Preview | VT (1-1, 10-4) @ unc (1-0, 11-4) | Thursday at 9 PM | ESPN

Spread: unc by 6

Coach Beamer talked a few weeks ago about how Virginia Tech needed to win a big game against a top five team.  A few days later they laid a gigantic egg.  Coach Greenberg pleads each year for why the Hokies deserve to be in the NCAA Tournament.  Then they fail in their key games that would help clinch an invitation, such as losses to kansas state, unlv, and purdue this year (and too many to name in past years).  Well, the Hokies don’t have many opportunities to defeat a top team this year, but this is one of them and it is time to stop the talk, and walk the walk.  The Hokies have just five games left against teams currently in the RPI top 100 (luckily all five teams are in the top 40).  Virginia Tech needs to swagger into chapel heel and take down the boys in powder blue (#20 in the current RPI) on Thursday night in their only meeting of the regular season.  And you know what?  They can do it.

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Thursday will be just the third road game of the season for the Hokies, and their first since playing at unc-greensboro on November 21st (yes, pre-Thanksgiving).  But most of these Hokies have played in the Dean Dome a few times and should not be intimidated.  The current senior class got blown out by 39 at unc their freshman year, but were right in the game last year until late.  The heels were just 5-11 in the ACC last year and lost some key cogs like Ed Davis, the Wear twins, Deon Thompson, and Ed Graves.  Tech should not fear the name on the front of the jersey because the names on the back simply aren’t any better than the Hokies, at least of those left for VT.

This is a team of great depth versus a team of great tragedy.  unc plays 10 guys at least 12 minutes per game (mpg) and no one plays more than 27 mpg.  VT has four guys averaging more than 30 mpg, and that’s not including Dorenzo Hudson.  Erick Green, his replacement, has averaged 33 mpg since entering the starting lineup.

This is the proverbial game of McDonald’s All-Americans versus guys that eat at McDonald’s.  unc has three 5-star and five 4-star recruits on their roster.  That includes Harrison “Big Mac” Barnes, the #1 player in the Class of 2010.  And John “Grilled Snack Wrap” Henson [since he has zero fat... or meat... on him... he's still a beanpole].  Reggie “McNugget” Bullock goes dipping from deep and can drain the three off the bench [he was a 5-star from last year also].  Tyler “McRib” Zeller is long and saucy at 7′ and leads the heels with 14.5 ppg.  Dexter “McChicken” Strickland is the most forgettable starter, but he averages 9.5 ppg and leads the team in steals, but is not a good three-point shooter.  In fact, most of their guards are not other than Bullock.  Larry “Filet-O-Fish” Drew is still starting at point guard and is still terrible.  Why nickname him Filet-O-Fish?  Because he’s only good a couple times per year, the rest of the time he makes you sick.  The 4-star junior is shooting just 38% from the field and 19% from behind the arc, and averages just 5 ppg.  His backup is Arlington, VA’s Kendall “McCafe Mocha” Marshall, a slick point guard who shoots better than Drew and has more assists and fewer turnovers despite playing 9 fewer mpg.  Leslie “Ronald” McDonald gives unc 8 ppg off the bench and is their best three-point shooter (24/53 – 45%).  Justin Watts and Knox combine for another 10 points off the bench.

Then there’s El Ocho, the Hokies eight remaining scholarship players.  All they’ve done is gone 4-0 since Hudson and Raines were shut down for the season.  And Tech has won six in a row since Erick Green went into the starting lineup.  He’s scored at least 11 in all six games (13.7 ppg), has 17 steals, and 20 assists to 6 turnovers.  Jeff Allen has also stepped up.  He’s had at least 11 points and 9 rebounds in nine straight games.  In the last six, he’s averaging 15.8 ppg and 11.7 rebounds per game, and was the ACC Player of the Week last week.

HO-KEYS TO WINNING:

  • Pacemaker: uva almost beat unc on Saturday, leading by as many as 11 in the second half.  The heels came back and pulled out a 62-56 win.  But the key for the hoos, and what will be key for Tech, is they shut down the unc running game.  The heels were held to just four fast break points.  As a result, the heels were held almost 20 points below their season average.  Tech needs to limit the easy buckets unc gets on the break, and that means…
  • Limiting Turnovers: During the Hokies’ six game winning streak, they are +33 in turnover margin.  Since the Hokies don’t have the size of the heels, they need to get extra possessions to compensate for the fact they will likely be out-rebounded.  The hoos didn’t do this, getting outscored 13-8 in points off turnovers, and the result was a loss.  Tech needs to win this category.
  • Windex: VT must be better on the glass than they were against the noles.  unc is not as good of an offensive rebounding team as florida state (who are #1 in the ACC), which is good news since fsu dominated the Hokies with 17 offensive rebounds to just 5 for VT, and a 12-3 margin in second chance points.  But Zeller and Henson are both excellent offensive rebounders, as is Knox off the bench.  Tech cannot give up a -12 edge in offensive rebounds again and expect to win.
  • Compete in the Paint: Expect the heels to go at Jeff Allen down low.  If he guards John Henson like I expect, Allen’s breath could knock over the beanpole Henson.  Henson is a terrible foul shooter (34%), but Allen cannot be the one giving up the fouls.  If Henson has an easy bucket, foul him and force him to beat you from the line but it needs to be help defense.  Bell is certainly athletic enough and has long arms to defend Henson at times when Allen is out or guarding Zeller, but Bell will likely be on Big Mac Barnes a lot.  Davila should draw Zeller.  Victor needs to do what he’s been doing well lately, and that’s working hard to keep his opponent from catching the ball down low.  Tech doesn’t need Davila to score a lot in this game, but they need him to work his butt off on defense and help relieve the rebounding pressure on Allen.  Jeff is averaging 33% of VT’s rebounds over the last six games.
  • The Zone* and the Lost Arc: Tech is just 9/37 from three-point range in their last three games, including 1/8 against fsu.  Meanwhile, VT’s opponents have hit 20 threes in those three games.  That’s one of the flaws of a 2-3 zone – you are going to give up three-point shots if the opponent moves the ball well, or can get inside the arc and kick it out.  But unc is similar to VT in makes per game (5.5) and shoot just a slightly higher percentage (35% to 32% by VT).  The threats from deep Tech needs to guard are McDonald #1 (24/53) and Bullock #2 (18/48).  Both are off the bench so the Hokies need to be aware when they come in.  Barnes has made 18 threes, but hits just 31%.  No one other than those three have more than six makes on the season.  So I’d expect to see a lot of zone from the Hokies since the heels aren’t a great 3-point shooting team.  We’ll see how well the heels do against it having had several days to prepare for it.  And the Hokies need more than one made three-pointer in this one.  Zeller and Henson combine to average four blocks per game, so Tech cannot depend on a ton of points in the paint.  Look for Delaney to step up (I know I keep saying that).  But he hit a couple of threes at unc last year and loves the bright lights of national games.
  • Ocho-Cinco: If El Ocho is going to get their fifth straight win (El Cinco), they need to keep doing what their doing: protect the ball and find ways to run.  I know I said VT needs to set the pace, and they do, but they cannot put this game in quicksand like uva did.  The Hokies have won six in a row because they’ve pushed the ball (Green and Garland) at appropriate times.  They must continue to do that and find ways to get easy buckets so they don’t have to always operate in the half court.  Tech just needs to limit the number of transition opportunities unc gets and avoid turning this into a track meet that favors unc, and will tire the depleted Ocho.

*I’m not sure how much we’ll see the zone trap past half court on Thursday.  It worked well the few times it was used Saturday against fsu, but they don’t have the number of offensive options unc has, especially in the front court.  And Drew and Marshall are both good passers so they could burn it.  That said, it is good to mix things up at times just to force unc to adjust.  Tech could just go to the 1-3-1 half court zone to compliment the 2-3 zone.

SERIES:

  • unc 60-13
  • In ACC play: unc 7-3
  • The teams split last year with unc winning at home in the ACC opener for both 78-64, while VT won at home 74-70 in early February.
  • VT did win at unc during the 2006-07 season, a 81-80 overtime win to sweep the season’s two games
  • VT is just 5-27 all time at unc

STATS:

  Virginia Tech unc
PPG 70.9 79.4
Pts Against 59.7 67.1
FG % 47% 46%
3-Pt % 32% 36%
FT % 70% 64%
Leading …    
Scorer Delaney – 18.6 Zeller – 14.5
Rebounder Allen – 9.8 Henson – 8.4
Assists Delaney – 4.0 Marshall – 4.1
Steals Green – 2.0 Strickland – 1.5
Blocks Bell – 1.4 Henson – 2.7

Stats of Note:

  • unc is #3 in the ACC in PPG at 79.8 while VT is #1 in Scoring Defense at 59.7
  • unc is dead last in the ACC in FT%, largely thanks to John Henson
  • The heels are #2 in Defensive Rebound % while VT is #9 in Offensive Rebound %; unc is just #5 in Offensive Rebound %
  • unc and VT are near the bottom in 3s-made-per-game (9th and 10th)
  • Henson is #2 in blocks per game at 2.7
  • Green (VT) and Marshall (unc) are 1 and 2 in assist-to-turnover ratio (a So and a Fr)
  • VT has 3 of the top 10 in terms of minutes per game, unc has no one averaging even 28 minutes per game

STARTERS:

unc has had the same starting lineup for all 15 games this year.  VT has had the same starting lineup except for Erick Green who replaced the injured Dorenzo Hudson and has started six in a row.

Position Virginia Tech unc
Guard 11 Green – 6-4 11 Drew – 6-2
Guard 23 Delaney – 6-3 1 Strickland – 6-3
Wing 1 Bell – 6-7 40 Barnes – 6-8
Forward 0 Allen – 6-7 31 Henson – 6-10
Forward/Center 14 Davila – 6-8 44 Zeller – 7-0

BORING FACTS ABOUT unc:

  • Founded in 1789
  • Undergrads: 18k
  • Postgrads: 8k
  • Stayed open during the Civil War
  • The Hokies own Franklin Street during football season!
  • Mascot is a live ram named “Rameses”
  • 37 NCAA Championships in six different team sports (20 are women’s soccer… yawn)
  • 5 Men’s bball titles: 1957, 1982, 1993, 2005, 2009
  • unc has not won an ACC football title (or division, or even tied for a title) since 1980.  Neither NC public school has won a title or tied for one since then.  Tobacco Road may know basketball, but the supposed home of great BBQ sure stinks at pigskin

Famous students:

  • Bball: Michael Jordan, Vince Carter, Awtawn Jamison, Rasheed Wallace, Jerry Stackhouse, James Worthy, Larry Brown, Tyler Hansbrough, Ronald Curry
  • Other Sports: Lawrence Taylor (guessing he didn’t graduate), Dre Bly, Ronald Curry again (did you know he was the #1 football and bball recruit back in the late ’90s at Hampton HS?  Check out his stats/their margins of victory some time – insane), Moonlight Graham, Mia Hamm, Julius Peppers, Marion Jones, B.J. Surhoff
  • Jim Halpert (character on the Office) supposedly went there – not the real one, the real person went to brown
  • Others: John Edwards, James K. Polk (11th President of the USA), Stuart Scott, Chris Matthews, Andy Griffith, Lewis Black, and Thomas Wolfe

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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  • Niemo

    penn state keeps helping us out – just beat a ranked illinois team. That’s wins over michigan state and illinois in four days for the nittany lions and will certainly help them (and VT) in the RPI.

    Shocker — nc state and Sidney Lowe lost at boston college in a game they trailed most of the way, but had a three point lead late before bc bombed them out of the mostly empty Conte Forum (bc has the worst fans in the league… I’m going to check and see if they draw more for bc hockey games). Lowe has just 6 ACC road wins in 4+ seasons at the helm. Paul Hewitt and gt only have 5 or 6 in the same span, and 4 of those were in one season. How do these guys keep their jobs?

  • chicagomaroon

    Yeah, saw the Penn St. result this morning. I was kind of keeping tabs on it last night but lost track of it in favor of something more interesting. This must be their penance for hurting us so badly last year. And yeah, those guys are gainfully employed and Dino Gaudio is fired for having too many guys go to the NBA. Go figure.

  • http://www.heyhokie.com Goodraisin

    I was flipping between the Penn State game and the BC/Wolfpack game… that was a really good win for PSU and a poor showing by NC State. Hopefully PSU can get themselves to a point where they “middle around” in the Big Ten. That would help out VT a ton. BC did look pretty solid despite a horrible showing from their fans (if they have any). I can’t understand how a team with that much talent and athleticism can lose to Harvard and Yale. It boggles the mind, but I do think they will be one of the better teams in the ACC this season.

  • HokieGuru

    Epic preview haha :)

    “Larry “Filet-O-Fish” Drew is still starting at point guard and is still terrible. Why nickname him Filet-O-Fish? Because he’s only good a couple times per year, the rest of the time he makes you sick.”

  • http://stores.ebay.com/hip-hop-heads-vinyl-crates HipHop_Hokie

    Niemo you may or may not know this, but believe it or not Sidney Lowe is actually getting PAID to coach the pack as well!! Kinda makes you want to smash your head into the wall, no??

    • Niemo

      HipHop – I think every time I look at Lowe I think of ricky stokes. Lowe is to their program what stokes was to ours… except maybe for the fact Lowe at least recruiting some decent players he’d waste (Hickson, Harrow, Leslie).

      Raisin – bc really didn’t look that great to me last night (and that’s just the 2nd or 3rd time I’ve seen them play this year). They are so dependent on the three-point shot. That’s how they got way up, then when they missed the game got close, then gave them the win. Reggie Jackson looks unstoppable. He’s shooting over 55% on the year as a guard and I think has shot around 80% in their last two ACC games. He may be enough by himself to win half a dozen games. And Trapani looks a lot more aggressive on the boards. He’s still built like a fit girl but has an attitude now on the defensive glass. Last night they convinced me they are one of the four best teams in the league… but they are still VERY beatable. Tomorrow should show where VT and unc sit in terms of that upper class.

      C-M – I’m now a penn state believer. I think we just saw them on one of their worst days. They have veterans who can play, and let’s face it, you can win a lot of games in the Big(11)Ten with 60 points, and they have plenty of weapons to get that. As for Gaudio, I wonder if he the admins were ever on board with him. I have a feeling he got that job because he was a top assistant when Skip Prosser passed away. It was a very hard situation and I wonder if the university felt like they had to take someone from within (especially with the recruiting class they had coming in). Then, once the bulk of that class was gone, they maybe went with their own guy.

  • http://www.heyhokie.com Goodraisin

    Niemo, I would certainly agree with that statement. I guess I should have qualified BC looking good by saying “for an ACC team” (specifically this season). Josh Southern was worthless on offense in that game… he was a black hole any time he was fed in the post, and I don’t remember him being able to put up a shot that wasn’t blocked. But with that said, he is a very good post defender and arguably the team’s best free throw shooter. Reggie Jackson is an All-ACC guard in my opinion and I noticed the same thing about Joe Trapani. That guy looks like more of a complete forward whereas you used to only worry about him as a stretch 4 on the perimeter, now it seems like he can play down low as well. As far as I can tell, the rest of the guys are just there to shoot 3′s and play defense, and they’re pretty good at both. But yeah, if their shots aren’t falling and defenses are playing them correctly, they are extremely beatable. That’s a team where Greenberg really shouldn’t deploy the 2-3 zone. They love to shoot threes and the guards love to slash to the hoop… exactly the kind of offense that kills a 2-3 zone.

    • Niemo

      Raisin – good point on the zone. I think we’ll have to adjust there and go back to man, and since their bigs aren’t good in the low post, it lessens the risk of foul trouble for Allen or Davila.

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