2004-05 Basketball Preview: Virginia Tech at Memphis, NIT

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Men’s Basketball Preview: VT at Memphis

by Stefan Adams, TechSideline.com, 3/17/05

Virginia Tech (16-13) at Memphis (20-15)
NIT Second Round

Saturday, March 19th, 2005, noon



With the possibility of “no tomorrow” for
Virginia Tech men’s basketball, the team travels to Memphis, Tennessee to take
on the University of Memphis Tigers in the second round of the National
Invitation Tournament. The Hokies defeated Temple 60-50 in round 1 of the NIT,
and Memphis beat Northeastern 90-65 to set up the matchup.

After numerous reports that the game would be in
Blacksburg, the powers that be decided on a Saturday game at noon in Memphis’
FedExForum, news that does not bode well for the Hokies, who are 3-10 on the
road this season. On the other hand, the Tigers were mediocre at home this
season, posting a 13-6 record, with nine of those wins coming when Memphis was
favored by a decent margin.

Head coach John Calipari’s Tigers are primarily
led by an explosive mixture of talent both young and old. Memphis’ biggest
name is Darius Washington Jr., a freshman from Orlando, Florida. The 6’2 guard
is averaging 15.2 points per game (second on the team) and leads the team in
assists, steals and minutes played (35 per game).

Washington’s compliment inside is junior
forward Rodney Carney, who is averaging 15.5 points per game and 5.1 rebounds
per game. Carney is aided in the blocks by 6’8 sophomore Sean Banks (14.5 ppg,
5.8 rpg), 6’9 senior Duane Erwin (6.9 ppg, 6.1 rpg) and 6’9 freshman Joey
Dorsey (4.5 ppg, 6.1 rpg).

Also up top, the Tigers rely on senior
guard/forward Anthony Rice (10.6 ppg, 2.8 rpg) and 6’4 junior Jeremy Hunt (9.5
ppg, 3.4 rpg).

Overall, the Hokies match up fairly well with
Memphis and will rely on senior Carlos Dixon to use his athleticism to shoot
outside and take it to the basket. Jamon Gordon will have his hands full with
Washington, but Memphis’ freshman sensation has 122 turnovers this year, which
leaves him ripe for the picking. Gordon could easily have a full stat sheet once
again by the end of Saturday’s game.

The Hokies will need Coleman Collins to elevate
his game once again on the glass. In his last seven games, Collins has averaged
10 rebounds per game. One interesting stat is that 90 of his 186 rebounds this
season have come on the offensive glass, a potentially gigantic momentum swing
that could aid the Hokies on Saturday if this trend continues.

Memphis is a team that rebounds well, averaging
38.2 per game with a +2.7 margin. This is an alarming number when compared to
the Hokies 33.7 average and their -1.9 margin (numbers that have improved
dramatically lately).

However, like Washington Jr., the Tigers do not
take good care of the ball, an area Tech must exploit to give itself the best
chance possible to win. Memphis has 520 turnovers this season and has forced
514. The Hokies have forced 511, almost identical, but the key difference is
Tech’s turnover total of 386, far less than Calipari’s team.

Expect the Tigers to be active from the
perimeter. Memphis has taken 695 three-point shots this year (Tech has taken
462). Even though the Tigers rely on the three, it is the Hokies who shoot
better from the arc with a 35.7 percent average when compared to Memphis’ 34.4
percent mark. As we all know, long shots create long rebounds, therefore, all
five of the Hokies must box out on defense every time a shot goes up.

Therefore, the keys to Saturday’s game are
simple. Play to your strengths and focus on crippling where the opponent
thrives. While this is always a good strategy, it can never be more true for
this game. Tech must force turnovers and minimize the damage Memphis is capable
of on the boards. For the Tigers, they must take care of the ball and rebound,
rebound, rebound.

Here is a quick look at the numbers that the teams have averaged
this season.

Stats: VT vs. Memphis, NIT
Stat VT Memphis
Per Game
68.8 71.2
68.2 65.4
FG% 43% 42.2%
35.7% 34.4%
FT% 64.6% 68.6%
Rebounds 33.7 38.2
-3.1 +2.7
Steals 9 7.2
4.3 -0.2

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