Hokies, there are no must wins in December (especially on December 1st). But if the Hokies want to avoid living on the bubble all season, especially in March, VT needs to take care of business at home Wednesday and notch a huge, resume-building win. Tech is 55-13 at the Cassell over the last four plus seasons, and need some home cookin’ to notch their biggest win (arguably) since beating #1 wake forest in January of 2009. VT will not play another ranked team out of conference in all likelihood (penn state and mississippi state are the only name schools left).
This game is part of the ACC/Big(11)Ten Challenge. The ACC had won this contest every year until last year. VT is just 2-3 in the event and have not beaten anyone other than iowa:
- 2009 – VT 70, @iowa 64
- 2008 – wisconsin 74, @VT 72
- 2007 – @penn state 66, VT 61
- 2006 – @VT 69, iowa 65
- 2005 – @ohio state 69, VT 56
SERIES: VT leads 2-0, with both games in the mid-60s. The highest attended game in Cassell Coliseum history was played almost exactly 44 years ago, with VT beating purdue 79-63 on 12/3/66 in front of 11,500 fans. That year VT went all the way to the Elite 8 before losing to dayton in overtime, coming just short of making the Final Four.
HO-KEYS TO WINNING:
- Protect the Ball: VT turns the ball over on 23.3% of their possessions, 258th in the nation. Last year that percentage was 17.6%, 36th best in the nation. As I said above, VT is hitting 44% of their shots which isn’t bad at all. But when you are only getting 50 shots per game, then you aren’t going to even reach 60 points. Value possessions, make good passes, get shots. By comparison, purdue turns the ball over just 17% of the time so Tech needs to avoid giving them extra possessions.
- Free Throws Ain’t Free: VT is shooting just 65% from the line, 241st in the nation. And that is counting Delaney’s 42/48. Throw him out and the rest of the team is 62/112 (55%). That’s [bleeping] terrible. The Hokies shot 72% as a team last year including 66% but guys not named “Delaney”. That’s OK, not great, but certainly better than 65% and 55%. Hopefully with Tech’s familiarity with the shooting background at the Cassell this will go up Wednesday. FYI: VT’s opponents are shooting just 58% from the line on the year. But that doesn’t excuse your misses.
- Donut Foul So Much: The Big Donut, Jeff Allen, is averaging just 26 minutes per game thanks to his 26 fouls through 6 games. He may be the most talented player VT has, but Jeff cannot do much on the bench. It is Allen’s aggressive nature that have helped him pilfer 195 steals, 8th best all time at VT. But he has just 6 fouls this year and over the weekend he committed several fouls 70 feet from the hoop or on charges. His fouls must matter – in other words defending a shot attempt.
- Mo’ Dorenzo: Hudson scored just 8 combined points in the games against osu and unlv, going 0/7 and scoreless against the rebels. Dorenzo had 9 turnovers in those two games. He hasn’t hit a three-pointer since the kansas state game, shooting just 5 from deep in the last four games. The middle finger on his shooting hand is taped up and may be affecting his shot, but against unlv he seemed lost and made several bad turnovers fumbling the ball out of bounds. He was Tech’s best player at the end of last year and needs to be more productive, and needs to be right now if VT is going to beat a quality purdue team.
- Stay Aggressive: All weekend VT was getting into the bonus early in the half, drawing lots of quick fouls… then they’d stop attacking the rim. When you are struggling offensively, getting to the line is a great way to get points, even if you are shooting 65%. Keep pushing the ball, keep attacking the tin, keep feeding it inside.
- Bench the Bench: VT got just 9 bench points in the final two games of the 76 Classic. All 9 were scored by Tyrone Garland, as fellow freshman Jarell Eddie has struggled to hit his jumpers (1/13 on threes) and sophomore Erick Green has been out with a calf injury. Hopefully Green will be back, but Tech has to get something from their bench, especially with Hudson struggling and Allen in foul trouble so much. This team really misses JT Thompson.
- March 1st: Virginia Tech needs to come out and treat this game like it is March. They need to play like their NCAA Tournament lives depended on it. Every year Tech has some bad losses early in the season and fails in their big opportunities at a key win. Well, if VT loses this game, they have no one to whine to in March if they miss the Dance again other than themselves. Here’s your opportunity, at home, with their best player out. Carpe diem.
- Turkey Day: And, if all else fails, have some Wild Turkey ready to drown your sorrows.
THE opponent: THE purdue boilermakers
You know what a boilermaker is? It is when you drop a shot of whiskey in a beer and chug away. It is like a car bomb without the dessert-like taste. It is awful. And I imagine going to school West Lafayette, IN is just as bad. But I’ve never been there so I shouldn’t judge them… that’s what they do in Russia.
purdue came into this season with lofty expectations. They were a preseason top 10 team until star Robbie Hummel went down with a knee injury for the second year in a row. Gone are his 16 ppg and 7 rpg, and his 90% on FTs. But if you think they are depleted, think again. purdue would have had three senior stars, much like VT, if Hummel was around. This team still has two legitimate stars in senior guard E’Twaun (ET) Moore and senior forward-center JaJuan Johnson.
Moore led the team last year in scoring and is averaging 20.8 ppg, 29th best in the nation (Delaney is 25th at 21.3). ET is also averaging an impressive 6.7 rpg, very high for a guard. Luckily, VT has size at the guard position and can match up with him, though they need to do a better job of boxing out than they did in the 76 Classic. ET has scored at least 16 in every game this season, but was just 4/17 from the field in their loss to richmond. Let’s hope he stays cold, much like Keiton Page of osu was against VT. He’s a solid three-point shooter, but also can get to the hoop and does get to the line a fair amount. He’s a complete offensive player and Tech must really focus on him inside and out.
Johnson will present a huge challenge for VT, literally. Triple-J is 6’10”, but not the thickest guy at just 216 lbs. That said, he’s very athletic. He’s averaging 16.5 ppg and grabbing 8.8 rpg. He’s had four double-doubles on the season. As you’d expect, JJJ is also a good shot-blocker. He’s averaged 75 per year over the last two seasons and is on pace for that again this year. He’s an average foul shooter, though, at 63%. Don’t give Johnson an easy bucket (unless you are Jeff Allen – then don’t foul!!!). And he’s only committed 8 fouls on the season so he isn’t overly aggressive. Many teams are afraid to go at him. I’d expect Allen to challenge him when they are matched up. No one else is a shot-blocker and they don’t get a ton of steals.
Johnson and ET help purdue get a lot of offensive rebounds. They grab 37% of their misses which puts them in the top 100 in the country. Zones are susceptible to giving up offensive rebounds since you don’t always have a man. The key is when a shot goes up, finding a man near you and getting a butt on them. Especially ET who will attack the rim from outside. With all the threes purdue shoots, they will also have a lot of long rebounds.
The rest of the team is very much supporting cast for those two guys. John Hart, a 6’2″ guard, averages 9 per game off the bench, but no one else is over 7 ppg. Hart loves to shoot from deep and has 13 made threes this year on just 26 attempts. 39 of his 56 points on the year have been from behind the arc. Tech must respect him on the perimeter, and can risk overcommitting on him. He isn’t a great distributor, so dare him to beat you off the dribble.
purdue shoots 38% from deep as a team so you cannot just collapse in on Johnson or fall back on ET. They average about 8 makes per game on 21 attempts. Tech has shot 30 fewer three-pointers, but also 30 more free throws and do a better job of getting to the line than the boilermakers. purdue is just 242nd in the nation at FT attempts to FG attempts.
D.J. Byrd, a wing player, and Ryne Smith, a guard, also will pull the trigger from deep. Smith ONLY shoots threes, as 17 of his 21 shots are threes and he hasn’t shot a free throw. For Byrd, 15 of his 25 shots have been from behind the arc.
purdue’s starting point guard, 5’9″ Lewis Jackson, simply is not a threat on the offensive end. He has just 17 shot attempts, and just 1 three-point attempt. He is simply a distributor – VT can play off him. On offense, Tech should have his man post up on him, but when they do this, the rest of the guys must space themselves and flash to different areas for kick-outs if purdue collapses in.
purdue loves to go small and will often have three guards, and a wing, on the court. So they don’t present a ton of challenges inside other than Johnson, which is good for Tech with their lack of depth inside. We shall see if VT puts Allen on a smaller man, as they did against unlv, or has him on Johnson. I’d expect to see Davila on Johnson with Raines coming in to rack up a few fouls on the big man.
|Guard||23 Delaney – 6-3||21.3|
|Guard||5 Hudson – 6-5||11.2|
|Wing||1 Bell – 6-7||6.7|
|Forward||0 Allen – 6-7||11.0|
|Forward||14 Davila – 6-8||6.3|
|Guard||23 Jackson – 5-9||2.8|
|Guard||0 Johnson – 6-2||6.8|
|Guard||33 Moore – 6-4||20.8|
|Wing||21 Byrd – 6-5||7.0|
|Forward/Center||25 J. Johnson – 6-10||16.5|
BORING FACTS ABOUT purdue:
- Established: 1869
- Type: Public – land grant
- Undergrads: 31k
- Postgrads: 8.5k
- Named for John Purdue, a local businessman and philanthropist (not the chicken guy)
- Nickname: Came from a newspaper headline coining them the “boiler makers”, probably because they were an engineering school and had to do manual labor, such a heating and molding metal or making “boilers”. I’m sure that’s where the train logo comes from, too.
- Mascot: Boilermaker Special (a locomotive – they are on V now). And Purdue Pete, a weirdo with a hammer.
- National Titles: 1 – 32
- Final Fours: 2 – 69, 80
- NIT Titles: 1 – 74
- Famous Alums: Neil Armstrong (tough to top that one), Jim Gaffigan (Hot Pockets!), George Peppard (attended, did not graduate), Orville Redenbacher, Glenn Robinson, John Wooden, Drew Brees (and lots of other NFL QBs)
- 4/16/2007 – Two of the victims were purdue alums – Kevin Granata and G. V. Loganathan (both professors)