The Hokies battle former A-10 foe st. bonaventure on Thursday night on a “neutral” court in Rochester, NY at the Blue Cross Arena, approximately 100 miles from the st. bonaventure campus in Olean, NY. The arena is normally the home to the Rochester Americans of the AHL, but will host the Hokies and bonnies just five days before WWE Smackdown invades the complex.
Tech comes into this game on a high note, having beaten penn state by 10 at home and then spanking mississippi state by 31 in the Bahamas. Some of the mechanical problems with the 2010-11 bandwagon seem to have been fixed, but it might be a while before people jump back on.
The offense has gone from flaccid to fantastic, averaging 83.5 in their last two games. The Hokies had averaged just 56 ppg in their previous four games, three of which had been losses. The catalyst has been Erick Green, who was inserted in the starting lineup for the penn state game. He’s had 26 points, 8 assists, and 0 turnovers in those two games. Green will likely have to be a key factor the rest of the way with guys battling injuries and Malcolm looking ineffective at the point in the first eight games.
Apparently my memory is foggy. I thought VT dominated st. bonnie when both teams were in the A-10. I guess I was just remembering the years I was in the ‘Burg. VT is 9-5 overall against st. bonaventure, but just 3-2 while in the A-10. Those last two losses were with the late Bobby Hussey and then ricky stokes at the helm, so maybe that explains it. And stokes/VT (still hurts combining those) lost in 2002 to the bonnies in the u of virgin islands Paradise Jam, but st. bonaventure later had to forfeit the game for using an ineligible player. So Tech has technically lost on the court the last three times they’ve met.
Believe it or not, this could end up being a quality win for the Hokies (it will be at this point). st. bonnie sits at #80 in the latest RPI. If they can be somewhat respectable in A-10 play (like 8-8), the conference is good enough that could possibly keep the bonnies in the top 100 of the RPI, which would be huge. But I have seen the bonnies picked as low as 13th of the 14 teams in the A-10, so don’t hold your breath on that.
The bonnies probably hasn’t played anyone as good as VT this season. I say probably because they lost to cleveland state by 18, who is currently #12 in the RPI (really? don’t think that will last). The bonnies did beat st. john’s by one point (sju is 53 in the RPI) and ohio in a 4 OT thriller (ohio is at 126). Their other losses came to canisius (whom VT beat in the 1995 NIT semi-finals) and niagara. Not exactly world beaters and both are over 200 in the RPI.
st. bonaventure returns four guys that started double digit games last season, including their leading scorer of the past two seasons, 6’9″ forward Andrew Nicholson. He is leading the team by far in scoring this season, averaging 21.4 ppg. He operates exclusively down low and is aggressive – Nicholson gets to the line for an average of almost nine attempts per game (hitting 75%). He shoots 58% from the field so you know he’s working near the tin. Due to his athleticism, it will be interesting to see if VT matches up Allen or Davila on him. With Andrew’s ability to draw fouls, it might have to be Davila and then Bell in a pinch. Nicholson had 44 in their last game, a 112-107 win in 4 OTs over ohio.
Nicholson also averages a double-double, pulling down 10.2 rpg. But he has just 16 offensive rebounds on the season, which tells me he isn’t great on the offensive glass.
While the bonnies have eight to nine guys in their rotation, they almost no production from their bench. No one off their bench averages more than 2.3 ppg or 2.8 rpg.
Their starters do have balance, though. After Nicholson’s 21 ppg, the other four starters average between 9.4 and 13.1 ppg. Da’Quan Cook is Nicholson’s counterpart down low. He, too, is an in-the-paint-only sort of player.
Like the Hokies, the bonnies don’t chuck a ton of shots from deep (well, the Hokies until the last two games). Davenport, Adegboye, and Conger are all accurate, but not proficient, from deep. Each guy hits over 36% of his attempts from behind the arc, but they have just 43 makes combined. Adegboye is the most dangerous of the three. But st. bonnie averages just 5.3 makes on 17 attempts (VT’s numbers are almost exactly the same). Matthew Wright is the “Jarell Eddie” of Olean, having hit thus 1 of 19.
The bonnies are not a big time scoring team. They had 112 against ohio, but 37 of those were in overtime (the third overtime was 2-2! talk about boring). They’ve been held under 70 points in five of their last seven. If the Hokies can limit Nicholson similar to how they shut down Jeff Brooks and limited Ravern Johnson, VT should cruise in this game.
HO-KEYS TO WINNING
- Run, (Forrest) Green, Run – keep doing what they are doing! Let Green push the tempo and help the athletic Hokies get points in transition. Bell is great in transition, as is Allen, Erick has looked better finishing of late and making smart decisions on the break, and Delaney is getting open looks out of this. [No, I’m not comparing Green to Forrest Gump, just referencing the color of forest green… a stretch, I know.]
- Stay Hot – VT has hit 16 of their 40 threes in the past two games (40%). They were barely at 30% before this run. The difference, again, has been Tech pushing the ball. Instead of having to shoot contested threes out of a stale half court set, VT is being more aggressive and getting open looks. Green has hit 4/10 and that has been the biggest surprise.
- Protect the Pill - Another benefit of Green at the point has been the lack of turnovers. He has not turned the ball over the last two games and has just 3 on the season (1 per 52 minutes on the court). Delaney averages 1 turnover every 8 minutes he’s on the court. The result has been fewer wasted possessions, which obviously increases points. And look at VT’s turnovers by game this year: 19-17-15-16-13-18-13-11-10-10. You can see it slanting down. That’s impressive considering the Hokies have been running more of late, and creating more possessions.
- Buffalo Nicholson – Nicholson is the key to their team. And he could train-wreck the Hokies. If he can dominate inside and draw fouls on Allen and Davila, Tech is in a whole lot of trouble. Both guys must hustle to get into position on defense so Nicholson cannot get easy looks deep in the post. And they must be smart about challenging him and not commit dumb fouls in other situations.
- Eggnog – Merry Christmas to all! For those of you in the DC area, try an eggnog cupcake from Georgetown Cupcake (and no, I do not watch that show on TLC).
|Numbers||Virginia Tech||st. bonnie|
|Scorer||Delaney – 20.0||Nicholson – 21.4|
|Rebounder||Allen – 9.0||Nicholson – 10.2|
|Assists||Delaney – 3.8||Adegboye – 3.4|
|Steals||Delaney – 1.4||Davenport – 1.4|
|Blocks||Bell/Davila – 1.4||Nicholson – 1.6|
|Position||Virginia Tech||st. bonnie|
|Guard||23 Delaney – 6-3||0 Adegboye – 6-0|
|Guard||11 Green – 6-4||32 Davenport – 6-4|
|Wing||1 Bell – 6-7||11 Conger – 6-6|
|Forward||0 Allen – 6-7||43 Cook – 6-9|
|Forward||14 Davila – 6-8||44 Nicholson – 6-9|