2012-13 Basketball Game Preview: Virginia Tech vs. ETSU

Chris Coleman, TechSideline.com, on November 9, 2012
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The James Johnson era of Virginia Tech basketball will begin on Saturday afternoon at 2pm.  Johnson’s Hokies welcome East Tennessee State to town, and hope to get off to a good start this season.

Here’s a quick primer on ETSU.  Recently they have been one of the better small conference teams in America.

ETSU: A Good Program with Bartow at the Helm

Murry Bartow has done a very good job with the East Tennessee State program, where he has coached since the 2003-04 season.

2003-04: 27-6, NCAA First Round
2004-05: 10-19
2005-06: 15-13
2006-07: 24-10, NIT First Round
2007-08: 19-13
2008-09: 23-10, NCAA First Round
2009-10: 20-15, NCAA First Round
2010-11: 24-12, CIT Semifinals
2011-12: 17-13

That’s a winning season in eight out of nine years, and a 20+ win season in five out of nine years.  Bartow has accomplished a lot during his time in Johnson City.

The Players

East Tennessee State has had a lot of player turnover since last season.  They have four freshmen, a r-freshman, two JUCO players and a couple of inexperienced sophomores on their roster.  These guys are still getting used to playing with each other, and they haven’t gelled yet.  In their narrow 71-63 exhibition win over D-II Carson-Newman, the Bucs had 21 turnovers as a team.  Sloppy basketball is always a sign that a team hasn’t meshed.

G Sheldon Cooley (6-3, 180, Sr.): Cooley runs the point for East Tennessee State.  He started 26 games a year ago, and averaged 9.6 points per game.

G Marcus Dubose (6-2, 180, Sr.): Dubose started 22 games last year, and he combines with Cooley to form a solid, experienced backcourt.

F John Walton (6-7, 200, So.): Walton played sparingly for ETSU as a freshman, appearing in just 12 games.

F Hunter Harris (6-7, 220, Jr.): Harris is a JUCO who will be appearing in his first 1-A game.

F Kinard Gadsden-Gilliard (6-5, 250, Jr.): Like Hunter Harris, Gadsden-Gilliard will be playing his first college game.

That backcourt struggled against Virginia Tech in the Hokies 64-53 win in Cassell Coliseum in last season’s opener.  Cooley and Dubose combined to make just 9-of-28 shots, and only 1-of-9 three-pointers.  They also combined for only one assist, and they turned the ball over seven times.  Cooley turned the ball over six times in ETSU’s recent scrimmage with Gardner-Webb, so there could be an opportunity for the Hokies to get some easy points off turnovers.

Everyone else in that starting lineup is an unknown.  Hunter Harris averaged 22 points and 13 rebounds per game at Volunteer State Community College, so it’s likely that Murry Bartow is expecting him to be a big part of ETSU’s offense.

Amongst the backups, only Lukas Poderis (6-8, 230, Sr.), Jarvis Jones (6-2, 190, Sr.), Rashawn Rembert (6-3, 185, So.) and Todd Halvorsen (6-2, 190, So.) appeared in games last season.  Rembert played in only 19 games, while Halvorsen appeared in just four.

With so many new players in the rotation, this is a team that is still in the “feeling out” stages.  They’ll likely use more players than Virginia Tech, but Tech’s players have more experience playing with each other.

ETSU Will Look to Slow it Down

With so many new players, don’t look for the Bucs to present a major threat offensively.  They struggled to score and shoot against Carson-Newman, and obviously Virginia Tech is a major step up in competition.

James Johnson said on Monday night that ETSU will likely play some zone in an effort to slow the game down.  If the Bucs keep it a low-scoring, sloppy affair, then they will have an opportunity to win.  However, if they get caught in a fast-paced game against a more talented team, the probably aren’t good enough offensively to keep up.

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