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Virginia Tech (10-6, 1-1 ACC) at Virginia (10-4, 0-1 ACC)
Wednesday, January 16, 2008, 7:00
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Virginia Tech will look to make it two ACC wins in a row when they travel to John Paul Jones Arena to take on Virginia on Saturday night. A win will be tough. The Cavs will be looking for their first ACC win of the season, and the Hokies haven't won a basketball game in Charlottesville since January 6, 1968.
Virginia was expected to be one of the league's better teams this year, but so far it hasn't worked out this way. Losing J.R. Reynolds and Jason Cain hurt, and they have had injury problems in their frontcourt. The Hoos have lost their last two games by a combined 60 points (108-70 at Xavier, 87-65 at Duke). They badly need a win to restore their confidence.
|Virginia Probable Starting Lineup|
You know all about Sean Singletary, so we'll get to him later. For now, let's talk about some guys you may not be as familiar with.
Calvin Baker will likely get his second career start against the Hokies. Baker, a transfer from William & Mary who sat out last season, replaced struggling freshman guard Jeff Jones in the starting lineup against Duke, and played well. He is one of Virginia's top three-point threats, shooting 43.8% from the outside this season. With Singletary, Baker, Diane and Joseph in the game at the same time, the Hoos have a very dangerous three-point lineup.
Adrian Joseph is playing a lot at the 4 position (power forward) this year because of injuries to frontcourt players Tunji Soroye, Laurynas Mikalauskas and Ryan Pettinella. Joseph is a very good outside shooter, shooting 40% from three-point range. He's also had to play tough this year because he's the second biggest player on the court at times for UVA. He's responded by averaging a team-high 7.8 rebounds per game.
Mamadi Diane is another perimeter player who can get hot and rack up the points. He is shooting 48.3% from the outside this season. The Hokies will have the be diligent in their perimeter defense.
The final starter is freshman forward Mike Scott. Scott is a very athletic player who can make some highlight reel plays. He was a teammate of Virginia Tech's Jeff Allen last year at Hargrave Military Academy, and the two will be going head to head in this game. They are very familiar with each other.
As we all know, Virginia's offense runs through point guard Sean Singletary. His speed and ability in transition makes the UVA offense work. He likes to penetrate, and he can score on the inside or kick it out to one of the Hoos' outstanding three-point shooters. Singletary is a good outside shooter in his own right, hitting 40% from three-point range this year. He makes players around him better, and he's also a good on-ball defender.
Two problems have plagued Singletary throughout his career. He has some lapses when it comes to shot selection and turnovers. Virginia Tech must play in-your-face defense with Singletary, because he has a tendency to turn the ball over. They've got to limit his passing opportunities and force him to take bad shots. He can get rattled. However, this is a home game, and Singletary knows he needs to get his team back on the right track. I expect him to come out and play well.
Perhaps the most important thing for the Hokies will be not letting Virginia get going in transition. They are a very dangerous team with Singletary heading towards the basket, and the other three shooters spotting up outside the three-point line. In the halfcourt, Tech must contain Singletary's dribble penetration.
Let's see how the teams match up statistically.
|VT vs. UVA|
|Stat||ACC Rank||Stat||ACC Rank|
|3-Pt. % Defense||32.6%||6||34.5%||10||VT|
That's about as even as you can get. The Hokies' average ranking in those 10 categories is 6.9, while the Hoos are even at 7.0. It doesn't get any closer than that.
Although UVA has the edge in six of the 10 categories, the Hokies hold a major edge defensively in this game. Teams are scoring less than 60 points per game against Tech, while UVA is giving up over 70 per game. Tech is also holding opponents to a very low shooting percentage, while the Hoos' field goal percentage defense is near the bottom of the ACC.
However, UVA plays much better defense at home. They are allowing just 62 points per game at the John Paul Jones Arena. It's on the road where they have allowed 85 points to Penn (who lost to Florida Gulf Coast 60-30), 108 to Xavier and 87 against Duke. At home they have been a much better defensive team, so don't expect the Hokies to have a great night offensively just because of UVA's overall defensive numbers.
Meanwhile, Virginia Tech is averaging just 61.6 points per game in true road contests. They've broken the 70 point barrier just once, and in their last two road outings they scored 49 at Richmond and 54 at St. John's. That won't get it done against a UVA team that averages 82.2 points per game at home.
Under Dave Leitao, the difference in the Hoos on the road and at home has been like night and day. We saw that last year, when a Tech team that was missing leading scorer Zabian Dowdell for most of the day because of foul trouble crushed UVA 84-57 in Blacksburg. In the rematch in Charlottesville, the Hoos buckled down defensively, hit 10 of 16 three pointers, and won 69-56.
Perhaps the most surprising stat that UVA has put up this year is in the rebounding column. Despite going with a small lineup that consists of four perimeter players, the Hoos are an amazing +11.4 in rebounding margin. Their guards are very aggressive, and they come up with a lot of long rebounds on the rare occasion that they miss an open three-pointer.
I don't particularly like Tech's perimeter defense matched up with UVA's experienced outside shooters. However, the Hokies should have an advantage on the inside with Jeff Allen against a very thin UVA frontcourt. The Hokies can win this game, but it's going to take an off night from the outside by UVA in their own arena, which doesn't happen often.