2004-05 Basketball Preview: Virginia Tech vs. #7 Wake Forest

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Virginia Tech (12-7, 5-3 ACC) vs. #7 Wake
Forest (18-3, 6-2 ACC)

Saturday, February 5th, 2005, 3:00 pm

TV:

Raycom/Jefferson Pilot (WDBJ in Roanoke; check local
listings elsewhere — click
here for a station list
)

Special Preview Items:

One reoccurring theme for the Hokies this season
has been “stealing.” Not only does Virginia Tech basketball lead the
conference in steals, Seth Greenberg’s team has stolen several key games this
season that Tech was not “supposed” to win. One of these wins came on
Wednesday night against the University of Miami on the road, and the Hokies hope
to steal another one against national powerhouse Wake Forest on Saturday.

Skip Prosser’s Demon Deacons are coming off a
huge victory against Duke on the national stage on Wednesday. Wake held off the
Blue Devils 92-89. The high-powered Deacons are currently ranked seventh in the
country. Early in the season, they were ranked No. 1.

Wake Forest boasts an 18-3 record, including a
6-2 record in the conference, which is good enough for a second-place tie with
Duke. After Tech’s win against Miami, the Hokies now stand at 12-7 and 5-3 in
the conference, just one spot behind Wake Forest and Duke.

Although Tech is only a game behind Wake in the
standings, the Hokies will have their hands full on Saturday afternoon in
Cassell.

The Demon Deacons have a talented lineup that
features arguably the nation’s best guard in the form of sophomore Chris Paul.
Like many other ACC teams, Paul has an extremely potent counterpart: junior
Justin Gray, the team’s leading scorer.

Paul averages 15.3 points per game and is second
in the conference in assists, dishing it out an average of 6.5 times a game. He
leads the league in assists-to-turnover ratio as well. Gray’s team-high 16.9
points per game average ranks seventh in the conference.

If the Hokies are able to shut down Paul and Gray
on the outside, then Prosser will rely on big man Eric Williams in the post.

The junior stands at 6’9, but weighs in at a
massive 291 pounds (versus just 228 for VT’s Coleman Collins) and will be quite
a load for the Hokies to handle. Williams averages 16.7 points (8th in the ACC)
and 7 rebounds per game.

The aforementioned trio make up the only three
Deacons that average double figures in scoring, leaving one to assume the team
is loaded with role players. Here are some names you will hear being called out
in Cassell on Saturday.

Wake Forest Role
Players

Name

Points per Game

Other Statistic

Taron Downey

8.6

88% free throw shooter

Jamaal Levy

8.0

7.2 rebounds per game

Vytas Danelius

6.5

4.5 rebounds per game

The Deacons have several options besides Gray,
Paul and Williams. But the ebb and flow of Wake Forest’s game will hinge on
how its big three play.

Here is how the teams stack up against each
other:


Key Stats

Stat

Wake (ACC Rank)

VT (ACC Rank)

Points Per Game

86.4 (2)

70.7 (11)

Points Against

75.5 (10)

67.5 (5)

FG%

49.2% (2)

44.1% (11)

3-pt. FG%

40.6% (2)

34.9% (7)

FT%

69.6% (5)

64.5% (10)

Rebounds

40.2 (4)

32.5 (11)

Rebounding Margin

+6 (2)

-4.7 (11)

Steals

8.52 (6)

10.42 (2)

Turnover Margin

+0.76 (8)

+6.53 (1)

The numbers show how solid a basketball team Wake
Forest is, and Tech will be playing the familiar role of underdog against
Prosser’s team. But this a role that the Hokies have become comfortable with
this season, and in fact Virginia Tech has almost embraced it. Greenberg’s
team was a nine-point underdog to Miami going into the game on Wednesday.

As expected, the Hokies are going to have to play
to their strengths to run with Wake Forest. The statistics show that Tech has a
clear advantage in taking care of the ball. The Hokies will have to limit their
mistakes, because the Deacons have an explosive offense.

The Hokies are just two wins away from becoming
post-season eligible, and to help their chances of making a tournament, they
must steal a few games they are not supposed to win. One of these games is Wake
Forest, so look for the Hokies to put up a good fight against one of the nation’s
top teams.

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