Archive | 2008-09 Season

Preview | #7 duke (23-5, 9-4) @ VT (17-10, 7-6) | Sat., 3:30 PM | ABC

Off-Topic: ESPN Bracketologist Joe Lunardi has VT back in the tourney as a #11 seed out West heading into the Hokies’ game with duke today.  The Hokies are not one of the last four in (ie: somewhat secure).  A win today would really cement their tournament standing, while a loss would put Tech firmly back on the bubble.

THE SETUP

Note: It is a White Out, people!  Don’t forget to wear white, in accordance with the university making up a new “-out” each year.  Since we wore white jerseys for the black out, what jerseys will we wear for the white out?  What happened to maroon or orange outs???

The Hokies are back in the NCAA Tournament picture with their win at clemson.  But forget all that.  Tech knows they need to win more games to stay in the hunt.  So they need to focus on this one game and give it 100%.  At clemson, every Hokie left everything on the court, and the result was a ‘W’.  The Hokies can’t forget that and coast in this game, because it doesn’t get any easier.  The Hokies need to play with confidence and determination.

On Tech’s side is the fact they are at home where they are 24-14 all time in ACC play.  Sure VT lost to duke by 25 in the first meeting almost two months ago.  But let’s not forget that in 2005 duke beat Tech by 35 in Durham, only to lose in Blacksburg.  Expect a wild (turkey) crowd, too.  If you don’t hate duke basketball, you are either: a) a duke fan, or b) oblivious to basketball.  duke is the Evil Empire of college basketball.  They are to roundball what notre dame is to college football — 90% of their fans have probably never even been to Durham (nor would anyone want to go there).

This game also marks the annual Hokie Celebration!  Will the arm-curl tradition continue?  Find out next week.

THE SERIES

  • The Series: 7-34
  • Since VT joined the ACC: 2-5
  • At the Cassell: 1-2

Last Meeting: @duke 69, VT 44  –  Tech fell behind 11-0 but worked their way back into things.  They cut the lead to four early in the second half, but after a coach k timeout, duke went on a 30-9 run to finish the game.  VT managed just 13 second-half points and the 44 total points are the lowest in the Greenberg era and the fewest points scored since a little man named ricky stokes stood dumb-founded on the VT sideline.  There were no bright spots in the first duke game. Tech managed just one three-pointer for the contest.  But VT has hit 10+ threes in each of their last two games, so they come in hotter than one of my dates after I’ve had 10 beers!

LINEUPS

Virginia Tech

Position

Player

Height

PPG

Year

Point Guard

10 – Thorns

5’9″

3.0

So

Shooting Guard

23 – Delaney

6′3″

18.8

So

Small Forward

40 – Vassallo

6′6″

18.4

Sr

Power Forward

0 – Allen

6′7″

14.0

So

Center

34 – Diakite

6′9″

3.9

Sr

Bench

1 – Bell

6′6″

2.6

So

 

5 – Hudson

6′5″

3.9

So

 

14 – Davila

6′8″

3.4

Fr

 

21 – Witcher

6′9″

2.2

Jr

33 – Thompson

6’6″

4.8

So

 duke

Position

Player

Height

PPG

Year

Guard

30 – Scheyer

6′5″

13.8

Jr

Guard

20 – Williams

6′4″

3.7

Fr

Wing

15 – Henderson

6′4″

16.4

Jr

Forward

42 – Thomas

6′8″

5.8

Jr

Forward

12 – Singler

6′8″

16.0

So

Bench

2 – Smith*

6′2″

8.5

So

 

3 – Paulus

6’1″

5.8

Sr

 

14 – McClure

6’6″

1.9

Sr

 

21 – Plumlee

6′10″

1.9

Fr

 

55 – Zoubek

7’1″

5.1

Jr

* Nolan Smith suffered a concussion in the maryland game Wednesday and it is uncertain if he will play.  He got drilled by the terps’ Neal (picture Jeff Allen’s pick on uva’s Baker in the game in Blacksburg).  Of course, Smith was coming off a knee injury before the game at duke and it didn’t bother the blue devils one bit.

For VT, I expect Greenberg will start Hank Thorns for the second game in a row.  duke likes to press, and Elliot Williams is a fantastic one-on-one defender that can steal the ball with ease.  Tech will need the extra ballhandler, and duke does not have a very big lineup anyway.  This will create some defensive match-up nightmares for the Hokies due to the height difference Hank will give up.

THE OPPONENT

This is not the same duke team Tech saw in Durham eight weeks ago.  First, Nolan Smith got benched in favor of senior Greg Paulus, one of the all-time overrated players / busts in duke history.  Then Paulus got benched three games ago after duke had lost four of six.  They decided to insert freshman Elliot Williams into the lineup with Scheyer, aka: “Crazy Face”, running the point at times.  Since these roster moves, duke is 3-0 with wins over maryland and wake forest.  Williams has scored in double digits in all three games, and has five steals, two assists, and four turnovers.

Also, Gerald Henderson has really stepped up his game.  He has scored in double digits in 20 straight games and has taken over the team’s scoring lead from Kyle Singler.  Gerald could probably best be called a poor man’s Vince Carter.  He is a freakish athlete, but is developing into a great all around player.  He has a fantastic midrange game and is nailing 37% of his threes (32/87).  Henderson exploded for 35 against wake.  Expect him to be in the NBA next year.

Singler is still a stud on the court but he has taken more of a back seat to Henderson in recent games.  His shooting percentage has fallen well off of late.  Allen can limit Singler, but Allen needs to avoid the dumb fouls that will force him to the bench.

KEYS TO THE GAME

  • Push It: In the first game I said Tech had to keep the game in the 70s or less.  I was wrong.  VT needs to attack, to be unafraid to run at these guys.  duke is deep and talented, but VT has plenty of bodies, too, if they need rest.  VT is 12-1 this season when scoring 75 or more points, and duke has averaged giving up over 81 points in their five losses.  If you take it to duke, they can get rattled, too.  And if Smith is out for duke, they lose their best setup man to their uptempo offense.  But duke is #1 in the ACC in scoring defense, so sticking it to them is easier said than done.
  • Attack their Guards: When Smith and Paulus are both on the bench, duke does not have a true point guard on the court.  While Tech is unlikely to press, they can do what they did against nc state — extend man pressure out to half court.  Force Scheyer or Williams to pick up their dribble 30-40 feet from the basket.  This can slow duke’s offense down with feeds off of penetration and kicking the ball out.
  • Wrap it up: duke is #1 in the ACC in turnover margin in conference play (by far).  VT needs to protect the ball and limit giveaways.  duke really doesn’t jump out in any other stat.  They win with solid fundamentals and intensity.  As I said to begin this article, Tech should have the intensity with their postseason life on the line, but they also must play sound, smart basketball and protect the ball.
  • Rotate: duke may be the best team in the country at penetrating and kicking the ball out for open threes.  If Tech gets beaten off the dribble, and they have been quite often this season, others will have to help to stop the driver (often another player guarding a perimeter player).  That means the other remaining players have to identify the open perimeter players and rotate out to get a hand in their face.  The down side of this is often you lose who you were supposed to check on the defensive glass…
  • Party of Five on the Glass: All five players on the floor for the Hokies must help on the defensive glass.  duke spreads you out and likes to shoot from deep.  That means long rebounds and often switching defenders.  The Hokies must do a good job of finding someone to block out on shots and limiting the blue devils to one attempt. 
  • Pump and Go: duke’s trademark is a very aggressive half court defense.  They run at you very hard, sometimes out of control.  Tech’s perimeter players, if they use a pump fake, can get duke players coming out them to fly by and then penetrate the lane.  The Hokies can then hit pull up jumpers, pass to a sliding perimeter player on the opposite wing for a three, or go at the hoop and hopefully draw a foul.  Scheyer is duke’s weakest defender.  If Jon and A.D. are matched up, expect big numbers for both, though I expect Gerald Henderson, duke’s best athlete, will match up with Vassallo.
  • Matchups or Mismatchups?:  Henderson and Singler will present real challenges to VT to guard.  If Thorns is in, that means Tech will have to put Allen on Singler and possibly Thompson/Bell/Hudson on Henderson.  Delaney is probably too small to guard Henderson.
  • If it Feels Good, Keep Doing it: In the second half of the game at duke, Tech forgot what was working — penetrating the duke defense to get midrange jumpers.  The offense became stagnant and the Hokies were settling for contested shots.  The Hokies must keep driving, as well as running multiple screens to get their perimeter players open.  Also, when duke goes small, Allen can take these guys in the low post.  Feed him the ball.

Posted in 2008-09 Season, Game Previews, Games3 Comments

Game Film | Hokies 80, #12/13 tigers 77 | 2.25.09

Recap | Breakdown | Box Score

Posted in 2008-09, 2008-09 Season, Games, Highlights3 Comments

Game Recap | Hokies (17-10, 7-6) 80, tigers (22-5, 8-5) 77

Box Score

The Hokies finally got a close game to go their way with a gritty 80-77 win against clemson Wednesday night in South Carolina. Malcolm Delaney struggled early, shooting just 2 of 7, but he kept shooting until he found his groove and went on to lead Tech with 26 points.

A.D. Vassallo added 21 points, and in doing so he moved into 10th place on Virginia Tech’s all-time scoring list. Hank Thorns made his first start of the season and played extremely well in helping the Hokies break the clemson press, giving Delaney more room to find open shots on the wing. In all, 10 Hokies scored.

Jeff Allen struggled offensively, but led the team with 8 rebounds, including a crucial defensive board with 1:09 to play with Tech leading 78-75. Allen was just 2/11 from the field and 1/4 from the free throw line for 5 points — his third lowest point total of the season.

Allen picked up his fourth foul with 10 minutes left in the game and Victor Davila came in and played brilliantly, giving back everything clemson’s bigs were dishing out. He only scored 4 points, but they were key buckets. Davila helped the Hokies maintain their low-post presence, forcing the tigers to tighten up inside, which gave the rest of the Hokies some better looks from the perimeter. Victor also added 5 rebounds.

The Hokies grabbed an early 5-2 lead before the tigers used a 12-2 run to take a 7-point lead, 7-14, but that’s as big a lead as either team would see in the game. Tech came back to tie the game at 16, and from there it was a seesaw battle the rest of the first half. Trailing 32-37, Dorenzo Hudson drained a trey with 50 seconds to play. Clemson added a free throw to take a 35-38 lead into the break.

The Hokies came roaring out in the second half behind four big three pointers from Delaney and Vassallo who had two each. clemson opened with a pair of foul shots for a 35-40 lead before Delaney answered with a trey. Trevor Booker got a tip-in to put clemson up 38-42, but then the Hokies got five quick points from a Delaney three and then a Thorns steal and fast break layup to put the Hokies on top 43-42.

Tech surrendered the lead again, falling behind 43-47. But then Vassallo stepped up with two big long distance bombs to push the Hokies back to a 49-49 tie with 15:50 to play. For the next nine minutes the lead changed hands seven times and there were three ties. The Hokies finally grabbed the lead for good with 6:44 to play, but it wasn’t without drama (what else is new).

The Hokies were in complete control of the game and had a 68-61 lead with 9:21 to play. Delaney had just hit a pair of free throws, and the tigers just couldn’t solve the Hokies stingy defense. But as we have come to expect in every Tech game, the Hokies went without a FG for nearly three minutes and allowed clemson to come back and tie the game 68.

Despite the nearly three-minute drought, which is actually pretty short compared some of the other scoreless stretches we’ve seen this season, Tech managed to regain its composure and retook the lead on a Delaney foul shot.

The game came down to the final seconds. Tech had a 78-75 lead when Jeff Allen missed a wide open layup on the baseline. K.C. Rivers pulled down the board and fed Booker for the fast break layup to cut Tech’s lead to one, 78-77, with 22 seconds left.

On the ensuing inbounds play for Tech, clemson did not foul immediately and instead let 8 seconds run off the clock before fouling Vassallo. A.D. hit both free throws to give Tech an 80-77 lead. The tigers took the ball upcourt, but couldn’t get a good look for a trey to tie the game thanks to Tech’s D. Demontez Stitt took the three at the buzzer but missed. There was a lot of contact on the shot, but the official did not blow the whistle and the game ended with the Hokies 80-77 winners.

It was yet another physical ACC game that left both sides exhausted. Tech returns to Blacksburg to host the dookies Saturday night at the Cassell. Tip-off is scheduled for 3:30 p.m. and will be broadcast on ABC. The Hokies are looking to avenge their worst loss of the season, in which they were torched on dook’s home floor, 44-69 in what is undoubtedly Tech’s worst game of the season. Can you say “payback?”

Posted in 2008-09 Season, Game Recaps, Games, Home1 Comment

Preview | VT (16-10, 6-6) @ #13 clemson (22-4, 8-4) | Wed., 7:30 PM | ESPN2

THE SETUP

Spread: clemson by 10 1/2 (ouch – obviously Vegas doesn’t realize how close these games usually are… and doesn’t care)

Rerun of an article from before the first meeting: The Opposing View 

If the Hokies are again left out of the NCAA Tournament this year, they are going to look back at one point in time as to why they are headed to the Junior Prom: the 16:30 mark of the second half against clemson on January 29th.  At that time, VT led 63-48 over the highly ranked #12 tigers.  Tech stood at 4-1 in conference and were about to enter the “easy” part of their schedule.   A win would have put the Hokies at 5-1 with five winnable games against teams in the bottom half of the ACC upcoming.

After that point, clemson went on an 18-0 over the next seven minutes.  Tech would regain the lead in the final three minutes, but were unable to get key stops down the stretch and lost 86-82.

 You could easily argue that the Hokies have been in a tailspin ever since, losing five of their last seven games (including that game) and were lucky as heck to have won the nc state game after trailing by 18 in the second half.  Tech has had their opportunities, but just have not been able to finish games at the end.  And they were blown out in their last two road games against teams no where near as good as clemson.

The Hokies no longer have any margin for error.  If they want to get to the NCAA Tournament, they have to win either this game or the game at florida state, and steal either the unc or duke game at home.  Plus, they will have to win at least their First Round match-up in the ACC Tournament and maybe even win in the Quarterfinals.  It is time to put up or shut up.  No Greenberg plea to the NCAA Committee will mean anything if the Hokies don’t start winning games.

Of Note: A.D. Vassallo will move into 10th place on the VT all time scoring list with six points in this game.

THE SERIES

When the Hokies and tigers play you know one thing – the game is going to come right down to the wire.  Greenberg joked before the first meeting that whomever led with 30 seconds to go was going to lose.   Unfortunately, he was wrong.

For more on the series since VT joined the ACC, check out Wick’s article from three weeks ago (before the last game): Hokies and tigers: An instant classic

  • All-Time: 10-10 (georgia tech is the only ACC team VT has a winning record against all time)
  • At clemson: 4-5
  • In the ACC: 2-5
  • Streak: clemson — 4 in a row

Last Meeting: In the first half, the Hokies absolutely torched clemson’s full court trapping press.  Tech committed three early turnovers against it, but then started finding easy bucket after easy dunk after easy wide-open three.   The result was a 53-44 halftime lead, Tech’s largest first half output of the season.  Malcolm Delaney had 22 points in the first half alone, including a 3/4 court shot at the buzzer.

The second half saw the Hokies build their lead back up to 15 as I mentioned above but then the wheels came off.  The tigers stopped pressing, something they never do, and forced the Hokies to beat them in the half court set.  clemson went on an 18-0 and went on to win the game.

The key for clemson was their three point shooting.  The tigers hit 14/25 from long range (an astounding 56%), including 7/10 from K.C. Rivers, the Hokie-killer.  He is the guy that hit the shot in Blacksburg to give clemson a win over the Hokies in the final regular season game of 2007 that cost the Hokies a share of the ACC regular season title and the #1 seed in the tourney.  In other words, he loves Blacksburg.  He had 29 points in the game.

Inside, Trevor Booker dominated as expected.  He had 21 points and 13 rebounds.  Tech really struggles with big, athletic low post players, and Booker is as good as you will see in the ACC.

Delaney added 15 more points in the second half, giving him 37 for the game which is still the season high in the ACC and the most points ever scored by a Hokie in an ACC game.  He was 11/17 from the floor and 6/10 on threes.  But, it was all for not in a losing cause.

Click ‘Read more’ to see the rest of the preview…

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Posted in 2008-09 Season, Game Previews, Games0 Comments

The Balla Report 2/22/09

The Heartbreak Kids, otherwise known as the Virginia Tech Hokies men’s hoops team, were back in action on Saturday night, and wouldn’t you know it, yet another gut wrenching, rip your heart out and stomp it defeat. This time 67-65 at the hands of the florida state seminoles. And this one really hurt. The game of basketball is a game of inches and they say everything evens out eventually. That being said, with the Hokies down by two on the final possession, I’ve never in my life had more confidence in one shot going in than when A.D. Vassallo launched that three from the top of the key. Reality struck when the ball hit nothing but the back of the rim as the final horn sounded. Another game, another heartbreaking loss. Though this one seemed a bit more cruel than the others. This was a must win and the Hokies appeared to have put themselves in perfect position to bring home the all important W.

To say that the ball just doesn’t seem to be bouncing our way this season would be the understatement of the year. Kind of like saying the economy is not very good right now. With the roles reversed, give any other player on any other team on Tech’s schedule the open look at the buzzer that A.D. had and you just KNOW that sucker is going in, much to the dismay of Hokies everywhere. Give credit to Greenberg for drawing up the play to get an open look. The execution was flawless, with the one obvious exception.

The amazing thing is that this team continues to battle. The second half against fsu was a very gutsy performance just to get back into the contest. With 25 points, including 5-8 from 3-point land, Malcolm Delaney showed that he is out of his recent shooting slump, which is certainly somewhat of a silver lining in an otherwise devastating defeat.

For the first time in his coaching career, a team coached by Seth Greenberg opened up in a zone. Interesting move, but to say this move backfired would be yet another humongous understatement. As usual, a team that had been a statistically poor shooting team coming in, shot lights out. Before you knew it, the Hokies were down 25-11 and clearly looked like they hadn’t yet recovered from back to back road losses to maryland and uva.

Zones have worked throughout this season when used from time to time during games to stem opponents’ runs. For some reason though, the Hokies didn’t show the fire defensively that they did after they eventually settled back into their man to man. My guess is that this will be the one and only time that you see the Hokies open in a zone under Greenberg.

Outside of back to back wins over duke and unc and stealing a win on the road in rematches versus clemson or fsu, the Hokies are the longest of long shots now for the NCAA Tournament. The good news is that it’s right there in front of them. If they want to get in, they can certainly go out and earn it, however much the odds are stacked against it. Three games in a row against top 10 teams is a golden opportunity for a team searching to show they belong in the field. But how can they possibly muster up the mojo to have a shot at any of these games?

Anything besides a blowout loss at clemson on Wednesday night would be a total shock to me at this point. But on the other hand, if there is one team that is all too experienced at recovering from these types of losses, it’s the Hokies. If there is one thing that’s been shown this season, it’s when the Hokies are at full strength they can compete with any other team. Will things finally start to even out for the Hokies and their much distraught fans? Or will this team continue to be snake bitten? The season’s not over and there is still a chance, however small that chance may be.

Posted in 2008-09 Season, Featured Columns, Games, Home, The Balla Report5 Comments

Recap | noles (21-6, 8-4) 67, Hokies (16-10, 6-6) 65

Box Score

fsu senior guard Toney Douglas hit a runner in the lane with 6.2 seconds remaining to lead the noles to a 67-65 win at the Cassell on Saturday night. Malcolm Delaney, who was guarding Douglas, tried to fight off a screen at the top of the key, but Douglas decided to dribble away from the screen which allowed him to beat Delaney to the lane for the game winning shot. The Hokies did have a legit chance to win it at the buzzer, but A.D. Vassallo’s three-ball at the top of the key hit the back iron. Game over. Hokies lose their third in a row.

The hangover from the uva game lingered into the first half of tonight’s game as the Hokies got off to a horrible shooting start. 10 minutes into the game, Tech was down 25-11. Finally, the Orange & Maroon caught fire, specifically Malcolm Delaney. As Niemo put it earlier this week, VT will live by Delaney and die by Delaney. Malcolm scored 13 of the next 22 points, but the Hokies still trailed by 10 at the break.

fsu executed their offense to near perfection in the first half. They made 8 of 19 threes, including a prayer by Derwin Kitchen as he almost fell out of bounds. Afraid he was going to be called for a travel as he stumbled (or was pushed) towards the Hokie bench, Kitchen hurled the rock toward the basket and hit nothing but net. In the end, that shot was the difference. Kitchen ended up with a career high of 19 points on 8 of 11 shooting (3 of 3 from behind the arc).

The Hokies picked up where they left off in the first half by shooting the ball well in the second, especially from three point range. The noles finally cooled down, and Tech used an 11-2 run to even things back up. Malcolm Delaney’s three pointer with 14:18 left gave Tech its first lead since 3-2. It didn’t last for long though. At the 9:03 mark, Tech held a 51-47 lead, but couldn’t keep the noles down any longer. fsu turned to their senior stud, Toney Douglas, to halt the Hokie run. Douglas scored 12 of his 22 points in the final 6 and a half minutes, including the game winner, to stun Hokie nation once again.

Jeff Allen returned to the lineup after his one game suspension, and came out on fire as he nailed a three-pointer. Allen was really hustling on both ends of the court, scoring 12 and hauling in 11 boards. A.D. Vassallo scored 15 and is now 5 points away from cracking Tech’s all-time Top 10 scoring list.

Next up for Tech is a trip down to clemson on Wednesday night to face the 13th-ranked tigers. clemson has won 4 in a row against the Hokies, including a 86-82 win at the Cassell less than one month ago. Game time is 7:30pm. TV is ESPN2.

Posted in 2008-09 Season, Game Recaps, Home3 Comments

Preview | fsu (20-6, 7-4) @ VT (16-9, 6-5) | Sat., 8 PM

THE SETUP

This is all the setup you need: Virginia Tech must win this game to keep alive any hope of going to the NCAA Tournament.

BONUS, LESS DRAMATIC SETUP

Spread: VT by 3

Note: This game is on CSN+ (Channel 77) for you NOVA Comcast subscribers.

History Watch: With 20 points tonight, A.D. Vassallo will move into the Top 10 on the all time Virginia Tech scoring list. He currently sits in 12th place with 1,636 points. He will pass two Matthews, Bill (11th) and Bryant (10th), in the next game or so.

The Hokies, having just pooped the bed during their “easy” five game stretch of ACC games, now enter the murderous part of their schedule.  In their final five games, Tech faces the #18, #8, #5, #3, and #18 teams in the RPI.  That’s fsu, @clemson, duke, unc, and @fsu.  Not exactly the uva and georgia tech’s of the world.  This game coming up is by far the most winable.  florida state is good, but certainly the least talented of the four teams Tech has left to play.  Plus, this game is at home, and barring any last minute surprises, VT will have their whole roster at their disposal for the entire game.

The Hokies need to go 3-2 to finish the regular season.  That might be enough to get them into the Big Dance based on the number of quality wins that would give VT.  And if Tech wants to entertain any thoughts of going 3-2 to close the regular season, they have to win this game.  Even if they do win this one, they will likely have to steal either the duke or unc game at home.

THE SERIES

  • All-Time: 17-22
  • At Cassell: 11-6
  • In ACC Play: 2-3
  • Streaks: The home team has won all five games in this series since VT joined the ACC
LINEUPS
Virginia Tech 

Position

Player

Height

PPG

Year

Point Guard

23 – Delaney

6′3″

18.3

So

Shooting Guard

5 – Hudson

6′5″

3.8

So

Small Forward/Wing

40 – Vassallo

6′6″

18.5

Sr

Power Forward

0 – Allen

6′7″

14.5

So

Center

34 – Diakite

6′9″

3.9

Sr

Bench

1 – Bell

6′6″

2.5

So

 

10 – Thorns

5′9″

2.7

So

 

14 – Davila

6′8″

3.9

Fr

 

21 – Witcher

6′9″

2.1

Jr

33 – Thompson

 6’6″ 5.3 So 

fsu

Position

Player

Height

PPG

Year

Guard

23 – Douglas

6′2″

20.5

Sr

Guard

22 – Kitchen

6′4″

7.3

So

Forward

31 – Singleton

6′9″

8.0

Fr

Forward

41 – Echefu

6′9″

8.8

Sr

Center

32 – Alabi

7’1″

8.0

Fr

Bench

1 – Gibson

6’11″

2.3

Fr

 

2 – DeMercy

6’7″

3.8

So

 

3 – Loucks

6’5″

3.7

Fr

 

4 – Dulkys

6′5″

4.0

Fr

 

42 – Reid

6’8″

5.4 Jr

THE OPPONENT

Four things to watch for from florida state:

  • They are tall
  • They are athletic
  • They LOVE to shoot the three (almost all of them)
  • They are the Toney Douglas show

The seminoles are an odd mix — they are very young and veteran at the same time.  They start two seniors and three players that are in their first year at florida state (Derwin Kitchen originally was slated to go to florida before ending up at iowa western community college).  Their bench is also very young except for Ryan Reid.

fsu presents match-up nightmares for opponents due to their size.  They will run five big men that are 6’8″ or taller at you, similar to wake forest.  In the VT/wake game, Tech neutralized this by getting the deacon big men in foul trouble, or beat up, early. 

Just like wake and Jeff Teague, fsu has a tremendous combo guard in Toney Douglas.  Douglas averaged almost 17 points as a freshman and is just 35 points away from 2000 in his career.  He is the only nole averaging in double digits, scoring 20 a game, good for second in the ACC.  Toney is a streaky shooter from deep.  He is currently on a cold streak, having hit just 9 of his last 36 threes in his last six games.  Let’s hope the cold Blacksburg weather keeps his shot icy.

Even though Douglas has been struggling from deep of late, he has averaged 23.5 ppg over those six games.  He is tremendously quick and can beat teams up the court if the guards don’t fall back.  He is next to impossible to stop on the drive.  As with Rice of bc, he will get his points.  In fact, his biggest scoring nights are often in fsu losses.  He only had two points in a win against rival florida and the last two times he’s scored 30 or more, the noles lost.  The key is to limit the fsu big men.

The difference between wake and fsu is the noles’ big men are no where near as talented as wake’s.  Chris Singleton is a very athletic freshman who will be a star in this league, especially once Douglas’ shots are gone next year.  But he likes to wander out on the perimeter and shoot threes.  He is 24/77 on the season from deep.  He reminds me of James Johnson of wake last year in this respect — a talented big man who hasn’t yet figured out he needs to be inside.  On the offensive glass, or in transition, Singleton can dunk with the best of them.  Tech must box him out.

Uche Echefu is another big man who is better facing the basket than with his back to it.  He has also tried almost 50 threes on the season.  While Uche is not extremely physical, he is an excellent foul shooter, hitting 83% (even better than Douglas’ 80%). 

Soloman Alabi is a big body inside.  At 7’1″, he can be a shot blocking force.  His 2.1 blocks per game is #2 in the ACC.  Most of his points will come on the offensive glass or when teams overcommit to Douglas and leave him wide open inside.  Tech has had an issue with switches of late, so this could be an issue.

The final starter is Derwin Kitchen.  Despite being their “shooting guard”, he is seventh on the team in three-point attempts.  He has shot just 20 on the season.  He is more of a what I call a filler — similar to Dorenzo Hudson.  You have to have five guys on the court, so there you go.  He is a decent defender.  But he is not strong on the dribble on offense.  He will pick and choose his shots carefully. 

Off the bench, Dulkys, Loucks, and DeMercy all like to stroke it from deep.  None of them shoot particularly well though.  Reid is an energy guy to rest some of the other big men.

Overall, fsu is not an offensive juggernaut.  They are ninth in the ACC in points per game in ACC play.  But with their size, they are very stout on defense.  Their 68.2 ppg against and 41% FG%-Defense are both good for second in the ACC (not good considering VT’s struggles against two of the worst defenses in the ACC).   This game will likely be a low scoring, drag-it-out type game. 

KEYS TO THE GAME:

D the 3, then Box Out: fsu attempts 20 threes per game.  They hit less than 30% of them in ACC play, second worst in the league.  That means a lot of misses.  The noles don’t care since they are so tall, they are counting on getting offensive rebounds.  Tech has given up more than their fair share of second chances of late.  The Hokies must go out and defend everyone but Alabi on the perimeter and get a hand in their face, then find a body to block out and put a butt on them.  Once the shot is up, it all comes down to desire — The Hokies have to want that ball.  Despite their size, fsu actually has a negative rebounding margin in ACC play.  Tech must out work and position the noles.

Pray for Whistles: I forget what that awful whistle rap song of a few years ago was, but whistles on Saturday will likely be music to my ears.  With fsu’s length, you have to hope the officials call a tight game, especially on over-the-back calls on the boards.  If the refs let them play, fsu might get a lot of second chance points.  Plus, when VT drives, foul calls instead of blocked shots can help get their bigs on the bench.  Let’s just hope the whistles aren’t 80 feet from the basket and on Jeff Allen.

Urgency but not Pressure: Like I said, this is all but a must win for VT.  It is not for fsu.  Tech has to come out and play like their season is on the line.  They have to fight and claw for every 50/50 ball.  They have to play with intensity.  But they can’t stress out.  It is just one game.  Putting too much pressure can lead to missed assignments or forcing shots.  Play hard, leave it all on the line, and let the chips fall where they may.

Live by Delaney: Malcolm has been in a shooting slump of late.  If he misses his first couple of shots, he needs to find other ways to score — either by finding his runner to avoid the fsu big men, or getting fouled in transition.  With the size of the noles inside, let’s hope he can hit an early three.

Dunkin’ Donut: Jeff Allen needs to play this game with a chip on his shoulder.  He needs to come out and say I’m sorry to his teammates for missing the uva game.  He will be key to VT getting boards and scoring inside.  He has to attack the fsu big men, and if he can hit an early three, he will force them to come out on the perimeter and help open the lane for Delaney and Vassallo.

Greatest VT/fsu Moment:

The famous “Henson Heave” by Les Henson. An 89’3″ world record shot to win the game at florida state on 1/21/80 by a 79-77 score.

Posted in 2008-09 Season, Game Previews, Games1 Comment

Game Recap | cavs (9-13, 3-8) 75, Hokies (16-9, 6-5) 61

Box Score

The Hokies, sans leading rebounder Jeff Allen, fell on the road to in-state rival virginia, 61-75. Allen was suspended from the game after flipping his own version of the (Hokie) bird to Maryland fans last Saturday. As a result, the Hokies gave up some serious height in the middle and were subsequently outrebounded by the cavs, 37-38.

Although the absence of Allen handicapped the Hokies, it was their poor shooting that ultimately led to their demise. Tech shot just 36 percent from the field (22/60) and a paltry 4/19 from behind the arc (21 percent). A.D. Vassallo led the Hokies with 21 points, 8 boards and 3 blocks (tied a career high). Malcolm Delaney added 11 points, 10 from J.T. Thompson and 9 from Cheick Diakite, who had another solid performance including a team-high 9 rebounds. Thompson played 33 minutes and Diakite 28 minutes in Allen’s absence, but it wasn’t enough to fill his shoes.

The cavs were led by Sylven Landesberg with 19 points, but the Hokies managed to contain uva’s 7-foot freshman Assane Sene holding him to just 4 points and 4 rebounds, though he did have two blocks. Landesberg also led the hoos with 20 points in their Jan. 10, 78-75 loss to the Hokies in Blacksburg.

Tech hung tough early on, even without Allen and led 16-10 with 13:44 to play in the first half, but the wahoos came back to retake the lead. The Hokies kept it close and tied the game at 29 on a pair of Vassallo free throws with 3:45 to play. Then Tech went ice cold from the field and the hoos reeled off a 10-0 run to take a 29-39 halftime lead, which they would never give up. At one point in the second half, the cavs led by 19 points when they surged ahead 60-41.

The Hokies managed to whittle the lead down to eight with 2:33 to play in the game when Terrell Bell drained his only bucket, a trey, to cut the lead to 67-59. But that’s as close as Tech would get as the hoos snapped their three-game losing streak to the Hokies. Last weekend, the terps snapped their three-game losing streak to Tech as well.

Next up for the Hokies is a home game against fsu (20-6, 7-4), which spanked miami tonight, 80-67. The last time the Hokies and noles faced off, the Hokies won 89-80 in Blacksburg on Jan. 29, 2008.

The Hokies had an opportunity to put themselves in a good position for an NCAA Tournament bid, but with back-to-back losses to two of the worst teams in the ACC and playing their last five games against the top half of the conference, it will be an uphill battle for Seth Greenberg and company.

Tech stands at 6-5 in conference play. They need at least a 9-7 conference record to get even a sniff at a tourney bid. That means they need to win three of their final five games, beginning with fsu this weekend. Tech has Clemson on the road, which will be an extremely tough game to pull out, but not impossible. The Hokies return to the Cassell to host unc and then duke. The tar heels are virtually a lock for a No. 1 seed in the tournament and there’s a good chance that they might look past the Hokies, who have shown they are more than capable of knocking off the heels.

And of course Tech will have the revenge factor against dook which laid a serious beat down on the Hokies earlier this season. Tech closes the season with a road trip to fsu where the Hokies haven’t won since 1990 (five straight losses).

The way Tech has played the last two games doesn’t really provide Hokie fans with a great deal of enthusiasm heading down the stretch, but if they can pull it together, they have a shot to finish 9-7 and make a run in the ACC tournament.

Random Note:
There was a wahoo fan holding up a sign that read, “Hey A.D.! Can you spell unrated?” First, I believe the word for which he was looking is “overrated.” Second, A.D. dropped 21 points on virginia and led all scorers, so perhaps targeting A.D. wasn’t the wisest decision. Just sayin.

Posted in 2008-09 Season, Game Recaps, Games, Home0 Comments

Preview | VT (16-8, 6-4) @ uva (8-13, 2-8) | Wed., 8 PM | Raycom

THE SETUP

Spread: uva by 1 (thanks to the Allen suspension)

The Hokies will be without their third leading scorer, leading rebounder, leading shot blocker, and steals leader on Wednesday night.  Jeff Allen was suspended for one game after flipping the maryland student section the Hokie Bird on his way to the bench after fouling out Saturday. 

Big deal.  This is all but a must win for the Hokies and means nothing to uva other than for pride.  If the Hokies are truly a NCAA Tournament team, they will find a way to beat the 11th place ACC team, even on the road.  While uva did upset clemson on their home court Sunday, they had lost eight straight before that.  They are, not good.  Tech would have soundly beaten the hoos at home if it hadn’t been for Mustapha Farrakhan’s* out of body experience at the end.  Still, VT won 78-75. 

The Hokies can also draw some confidence in this situation from last season.  Tech headed to bc to face one of the bottom feeders in January of 2008 without a suspended Jeff Allen and came away with a victory in overtime.  VT needs to come out and take care of business before they start their challenging five game stretch to close the regular season.

* Farrakhan scored 15 points in the final five minutes of the game in Blacksburg.  In the eight games since then, he has only scored 14 total points in 79 minutes.  He hit four three-pointers and converted all three free throws after being fouled on a three in the first meeting.  He is 2/16 from long range since.

THE SERIES

  • All-Time: 50-78
  • At uva: 11-30 (had not won at uva since 1968 — 9 straight losses — until last year
  • In ACC Play: 5-5
  • Streaks: VT has won 3 in a row and 4 of 5
  • VT has not won 4 in a row against uva since 1967-69
LINEUPS
Virginia Tech 

Position

Player

Height

PPG

Year

Point Guard

23 – Delaney

6′3″

18.6

So

Shooting Guard

5 – Hudson

6′5″

3.7

So

Small Forward/Wing

40 – Vassallo

6′6″

18.4

Sr

Power Forward

33 – Thompson

6′6″

4.9

So

Center

34 – Diakite

6′9″

3.9

Sr

Bench

1 – Bell

6′6″

2.5

So

 

10 – Thorns

5′9″

2.7

So

 

14 – Davila

6′8″

3.9

Fr

 

21 – Witcher

6′9″

2.1

Jr

* Allen is suspended

     

virginia

Position

Player

Height

PPG

Year

Point Guard

23 – Jones

6′4″

6.0

So

Shooting Guard

4 – Baker

6′2″

7.5

Jr

Wing

15 – Landesberg

6′6″

18.0

Fr

Power Forward

32 – Scott

6′8″

10.8

So

Center

5 – Sene

7’0″

2.9

Fr

Bench

2 – Farrakhan

6’4″

4.7

So

 

12 – Tucker

6’9″

7.8

Jr

 

13 – Zeglinski

6’0″

9.7

Fr

 

24 – Diane

6′5″

4.2

Sr

 

45 – Tat

6’5″

0.7 Jr

THE OPPONENT

uva does not shoot well and does not defend well.  Recipe for disaster, right?  That’s how you end up 2-8 in conference.  The cavs are 12th in the ACC in field goal percentage on defense and offense, and 11th in the ACC in three-point field goal percentage on offense or defense.  They are 10th in scoring offense and last in scoring defense in ACC play. 

uva does shoot free throws well.  So Tech must make uva hit contested shots instead of fouling them, especially Landesberg who is great at getting to the line.

All Landesberg has done, as a true freshman no less, is average 18.0 ppg, good for seventh in the league.  Like most of uva, Sylven is not a threat from deep.  He has hit just nine three-pointers.  Most of his damage comes from the foul line.  He will attack the lane and throw himself at a low post defender to draw contact.  Even as a freshman, he has been able to get the calls. Tech needs to do as Greenberg said earlier in the year: shut down driving lanes so Sylven can’t get to the low post guys and is forced to pass the ball.  At 6’6″, Sylven can shoot over smaller defenders, but Bell and Hudson should be able to match up with his size.

Just like under singletary, the wahoos want to force the tempo to try and get easy shots to compensate for their deficiencies in the half court and on defense.  uva has been able to jump out to early leads in some of their games as teams adjust to uva’s game speed.  Tech must be ready from the get-go, something that has been a problem the last two years, and Tech must get back on defense from the start.

Inside, Mike Scott is uva’s rebounding machine.  He is second in the ACC in offensive rebounds per game (3.6) and tied for ninth overall in the conference with 7.8 total rpg.  scott is third on the team in scoring at 11.3 ppg.

Calvin Baker is now starting over Zeglinski.  The former walk-on likes to penetrate.  He will settle for bad long range shots though if he is kept on the perimeter.

Off the bench, uva’s offense is led from the point by redshirt freshman Sammy Zeglinski.  sammy is very quick and loves to push the ball.  He averages almost 10 ppg, andleads the hoos in threes with 31.  His scoring has fallen way off in ACC play though.  Jamil Tucker averages around 8 ppg.  Tucker is a hot/cold shooter from deep and likes to pull the trigger.  The Hokies must find him in transition.

The biggest disappointment for uva this year has been mamadi diane.  The senior has fallen from 11.8 ppg last season, to 4.2 ppg this year, his lowest average of any season.  He missed his first 21 attempts of the season from long range!  He has not even played in uva’s last three games.

KEYS TO THE GAME:

The Dynamic Duo instead of the Big 3.  uva is not strong on defense.  Delaney and Vassallo combined for 53 points in the first meeting (Allen had just three points).  Their guards are not good at stopping penetration, and can be beaten on the break.  Tech needs to get out and run when they can and use J.T. Thompson’s athleticism to get some easy buckets.  Delaney can beat their guards off the dribble.  He needs to let the game come to him and use his ability to penetrate to later help set up open looks from long range for him and Vassallo. 

Replacing the Dunking Donut.  If Delaney and Vassallo can have another big game, Tech won’t need a lot of offense from the interior Hokies.  Davila is a talented post player on offense but has struggled on defense, letting opposing big men catch the ball too close to the hoop.  J.T. Thompson will be giving up size on the inside to Mike Scott.  Tech must find a way to limit Scott with the combination of Witcher, Thompson, and Davila.  Whomever gives VT the best effort on defense likely will see the most minutes.

Ten Eyes on Sylven.  Landesberg is very tough to guard one-on-one.  He loves to push the ball in transition and get to the rack before the other defenders have even turned around and knew what hit him.  Limit his run-outs and force him to pull the ball out.  In the half court, he is not a danger from behind the arc, so whoever is guarding him (likely Hudson or Bell since Thompson will have to be inside) can back off him.  Once he starts to drive, the other defenders have to be ready to help and cut off the lane for him.  Force him to pass.  If he does pass…

Watch out for Scott.  Mike burned the Hokies for 16 points in the first meeting and had 18 against clemson on Sunday.  He is strong around the rack.  The Hokies need to do a better job of preventing him from setting up in the low post and getting the ball on the low block.  He’s tough to stop there.  Also, Mike is a good offensive rebounder.  Tech needs to get a body on him and be ready to shift to him if Landesberg drives.

Sene in Senegal means “can’t go right”.  Assane Sene is a left-handed low post player for uva.  In the first meeting, Tech kept letting him catch the ball in the low post and go to his left handed hook shot.  This is the ONLY move he has.  Don’t let him go left, and he’s useless.

Posted in 2008-09 Season, Game Previews, Games0 Comments

Jeff Allen Suspended for the virginia Game

The Hokies leading rebounder, Jeff Allen, has been suspended for Wednesday night’s road game against the virginia cavaliers. The suspension is a result of Allen giving the maryland fans the finger after he fouled out of the Hokies 73-83 loss on Saturday. J.J. Thompson will start in Allen’s place.

Posted in 2008-09 Season, Games4 Comments

The Balla Report 2/15/09

In the ACC, if you don’t come ready to play when you hit the road, then you can usually expect to head home with a loss. Teams in this league are just too good to just show up and beat, whether they be teams at the bottom of the standings or a middle of the pack team like the maryland terrapins. Look no further than yesterday in College Park. With the exception of reserve Lewis Witcher (8 points), no member of the Hokies showed up at the Comcast Center with anything remotely resembling their “A” game. The terps, on the other hand, were clearly inspired by the presence of the old Lefthander and the rest of the 1984 ACC championship maryland team, who were honored at halftime. The result was an 83-73 loss to the turtles.

The Hokies continue to struggle on the boards and are giving up way too many second and third opportunities. The terrapins came into yesterday’s game last in the league in rebounding margin (getting out-rebounded by an average of 3.9 a game), but kept alive several key possessions yesterday when the Hokies missed blocking out assignments or simply couldn’t secure the rebound. Tech is having a particularly difficult time keeping opposing guards off the offensive boards. 6-4 guard Sean Mosley had 3 offensive rebounds alone for the terps. In other recent games, state’s Courtney Fells, and clemson’s three-guard trio of K.C. Rivers, Demontez Stitt, and David Potter killed the Hokies on the offensive glass, and I don’t have to mention b.c. guard Rakim Sanders.

This trend has got to be corrected fast. There is nothing more frustrating in basketball than playing 35 seconds of good, tough defense only to give the opponent a mulligan because the rebound could not be secured. Granted, sometimes the ball is just going to bounce the wrong way, but if you do a good job of blocking out, getting a body on a body, then the odds of the ball bouncing your way is greatly increased.

The Hokies did manage to battle their way back into yesterday’s game by mixing up their defenses. About five minutes into the second half, Tech switched from their usual man to man to a 2-3 and then a 1-3-1 zone. The Hokies may have to rely on more zones down the stretch because they continue to struggle to get through opponents’ high ball screens. That was evident again yesterday as Greivis Vasquez and Eric Hayes had way too many wide open looks most of which they converted on.

Memo to Jeff Allen. Please remember that when you play in the ACC, most games are on television and there are cameras everywhere. So, next time you get the urge to flip off the maryland student section (not to say it wasn’t deserved) please keep this in mind.

Big Jeff also needs to distinguish, when he has the ball posted up down low, whether he has a pathway to drive to the basket or if he is just dribbling into traffic inviting either a turnover or offensive foul. Allen is a much greater weapon when he stays under control with his post up moves.

The Hokies get another chance to get back into the win column with a very important matchup with the uva cavaliers Wednesday night in Charlottesville. Tech can ill afford a loss if they want to keep their NCAA Tournament hopes alive. The wahoos are struggling, at 2-8 in conference, but will be coming into this game with great confidence following an overtime win over #12 clemson earlier today. This figures to be another tightly contested game despite the records.

This is a key week for the Hokies, in addition to Wednesday’s rivalry game with the hoos, Tech returns to the Cassell Saturday night with a pivotal game with the fsu seminoles who are currently sitting just out of the top 20 in the all important RPI. Tech needs to stay out of the “bad loss” category against uva and needs to get another “key win” against the noles. The Hokies have some things to work on in practice leading up to these games. Hopefully the Hokies come focused and ready to take care of business.

Posted in 2008-09 Season, Featured Columns, Home, The Balla Report0 Comments

Game Recap | terps (16-8, 5-5) 83, Hokies (16-8, 6-4) 73

Box Score

The maryland terrapins jumped on the Hokies early and never looked back in an 83-73 home win over Virginia Tech. Only two Hokies scored in double figures; A.D. Vassallo led the way with 20 points and Malcolm Delaney added 16. Jeff Allen was held under double digits for just the fifth game this season – he had 8 points.

Tech did get some solid play from its bench, led by junior forward Lewis Witcher who had 8 points. The bench as a whole gave the Hokies 25 points and 12 rebounds. J.T. Thompson and Terrell Bell each added 7 points.

The terps are normally a poor three-point shooting team, but this afternoon they caught fire in the first half shooting 50 percent (4/8). At one point early in the second half, they were 6/10 from behind the arc. Their hot shooting, combined with hitting 24/26 free throws (92 percent), didn’t really give the Hokies much of a shot, especially considering Tech looked flat and was an abysmal 13/21 at the free throw line (61 percent).

It was clear the Hokies lacked focus and intensity and during Seth Greenberg’s post game comments, the coach was openly disappointed and critical of his team’s poor preparation saying that “we reap what we sow” and added that the team had two bad practices leading up to the maryland game. Greenberg also said that the team needs better on-court leadership.

As has been the theme throughout the past couple of seasons, a role player for the opposing team came out looking like a first-team All ACC candidate. This time it was Landon Milbourne, who usually averages about 12 points a game. He had 14 in the first half alone and finished with 23.

The Hokies got it to within three in the second half, but every time they got close, they would either get called for a travel, a foul or maryland would hit a ridiculous shot to steal the momentum. This was a must-win for the terps and their embattled coach, Gary Williams, who has been on the hot-seat most of the season. It would appear that his job is safe … for at least another week.

As for the Hokies, they return home for a couple of days of practice before heading up to Charlottesville on Wednesday to take on the cavaliers – the second worst team in the ACC. Tip-off is scheduled for 8 p.m. and as of right now, Wick, Niemo, BallaRob, Davey and Cope-acabana will all be in attendance at the game. We will be available for arm curls and autographs and will gladly accept free drinks.

Posted in 2008-09 Season, Game Recaps, Games2 Comments

Around the World (Wide Web) | Hokies’ Delaney Drawing Raves

This is a good article on Malcolm Delaney in the Washington Post.

Posted in 2008-09 Season, Around the World (Wide Web), Games, More0 Comments

Preview | VT (16-7, 6-3) @ md (15-8, 4-5) | Sat., 4 PM | Raycom

THE SETUP

Spread: maryland by 4

Note: DC area Hokies — the game is on FOX.  Ignore your on-screen guides if they say something else, Fox5 is carrying the game.

Some games mean more than others.  To me, this game means as much as any.  Being a NOVA guy my whole life, I just plain hate maryland (posted two years ago), especially the crab-dribblin’ terps.  I may hate uva, but at least they are Virginians.  Any time we get the chance to stick it to the “crab cakes and football” state, despite the fact maryland is about as big a football powerhouse as Rhode Island, I enjoy it. 


Niemo arm-curling Greivis Vasquez like a little baby (that badly needs some Proactive).  Note that maryland has not beaten VT since this happened in April of 2006.

This is a very big game for both teams.  With a loss, maryland is staring the NIT right in the face again and the rumblings about Gary Williams and “what have you done for me lately” will grow even louder.  The Hokies, meanwhile, have two road games this week before finishing the season with five games against teams currently ranked.  Plain and simple, Tech must win one of these next two road games to have a good shot of making the NCAA Tournament, considering their very difficult stretch to the finish line.  A ‘W’ on Saturday would put VT in great shape heading to hooville and the eight-losses-in-a-row wahoos.

Expect a fairly dead crowd on Saturday in the communist center in college park, because its Valentine’s Day, and because the terps are having a down season.  If VT can get off to a good start and build a lead, the crowd will turn on the home team.

THE SERIES

Half of Virginia Tech’s all-time wins against maryland have come since joining the ACC.  After starting 4-24 against the crab-dribblin’ terps, the Hokies have been on fire!  Add a 3-0 record in football against maryland since joining the ACC, and I think we all know who needs to fear whom.

The last three meetings between VT and the twerps have been defensive battles, with each team scoring in the 60s, and with VT wins in all three games by a total of just eight combined points.

  • All-Time: 8-25
  • At maryland: 3-15
  • In the ACC: 4-2
  • Streak: VT 3 in a row and 4 of 5
  • Last Year’s Meetings: The Hokies swept both games in dramatic fashion by a total of five points.  The win at maryland really turned VT’s season around.  After starting 5-3 in ACC play, the Hokies had lost three in a row and were behind by double-digits early in this game.  But with a spirited second half, the resulting victory launched Tech on a four-game winning streak that almost got them into the NCAA Tournament.
  • @md: VT 69, md 65  |  Game Film
  • @VT: VT 67, md 66  |  Game Film

LINEUPS

Virginia Tech

Position

Player

Height

PPG

Year

Point Guard

23 – Delaney

6′3″

18.7

So

Shooting Guard

5 – Hudson

6′5″

3.7

So

Small Forward/Wing

40 – Vassallo

6′6″

18.3

Sr

Power Forward

0 – Allen

6′7″

14.7

So

Center

34 – Diakite

6′9″

3.9

Sr

Bench

1 – Bell

6′6″

2.5

So

 

10 – Thorns

5′9″

2.7

So

 

14 – Davila

6′8″

3.9

Fr

 

21 – Witcher

6′9″

2.1

Jr

33 – Thompson

6’6″

4.8

So

maryland

Position

Player

Height

PPG

Year

Guard

5 – Hayes

6′4″

9.4

Jr

Guard

21 – Vasquez

6′6″

16.1

Jr

Wing

14 – Mosley

6′4″

5.3

Fr

Forward

1 – Milbourne

6′7″

12.5

Jr

Power Forward

35 – Neal

6′7″

7.5

Sr

Bench

4 – Dupree

6’8″

2.5

So

 

11 – Kim

6’7″

1.7

Fr

 

22 – Bowie

6’2″

9.9

So

 

24 – Tucker

6′6″

4.7

So

 

33 – Gregory

6’7″

 2.7 So

Hayes, a three-year starter from Woodbridge, VA, had been benched recently in favor of Adrian Bowie.  But Hayes got the nod in maryland’s last game, a one-point win at georgia tech.

THE OPPONENT AND KEYS TO THE GAME

  • ACC Tournament Titles: 3
  • Last Title: 2004 (only school other than duke or unc to win the ACC since 1996)

maryland’s Strengths:

  • We Can’t Shoot, But We Can Pass: (see below about their shooting)  The maryland guards do a good job of distributing the ball and finding open men.  They are second in the ACC in assists, despite being 10th in points per game.  You would expect that with a veteran backcourt — Hayes and Vasquez are junior three-year starters, and Bowie is a sophomore.
  • Little Turnover in the Back Court Equals Fewer Turnovers:  Similar to the above point, the maryland guards do a good job of protecting the ball.  They average just 13 turnovers per game, and are third in the ACC in Turnover Margin.

maryland’s Weaknesses:

  • Lack of Identity: The terps seem to play at the pace of their opponent.  Against unc and duke, they got into track meets and the results were not good.  maryland lost those two games by a combined 58 points, giving up 193 points total.  In other games, they get sucked into a half court game and struggle to find points. 
  • Can We Move the 3-Point Line Back?: maryland is 11th in ACC games in Field Goal Percentage (40%) and last in 3-Point Percentage (27%).  Sharp shooters Eric Hayes and Greivis “Proactiv” Vasquez have lost their stroke, especially GV.  He’s made just 30% on threes this year, and has gotten into arguments with his own fans, at one point talking about how much better VT fans were in terms of supporting their team.  The terps have been held to 60 or fewer points five times this season.  maryland is 10th in the ACC play in scoring as a result, and that includes 91 points in a 108-91 loss at unc.
  • Lack of Size: Last year the terps had Bambale Osby (similar body type to Jeff Allen but even more intense) and the long and athletic James Gist inside dominating the glass and blocking shots.  Both those guys are gone, and no one has come in to replace them.   Dave Neal looks like a beer league softball player inside, and he likes to play on the perimeter on offense.  Landon Milbourne is very talented, but lacks bulk.  He plays the four for maryland, but is very undersized there similar to when Deron Washington had to play the four for VT.  With this, maryland is dead last in ACC games in Rebounding Margin at -3.9.  In fact, Vasquez — a guard — is tied for the team lead in rebounds per game.
  • Lack of Athletes: Milbourne is a solid athlete and is becoming a Gist-like player, though not as much of a shot blocking force on defense.  Bowie is a good defender, too.  But Vasquez, Hayes, and Neal are average athletes at best.  That exposes a lot of weaknesses on the defensive end.  As a result, maryland allows ACC opponents to shoot 44% from the field (tied with VT for third worst in the ACC) and shoot 40% on threes, by far the worst in the ACC. 

#1 Key to the Game: Attack the maryland guards on offense.  As I mention just above this, Hayes and Vasquez are not good defenders.  Delaney can beat them off the dribble at will.  The terp guards will have to back off him, which will leave Malcolm or A.D. open for three-pointers, and maryland is the worst team in the ACC at defending the three.  The terps have to pack in the defense to help on the glass since they are thin inside.  If Delaney or Vassallo can hit some early threes, maryland will have to come out and defend them.  This will keep maryland from double-teaming Allen inside, and he should be able to beat Neal, or even the skinny Milbourne, inside.  Let’s just hope the threes are falling for Malcolm, who has been struggling from the floor over the last two games.

Expect Delaney to have a big game.  He’s from Baltimore and was not heavily recruited by the terps.  You know there is resentment there, and you know he will have lots of fans on hand.  I predict he will get out of his shooting slump and light it up.  Hopefully he will let the game come to him and not force things.  Since maryland is weak on defense, he needs to drive also, not just settle for the outside shot.

Jeff Allen should also have a big game.  None of the terp low post starters can defend him.  The Hokies need to get him the ball early.  If he gets doubled, the perimeter players need to slide to the open area and have Jeff kick it out for an open three.

On defense, Tech needs to get a hand in the face of Vasquez and Hayes.  Despite their struggles adjusting to the three-point line being a foot back, they can get hot.  If VT plays tight on Vasquez, he will start forcing bad shots.  Neal is a face-up player.  He likes to shoot threes, so the Hokie big-men must guard him on the perimeter, more so than inside.  Milbourne is maryland’s most versatile inside player, and Tech must keep him off the offensive glass.  He also has a good midrange game.

A concern for the Hokies could be the maryland pressure.  The terps like to use a full-court press.  It is similar to clemson’s, which VT shredded, but not as aggressive.  maryland is more worried about slowing you down and using clock to get you out of your offensive set.  Tech must not be content just making it over the timeline.  They have to attack the defense by throwing over the press like the Hokies did against clemson.  Against georgia tech’s press Wednesday, the Hokie guards were catching the ball with their backs to the front court, allowing the jackets to trap them, and they were picking up their dribble just over the timeline, allowing another trap to happen.  Tech needs to get the ball in quickly after made maryland buckets and get up court by pass or dribble.

Posted in 2008-09 Season, Game Previews, Games2 Comments

Game Recap | Hokies (16-7, 6-3) 76, ga tech (10-13, 1-9) 71

Box Score

It was another close one in the ACC tonight as the Hokies pulled out a 76-71 win over the yellow jackets. Malcolm Delaney once again led the way with 23 points, followed by A.D. Vassallo with 18, Jeff Allen with 15, and Cheick Diakite with a season-high 10 points.

Not to fuel Niemo’s ego, but he was dead on with his preview. Once again, the Hokies struggled mightily defending the low post as the other tech’s big men Gani Lawal and Alade Aminu combined for 36 points, which included a handful of uncontested dunks. The Hokies did a little better in the second half defending the paint after switching to a 2-3 zone, but it was pretty tough to watch in the first half.

On the other hand, the Hokies did a great job in forcing the jackets into some bad mid-range and perimeter shots in the first half. The jackets shot just 39% from the field, and a big fat goose egg from three range (0/6) in the first half. Tech scored 76 points despite their third-worst shooting outing of the season, just 37% for the game.

The Hokies never trailed in this game, though the jackets did keep it close. Tech took an early 17-10 lead, but ga tech kept pace throughout the first half until the final three minutes. The Hokies were clinging to slim one-point lead, 30-29, after a monster dunk by ga tech’s Aminu. But following a timeout, the Hokies closed the first half with an 11-2 run, capped by a buzzer-beating layup by Delaney that sent the Hokie faithful into a frenzy. Tech led 41-31 at the half.

The second half saw the Hokies pull ahead by 13 points before they pulled their trademark second-half scoreless drought, allowing the jackets to close the game to just 3 points with a 10-0 run. Tech led 50-37 before going without a point for 4 minutes, 33 seconds.

Diakite broke the scoreless stretch with an emphatic dunk that sparked the Hokies to another run to push their lead back to a dozen. The jackets got within three twice in the final 1:30, but Tech managed to hold them off thanks to Delaney and Hank Thorns, who went 6/6 from the free throw line.

Things did get a little too interesting in the final minute of the game when the Hokies had a difficult time inbounding the ball. At one point, Tech had to call back-to-back timeouts, and on a third attempt to inbound, got called for a five second violation.

Next up for the Hokies is a road trip to College Park on Saturday, Feb. 14, to take on the maryland terrapins (15-8, 5-6). The game is scheduled for a 4 p.m. tipoff and will be broadcast on Raycom Sports.

Posted in 2008-09 Season, Game Recaps, Games, Home3 Comments

Preview | ga tech (10-12, 1-8) @ VT (15-7, 5-3) | Wed., 7 PM | ESPNU

Spread: VT by 8

Tangent: Completely unrelated to the georgia tech game, but awfully amusing… At the end of the uva @ fsu game on Tuesday night, once fsu had the game in control and had locked up uva’s eighth straight ACC loss, a fsu fan started chanting, “Hokie rejects” over and over again at the downtrodden hoos!  Hilarious!

THE SETUP

Note: If I say “Tech”, I mean Virginia Tech.  Duh!

In their previous game, the Hokies played the team they’ve had the least success against since joining the ACC — nc state.  In this contest, Tech takes on one of the teams they’ve had the most success against — georgia tech. 

The yellow jackets come into this game with the worst record in the ACC. But they really aren’t that bad.  Their lone win?  Against wake forest.  And of their eight ACC losses, six have been by seven points or less, and four have come by four points or less.  So they are competitive in games but just can’t finish the deal… except against wake.  Who does that remind you of?  Oh yeah, nc state, and we saw what happened Sunday.  Hopefully the Hokies won’t test their comeback skills again on Wednesday.

This game will be featured on the Country Club of networks — ESPNU!  Now carried in 14 households nationwide!  Over Christmas, I noticed ESPNU was carrying the MEAC women’s bowling tournament.  I’m not kidding, people!  I’d rather watch Wick shave his… well, you get the idea.  This season, VT won their only other “U” game, the victory at wake.

Niemo’s News & Notes 6-Pack:

  • VT clinched a winning home record for the season with their win Sunday.  The Hokies stand at 8-2 in the Cassell this season with four home games to go.  Tech’s only losing season at home in the 48 years of the Cassell was in 2000-01 under ricky stokes.
  • The Hokies are back to .500 all-time in ACC regular season games at 36-36.
  • The orange and maroon are #1 in the ACC in FG % in ACC conference games at 46.1%.
  • VT is undefeated against georgia tech in Blacksburg in four previous meetings.
  • The Hokies are third in the ACC in scoring offense in conference play at 75.8 ppg (can you believe that?!  Technically, VT would slide to fifth if you took out overtime points… but still, pretty shocking.)
  • VT’s first ever ACC road win came at georgia tech.

Bonus Six Pack Stat Pack (Let’s get drunk!):

  • VT has three of the top 10 shooters, percentage-wise, in ACC conference games.  Allen is #7 at 49.5%, and Vassallo and Delaney are in ninth at 48.7%.  It is amazing that two guards are in the top ten, especially considering how many shots they have to take.
  • Hank Thorns is #1 (BY FAR) in ACC play in terms of assist-to-turnover ratio.  His ratio is 8.7 assists for every turnover.  Next closest is Ty Lawson at 2.9 and no one else is over 2.0.
  • A.D. Vassallo leads the ACC in minutes per game (all games) at 36.4 (Delaney is 2nd).
  • Malcolm Delaney leads the league in minutes per game in ACC conference games (38.0 mpg).
  • Jeff Allen is third in the conference in rebounds per game (all games) at 8.8.
  • Delaney is fourth in the league in scoring in ACC games at 22.3.  Hansbrough is just fifth.  Tech has three of the top 11 scorers in ACC only games (Vassallo is ninth and Allen 11th).  Only one other team has more than one scorer in the Top 11 — unc with two.  gt has no one in the top 18.

THE SERIES

The Hokies have gone 4-2 against the ramblin’ wreck since joining the conference and are 4-1 in regular season action.  In fact, Virginia Tech is 7-1 all-time against the jackets in games played on VT’s or georgia tech’s home court, with the lone loss last year in Atlanta.  VT has never lost to gt in the Cassell.

  • All-Time: VT 8-3
  • At the Cassell: 3-0
  • In the ACC: 4-2
  • Last Year: The two teams split, each winning on their home floor.  The game in Atlanta included the infamous Jeff Allen bump of a referee.
  • Last Meeting: VT 92, gt 84 (Recap)
  • Of Note: georgia tech is the only ACC team Virginia Tech has a winning record against all time.

LINEUPS

Virginia Tech

Position

Player

Height

PPG

Year

Point Guard

23 – Delaney

6′3″

18.5

So

Shooting Guard

5 – Hudson

6′5″

3.6

So

Small Forward/Wing

40 – Vassallo

6′6″

18.3

Sr

Power Forward

0 – Allen

6′7″

14.7

So

Center

34 – Diakite

6′9″

3.6

Sr

Bench

1 – Bell

6′6″

2.5

So

 

10 – Thorns

5′9″

2.7

So

 

14 – Davila

6′8″

4.0

Fr

 

21 – Witcher

6′9″

2.2

Jr

33 – Thompson

6’6″

5.2

So

georgia tech

Position

Player

Height

PPG

Year

Point Guard

1 – Shumpert

6′4″

11.5

Fr

Co-PG

3 – Miller

6′1″

5.9

So

Shooting Guard

0 – Clinch

6′3″

12.1

Sr

Power Forward

35 – Peacock

6′8″

10.4

Jr

Center

31 – Lawal

6′8″

15.5

So

Bench

4 – Foreman

6’3″

2.0

Fr

 

10 – Storrs

6’4″

4.6

So

 

34 – Sheehan

6’11″

3.1

So

 

44 – Aminu

6′10″

11.9

Sr

 

 

 

   

If georgia tech goes big, they may start Aminu over Miller.  With VT’s trouble guarding low-post players this year and issues on the defensive glass, that may be an option.

Of late, georgia tech has really only been playing seven guys significantly.  Sheehan and Foreman will just get token minutes, with the other seven guys listed above playing 20+ minutes.

THE OPPONENT AND KEYS TO THE GAME

  • ACC Tournament Titles: 3
  • Last Title: 1993

gt’s Strengths:

  • In conference games, gt is #1 in the ACC in FG % Defense.  That is due to their ability to block shots, namely Lawal and Aminu.  Delaney and Vassallo both have a deadly runner, which could neutralize this.  But Allen needs to go hard at the hoop and draw fouls, or use his up-and-under move along the baseline to protect his shot.
  • The jackets are #2 in the ACC in Rebounding Margin in conference play.  Again, this is due to their bigs.  The Hokies have to improve their defensive rebounding.  In the nc state game, they were often too close to the hoop or did not check someone once a shot went up.  This must improve in this game.  Limit gt’s second chances and they are in trouble.

gt’s Weaknesses:

  • georgia tech is dead last in ACC play in Scoring Offense.  Lawal is their best offensive threat, but their guards struggle to get him the ball.  This limits his effectiveness.  Both their point guards, Miller and Shumpert, are young and are very poor shooters.  They cannot take over a game and defenses can back off them on the perimeter.
  • The jackets are dead last in turnover margin and assist-to-turnover margin in ACC play.  Their two point guards are turnover machines, averaging 7 TOPG.  By comparison, Delaney and Thorns average just 4 TOPG.  gt is going to give you extra possessions.  Generally, that’s a recipe for disaster against Virginia Tech.
  • gt struggles to hit the three.  The jackets are shooting just under 30% on three’s on the season, though they have improved in conference play.  Lewis Clinch is their best shooter, but he’s hitting just 27% from deep after serving an academic suspension for the first semester.  And guard Mo Miller is hitting just 16% from deep.  Lance Storrs has been their best shooter this year, leading the team in 3-point percentage at 41%.  Also, the jacket big men will not wander out on the perimeter, unlike many of VT’s recent opponents.  Peacock is the only gt big man to hit a three, and he’s made just five.

#1 Key to the Game: Virginia Tech has to do a good job on the glass.  Lawal leads the ACC in rebounds per game and offensive rebounds per game.  He shoots for a very high percentage as a result.  If VT can limit gt’s second chances (and not let Lawal catch the ball near the hoop), the Hokies should win.

Looking back at the match-ups last season, 62 of georgia tech’s 81 points in their win in Atlanta are gone.  And 41 of their 84 points from their loss are gone.  But one thing has to concern the Hokies from the two match-ups last year: in each game, a guard or two killed the Hokies.  In the first match-up, it was Carrot Top look-alike Matt Causey burning the Hokies for 30.  In the second game, freshman Maurice Miller poured in a career-high 29.  Miller is back.  Last year, Tech really focused on the jacket big men, and got burned by the guards.

That said, VT’s biggest weakness this year has been low-post defense, and georgia tech has some talented bigs.  The Hokies will once again have to pack it in on defense and dare the jacket guards to beat them from deep.  As was pointed out above, georgia tech has not been much of a threat from behind the arc.

On defense, the jackets don’t create a lot of turnovers and always give up their share of easy buckets either due to their own turnovers that lead to break-outs, or because they are a tad lazy on defense.  If the Hokies penetrate, they either need to shoot a runner as I said earlier, or drive the lane.  The jacket bigs will bite looking for the block, allowing the penetrator to dish for an easy dunk.  Vassallo and Delaney should be able to get their shots off, the jackets are not particularly talented at guarding on the perimeter.

Hopefully the Hokies learned a lesson on Sunday.  They have to come out ready to play in this one.  Any team can beat VT on any night.  But the Hokies have a lot more to play for at this point, and need to compete like that.  We will see if they respond.  Jump on the jackets early, and they could lose their sting.

Posted in 2008-09 Season, Game Previews, Games2 Comments

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