Will this be the final time the Hokies face Sidney Lowe, at least in the regular season? [My guess is YES.] Will Lowe wear that bright red sport coat? [No doubt.] Can the Hokies hit the halfway mark of the ACC schedule at 5-3, or will they be 4-4? [Hmm, I think the former but wouldn't be stunned if it was the latter.] Tune in to the Deuce on Wednesday as these questions and more will be answered.
With a win in Raleigh on Wednesday the Hokies will move to two games over .500 in league play for the first time all season. That would quite an accomplishment for Tech to be 5-3 at the midway point considering they were 1-2 with a terrible loss at home to uva and a tough loss at unc where VT squandered a 16-point lead.
Tech really needs to get at least a split this week with road games at nc state and bc. This is the easier of the two. The wolfpack have lost five of their last six since defeating wake forest in their ACC opener. nc state lost by at least nine points in all five of those games, with the lone win a 2-point victory over 1-6 miami (the pack blew a 17-point lead in that game). state also choked away a 31-12 lead at clemson last week (they were outscored 48-19 the rest of the way). These guys are not a second half team. If the Hokies can get up early, it could be good night.
Meanwhile, Sidney Lowe, the ricky stokes of Raleigh, continues to do his thing — lose. He’s 22-49 in ACC regular season games in his five years, and just 6-30 on the road. But they are 16-19 at home under him, and Tech has not faired well in Raleigh over the years other than last season. VT is just 3-19 all time at nc state, including just 1-3 in the ACC.
The Hokies swept the wolfpack quite easily last year, winning 72-52 at nc state and then 71-59 in the ‘Burg on Senior Night.
All Time: nc state 34-13
In ACC Play: nc state 6-4
Streak: VT has won 3 in a row (after losing 6 in a row)
11 Green 6-4
10 Gonzalez 6-0 or 12 Harrow 6-1
23 Delaney 6-3
21 Williams 6-5
1 Bell 6-7
15 Wood 6-6
0 Allen 6-7
23 T. Smith 6-8
14 Davila 6-8
1 Howell 6-8
C.J. Leslie is the wolfpack’s 6’8″ super sub. He is a 5-star recruit with a ton of athleticism but is not a great shooter. Ryan Harrow had been starting at PG over Javier Gonzalez lately but that changed in the unc game Saturday. Harrow is also a 5-star freshman who can slash but also struggles to shoot from the floor.
INSIDE THE wolfpack:
Best Player: Tracy Smith – Probably the best player in the ACC with his back to the basket. Missed 10 games with knee surgery but has scored at least 12 in every game since his return (9 games). VT held him to 12 points in both games last year. Davila will need to battle him inside, and Victor has done a great job of post defending lately.
Best Shooter: Scott Wood – Has already hit 55 3-pointers this year and at a 44% clip. If Tech goes zone, as I expect they will, you have to know where Wood is at all times. He has great range. Despite being 6’7″, he cannot play inside at all and will be mostly on the perimeter. Reminds me of Joe Trapani earlier in his bc career. Scott had just 13 total points in the two games last year and was just 1/5 on 3s. But that was thanks largely to Zo Hudson. Might be a different story in the zone.
Best Athlete: C.J. Leslie – Big things were expected of this 5-star freshman but it has been a struggle for him at times. He is averaging 10.4 ppg and 7.4 rebounds (the latter is tops on the team). As Seth talked about, you have to keep him off the offensive glass. C.J. is averaging almost 3 offensive rebounds per game. He’s long, but skinny. Be physical with him or he’ll jump over you. Force him to shoot jumpers – he’s hit just 3 3′s all year.
Best Slasher: Ryan Harrow – I really like this fellow 5-star freshman. He is not quite the penetrator Iman Shumpert is, but he is great off the dribble. Shoots 94% from the line so when Ryan gets to the line, it is automatic. Have to cut him off and force him to shoot outside. Just 9/40 (23%) on 3-pointers.
X-Factor: Richard Howell – He’s scored 12 or more points six times this year. He’s also scored four or less seven times. All his points are going to come near the tin either from offensive rebounds (he has even more than C.J. Leslie) or easy feeds from Harrow or others. Stop penetration and rebound, and you stop him.
Best Defender: Don’t have one – Sidney Lowe’s teams don’t work hard on defense. Lorenzo Brown does get 1.4 steals per game off the bench, but selling out on D just isn’t the Lowe way.
Worst Player: Javier Gonzalez – He makes Larry Drew II look like John Wall. Can’t shoot (34% FGs, 30% 3s) and is too slow/small to defend. Harrow had been starting over him recently but Lowe will screw this up.
Worst Coach in the ACC: Sidney Lowe! My man! Never won more than six games in an ACC regular season. 22-49 in ACC regular season games in his five years, and just 6-30 on the road. But he’s 4-3 against the Hokies (ugh). He has lost three in a row, though. Let’s even it up Wednesday and put another nail in his coffin.
HO-KEYS TO WINNING:
Play Your Game: The wolfpack aren’t very good at anything. They are not in the top three in any category in the ACC. If VT can play a solid game, they are the far superior team.
Rebound: nc state is the fourth best offensive rebounding team in the ACC. Have to keep Smith, Leslie, and Howell off the offensive glass and limit their second chance points.
Stop Scott’s Tots: Scott Wood is #3 in the ACC in 3-Pt% and #2 in makes. He is the ONLY threat from deep for the wolfpack. He’s made 55 of their 98 3-pointers (second lowest total in the ACC). If VT goes 2-3 zone, as I’m sure they will, you have to know where he is.
Count Hack-ila: Will the wolfpack foul Victor Davila whenever he gets the ball inside? He was just 3/9 from the line against miami, but had been decent in the six games before that (12/19). Victor must finish his opportunities, even when there is contact around the rim to avoid FTs. And he must do a good job on Smith down low, making him work for feeds inside. Victor was great on Williams from maryland and Johnson from miami. That’s a key again here.
Go Green: Erick Green is #1 in the ACC in assist-to-turnover ratio and #3 in steals per game. VT is 10-1 with him as a starter when he reaches double digits. He’s also 28/29 from the foul line recently. Straw that stirs the drink.
The Big Donut: Jeff Allen had 18 points and 11 rebounds in both games last week after a rough four game stretch. Given the pack’s talent inside, Jeff must be a monster on the glass and go at the state bigs on offense to get them in foul trouble.
BORING FACTS ABOUT nc state:
Enrollment: 23.7 undergrad, 7.4 postgrad
National Titles (Basketball): 1974 and 1983
ACC Titles (Basketball): 10 – last was in 1987 – 3rd most in the ACC
ACC Football Titles: 7 (tied for 4th most) – none since 1979 – in fact, the two state schools (unc and nc state) haven’t won an ACC football title, or even tied for one, since 1980. There’s no pigskin on Tobacco Road.