Preview | VT (5-4) vs. mississippi state (7-2) | Paradise Island, Bahamas | Sat., 8 PM | No TV

Spread: VT by 6

It doesn’t get any better than this – a ‘made-for-TV’ game between two name schools in a tropical paradise just days after snow pelts Virginia Tech’s campus and fan base.  There’s only one problem – the game isn’t on TV.  Hmm, maybe we should have firmed that up first.  So much for the Viewing Party at the Hard Times Cafe in Clarendon (we’ll be there anyway for the Weekend Warrior’s birthday if you want to stop by and say ‘hi’).

There are no ‘must win’ games in December in terms of making the NCAA Tournament.  But let’s classify this game as a ‘really, really, need to win it’ contest.  Tech is playing a name school, so that counts for something at the end of the year.  mississippi state was picked to win the SEC West, so this could be a very, very good win on the resume.  Plus, mississippi state is still somewhat vulnerable, just now getting their star player (more on that in a bit).  But most of all, Tech simply cannot afford another loss.  A loss would drop the Hokies to 5-5 and while all five losses would be to name schools, VT simply has to build up some name wins and oklahoma state and penn state simply doesn’t cut it.

While it would be nice to focus on catching some rays in the Bahamas (the high today was 79 with a low of 62), the Hokies really need to focus on getting a ‘W’ as they did in Cancun last year against seton hall.  Plus, with Ben Boggs transferring, all the active Hokies have pretty good tans already.  And Seth doesn’t strike me as the Speedo-type by the poolside (ugh, that’s not an image anyone wants).

Virginia Tech is coming off one of their best games of the season (though that isn’t saying much).  The Hokies broke their three game losing streak and four game stretch of being held under 60 points.  VT led for the entire last 29 minutes of the game against penn state, and mostly cruised to a 79-69 win.  Erick Green, making his first ever start, tied a career high with 15 points and actually hit some jumpers from deep.  Delaney was 6/9, including 5/7 from deep and tallied 18 points and a season high 8 assists.  Tech dominated in the paint, 40-24, and on the fast break, 16-2.  With Green and Garland running the point, the offense looked much smoother than when Delaney has been running it.  G&G combined for 24 points on 9/15 (60%) shooting.  Tech shot 55% as a team.  And VT held psu’s second leading scorer to just 2 points (Brooks).

Hopefully Tech can keep that going against the bulldogs, though SEC teams tend to be stingy on defense and are very physical.  msu is allowing just 65 ppg and holding teams under 40% shooting, but they also haven’t played anyone of the Hokies’ caliber.

My information tells me that the Hokies should have a full squad Saturday, at least of the guys you would expect.  Raines, according to Seth on Monday, should be available and Hudson should be, too.  We know what Raines will do – provide some fouls off the bench against Renardo Sidney of msu.  But how will Seth rotate Green, Delaney, Hudson, and Bell?

Only in the SEC… You can’t make this stuff up…

Meanwhile, the bulldogs have to be pretty gassed.  They played five straight days starting this past Saturday through this Wednesday.  Some have theorized that this was to get enough games in to have Renardo Sidney eligible for this game.  Sidney was the #7 ranked player overall in the Class of 2009 by Scout.com and #16 by Rivals.com and was a McDonald’s All-American.  He is, uh, large.  Sidney fills out at 6’10″ and 270 lbs.  However, he was suspended by the NCAA for his entire freshman year and the first nine games of this year for accepting improper benefits while in high school.  I’ll give you one guess how many games the bulldogs have played so far this year (or you could just look at the title of this article)… yep, nine.  Nine times!  Sidney made his sort of college debut on Wednesday when mississippi state bukkaked bellhaven in an exhibition game.  He had 10 points and 6 rebounds, but didn’t play most of the second half because of cramps.

“I was cramping real bad,” Sidney said after the game. “It’s just a poor game decision, of not hydrating real well. I’ve got to do better and hydrate and eat more bananas.”

The funny thing is Monday night on TechTalkLive, Seth mentioned his conditioning should be off having not played in a real game in almost two years.  Looks like he was spot on.

Another reason why mississippi state played four real games and one exhibition in five days is because of point guard Dee Bost.  Dee declared for the NBA Draft last year and didn’t pull his name out in time.  He applied to get his eligibility back, but the NCAA suspended him for nine games as his repentance for not pulling out in time [giggity].  So, you must be thinking, if he was suspended for nine games and they’ve played nine, why isn’t he playing?  Easy – Dee apparently got too many D’s and F’s and was academically ineligible for the first semester, which consisted of five games.  His nine game suspension couldn’t kick in until that was over.  Hence why the bulldogs didn’t play many games before finals were over, then stacked up four real games in four days right afterwards.

Finally, leading scorer Ravern Johnson (23.8 ppg – #7 in the nation) was suspended for their last game for violating the school’s class attendance policy.  Wait, he was suspended for the fourth game of four in a row, when the semester had ended a week earlier?  Hmm, if I didn’t want to slander the good name of mississippi state and the SEC, I might think that suspension was convenient to give him a rest.

Seriously, you cannot make this stuff up.  The SEC is crazy, man.

Long story long, mississippi state probably will be a good team by the middle of the SEC slate once Bost is back and Sidney is in game shape, but they are very beatable right now.  The lost to florida atlantic and east tennessee state in back to back games without Bost or Sidney.  And when I say they haven’t played anybody to date, I mean they haven’t played ANYBODY.  tennessee state, appy state, detroit, troy, fau, etsu, nc a&t, nicholls state, and alabama state.  Not exactly the murderer’s row VT has played.  And all nine games were at home, so this will be msu’s first contest away from Starkville.  They are currently #232 in the RPI with a SOS of 319 (of 348) teams.  That’s even worse than VT’s schedule last year.

SERIES:

VT 6-2.  Tech won the first five meetings.  Seth has actually played the bulldogs while at Tech, VT lost to #21 mississippi state 71-65 in New Orleans just before the 2005 Sugar Bowl (VT vs auburn) in Tech’s first year in the ACC.

STATS:

Numbers Virginia Tech miss state
PPG 66.0 72.7
Pts Against 62.8 64.9
FG % 44% 44%
3-Pt % 32% 37%
FT % 66% 70%
Leading …
Scorer Delaney – 20.1 Johnson – 23.8
Rebounder Allen – 8.9 Augustus – 8.7
Assists Delaney – 3.8 Benock – 3.4
Steals Delaney – 1.5 Benock – 1.5
Blocks Davila – 1.5 Augustus – 1.5

STARTERS:

Position Virginia Tech miss state
Guard 23 Delaney – 6’3? 15 Benock – 6’4″
Guard 5 Hudson – 6’5? or 11 Green – 6’4″ 22 Bryant – 6’3″
Wing/Guard 1 Bell – 6’7? 2 Johnson – 6’7″
Forward 0 Allen – 6’7? 24 Augustus – 6’8″
Forward 14 Davila – 6’8? 45 Bailey – 6’8″ or 1 Sidney – 6’10″

The bulldogs:

I talked about Renardo Sidney earlier, but Ravern Johnson is their main man.  His convenient suspension on Tuesday should not carry over to Saturday.  Johnson is a match-up nightmare for most teams.  The 6’7″ senior guard has hit 47% of his three-pointers (34/72 – he hits more than 4 per game).  But he also has been much more aggressive this year, getting to the line 5 times per game.  In fact, if he shoots 5 free throws in this game, he’ll have more FTAs on the season than he had in any of his past three years.  But his main game is shooting threes.  He’s made 211 threes in his career, and more than half his shots this year have been from behind the arc.  Luckily, VT can sound the Bell – Terrell Bell.  He has the height and athleticism to match-up with Johnson.

Johnson is just one of their two deadly deep threats.  Riley Benock, their 6’4″ point guard, is shooting 45% on threes this year, hitting 20/44.  He has been a surprise, his previous high for threes in a season was 21 and he averaged just 1.7 ppg last year.  He averages 8.1 ppg this year, with 60 of his 73 points from deep.  Delaney or Green must fight through screens and defend him from deep.  Don’t respect the handle, if he beats you, he’ll pass (3.4 apg and a 3.88 assist to turnover ratio).

Inside, other than Sidney, they have Augustus (senior) and Bryant (junior) (tangent – VT has really played some experienced teams this year like purdue, penn state, ksu, and now msu).  Both have good size, with Bryant at 265 lbs, but aren’t just goons.  They combine for 21 ppg and 13 rpg, though Augustus is the better rebounder.  Augustus is also a great free throw shooter, especially for a big, hitting 82%.

HO-KEYS TO WINNING:

  • Lather, Rinse, Repeat: Tech did exactly what we’ve been calling for all year against psu – pound it inside, kick it out when doubled or find the cutter, and push the ball.  It worked… well.  Do it again.
  • For Whom the Bell Tolls: Terrell Bell needs to limit Ravern Johnson.  Johnson is seventh in the country in scoring at 23.8 ppg.  He likes to shoot the three, so take that away first and force him to beat you off the dribble.
  • The Best Sunscreen is not going Outside: VT is there to win a basketball game.  Have some fun, I mean, that’s why you play a game in the Bahamas.  But I think the guys would enjoy a trip to Dayton, DC, Charlotte, or some other NCAA site more than the Bahamas if it meant they were in the Big Dance.
  • Cassell Guard: No, I’m not talking about you, orange beard-y.  It will be interesting to see  how Seth uses and rotates his guards if Hudson does play.  Green at the point with Delaney at the 2?  Bell at the 3, moving to the 4 when Hudson comes in so he can play wing?  We shall see.
  • Bahama Breeze: This game is in the Bahamas, so make a Bahama Breeze – Bahama Breeze Recipe

BORING FACTS ABOUT miss state:

  • Established: 1878
  • Students: ~20,000
  • Location: Starkville, MS
  • Campus: rural (ha, that’s like saying Blacksburg is rural)
  • Mascot: Bully – they don’t have a famous live bulldog like Uga but I’m sure they do have one
  • Famous Alums/Students: John Grisham, Will Clark, Rafael Palmeiro, Fred “Sea Captain” Smoot – that’s about it… slim pickin’s

This post was written by:

- who has written 1217 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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