The Virginia Tech men’s basketball team returns to action on Monday night when they take on the visiting Marshall Thundering Herd in Cassell Coliseum. The Hokies are coming off a 74-62 victory over Mount St. Mary’s on Friday night, while Marshall dropped their season opening game 91-81 at Evansville. Virginia Tech will once again be without junior center Coleman Collins, who is home dealing with family issues.
Marshall doesn’t have a lot of size on their basketball team. Their starting center, Mark Patton, checks in at 6-9, 250, but despite his size, he was ineffective against Evansville, scoring just five points and grabbing three rebounds. He did have a productive 2004-05 season, averaging 11 points and 8.1 rebounds per game. As a team Marshall showed their lack of size in the rebounding column, losing to Evansville 44-31 in that game within the game.
Marshall’s starting forward, Travis Aikens, is a JUCO transfer playing his first season at Marshall. He is listed at 6-4 and plays mostly on the perimeter. He led the Thundering Herd in scoring against Evansville, scoring 22 points. He is not afraid to put up three point attempts, going 4-11 from three-point range in the opener. As a team, Marshall took a lot of outside shots against Evansville and they hit 11-of-29, good for 37.9%.
The Thundering Herd uses a three guard lineup, and their best guard will likely come off the bench against the Hokies. Joe Miles is a talented sophomore who was the only freshman in the country last season to score in double figures in the first 12 games of the season. He had 19 points in the opener against Evansville, and was 4-7 from three-point range. Miles is listed at 5-11.
Marshall will start three guards against the Hokies. They are Tre Whitted (6-4), Mark Dorris (6-2), and Chris Ross (6-1). Ross was the only player of this trio to score in double figures against Evansville, putting up 13 points. Ross also led the team with four steals. Ross is also a JUCO, one of four junior college transfers to enroll at Marshall this season.
Marshall will play more guys than Tech, so expect them to try to wear the Hokies down. Against Evansville, the Thundering Herd used eight players for more than 14 minutes. They used a total of 11 players during the game. Only Travis Aikens played more than 28 minutes during the game, so Marshall will still be fresh by the end of the game.
For the second consecutive game, the Hokies are playing a team that is having trouble taking care of the basketball. Marshall turned the ball over 17 times against Evansville and had only 12 assists. Virginia Tech’s strength is protecting the basketball and forcing turnovers, so look for the Tech guards to put a lot of ball pressure on the Marshall guards. If the Hokies can outplay the Thundering Herd on the perimeter, they will not feel the loss of Coleman Collins on the inside.
The most important key for Virginia Tech is to dominate Marshall’s backcourt. Freshman Cheick Diakite will likely have a little bit of trouble inside with Patton, who is a solid player despite his slow start against Evansville. But if Jamon Gordon, Zabian Dowdell and Markus Sailes can pressure the Marshall guards and force turnovers, they can limit Patton’s touches on the inside.
Virginia Tech has done a poor job at stopping dribble penetration this season, and they must improve against Marshall. The Thundering Herd likes to shoot three-pointers, and a penetrating guard can easily kick the ball out to an open man on the wing.
This is another game the Hokies should win, but you never quite know what Virginia Tech team will show up in out-of-conference play. And with Coleman Collins out, Tech’s performance is even more of a question mark. Without Collins, Tech is vulnerable to just about any opponent. The Hokies are 14 point favorites, and look for them to win a game that is a bit closer than the experts think.
Note: As of the time this article was posted, hokiesports.com had not updated their online statistics with results from Friday’s Mt. St. Mary’s game, so TSL did not produce a roster card for this game.