Virginia Tech has a great opportunity to record their first ACC win of the
season when they host the Virginia Cavaliers on Sunday afternoon in Cassell
Coliseum at 4:00. The Hokies have lost three ACC games by a combined 11 points
against Duke, Florida State and UNC and enter the game 10-6 overall and 0-3 in
the ACC. Virginia is 7-6 and 1-2 in conference play.
Dave Leitao is in his first season as head coach at UVA. The Cavaliers have
played well at times this season, and very poorly at other times. They are
coming off an 87-82 home loss in overtime to Florida State. The low point of the
season came back on December 7 when they lost at home to Fordham. Leitao
recorded his first ACC victory last weekend over Clemson.
UVa is not blessed with a lot of depth. Only seven players on their team play
more than eight minutes a game. They have also used several different starting
lineups this season, which shows that Leitao isn’t exactly sure what to make
of his team at this point. He is still trying to find the right combination of
point guard Sean Singletary is far and away the best player on the team. He is
averaging 18.2 points per game (4th in the ACC) and despite his 6-0, 174 frame,
is the tied for second on the team in rebounding with 4.6 per game. Singletary
has the ability to shoot the ball from anywhere on the court. He is shooting
42.6% from three-point range this season, which also leads his team.
Occasionally Singletary tries to do too much, and that can be considered his
only major weakness. He has 46 turnovers on the season, which is more than three
per game, too many for a point guard. Against Arizona he had zero assists and
nine turnovers. He also had six turnovers in the victory over Clemson.
As a team, Virginia does not protect the basketball very well. In fact, you
can say that they are downright horrible in the turnover statistic. They have
committed 193 turnovers on the season and have just 146 assists. Players with
the worst ratios on the team are Tunji Soroye (1 assist, 18 turnovers), Laurynas
Mikalauska (1 assist, 16 turnovers), Adrian Joseph (4 assists, 20 turnovers) and
Jason Cain (8 assists, 20 turnovers).
UVA’s turnover problems do not bode very well as they head into the game in
Blacksburg. Virginia Tech has forced their opponents into 267 turnovers this
UVA’s top three scorers are all perimeter players. Besides Sean Singletary,
shooting guard J.R. Reynolds is averaging 14.7 points per game. Reynolds is a
very inconsistent shooter. He is capable of playing very well, but he is
shooting just 39.2% from the field and 32.8% from three-point range. He has 45
assists and 40 turnovers on the season.
Adrian Joseph has only started three games for the Cavaliers, but he is
averaging 28.2 minutes per game. He is third on the team in scoring with 10.5
points per game.
Virginia’s most improved player is Jason Cain, a 6-10, 212 power forward.
Cain is averaging 8.8 points and 8.2 rebounds on the season. His 3.77 offensive
rebounds per game average leads the ACC, and he is fourth in the conference in
Virginia will not present any major size advantages over the Hokies. Freshman
forward Laurynas Mikalauska is 6-8, 241, but Jason Cain and Tunji Soroye (6-11,
212) are the second heaviest players on the team. The Cavaliers have some
height, but they don’t have a lot of weight.
noted above, UVA does not have a lot of depth. They will not be able to wear
down the Hokies in the second half. Against Clemson, all five Cavalier starters
played 33 minutes or more in a game that wasn’t decided until late. That is
similar to the way the Hokies have been playing this season. Wynton Witherspoon,
who appears to be taking over as a regular in the lineup, has helped Tech a lot
with their depth issues. Markus Sailes can now come off the bench and play all
three perimeter positions.
Pay close attention to how Virginia decides to defend the Hokies. The
Cavaliers have played a very effective zone defense at times this year, mostly
to protect deficiencies on the inside, and because of depth issues. Their zone
defense completely baffled the Clemson offense, which spent the majority of the
game missing three-pointers. The Tigers finished just 6-of-24 from downtown.
It will be important for the Virginia Tech guards to be able to penetrate and
break down the zone defense. Clemson did very little of this, instead electing
to try and win the game from the outside, which they could not do. Virginia Tech
point guard Jamon Gordon will be a very important factor in this game. If the
Hokies can drive inside and get Virginia in foul trouble, especially their
backcourt where there is no depth at all, they have a very good chance to win
the game. The Cavaliers have had several players foul out on more than one
occasion this season. Tunji Soroye has fouled out four times, Jason Cain three
times and Laurynas Mikalauska twice.
Virginia’s road record stands at just 1-4 on the season, with the lone
victory coming at Richmond. Virginia Tech is 8-2 at home on the season, with
their two losses coming by a total of four points.
This is an extremely important game for the Hokies. An 0-4 start to ACC play,
no matter how close the games have been, would be a very disappointing start and
certainly would not help the confidence of a team with so many close losses, not
to mention numerous injuries and off-court issues. The Hokies should be focused
and ready to play, because this game is basically a must-win.
The game tips off at 4:00 pm and will be televised by Jefferson-Pilot/Raycom. Check local listings for a station in your coverage area.