2005-06 Basketball Game Preview: Virginia Tech at Maryland

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Virginia Tech (10-7, 0-4 ACC) at Maryland
(12-4, 2-2 ACC)

Saturday, January 21st, 2005, 8:00 pm

TV: Jefferson Pilot/Raycom (Check local
listings)

Special Preview Items:

After starting 0-4 in the ACC with every game being
decided in the final minute, things won’t get any easier for the Hokies this
weekend. Virginia Tech will travel north to College Park where they will take on
the #22 Maryland Terrapins on Saturday night. The Hokies need to pick up a win
in the ACC to get things going their way again, but that will be a difficult
chore against the Terps.

Gary Williams’ team is filled with talented players.
They have good inside players who can rebound and score, and they are very
athletic. They also have a number of good three-point shooters than can beat you
from the outside. In short, they can beat you in a variety of ways.

Maryland’s only defeats this season have been neutral
site losses to Gonzaga and George Washington, as well as road losses to Miami
and Duke. Three of those four teams are ranked. Their best victories came
against Boston College and Wake Forest. The Terrapins are undefeated in the
Comcast Center this season.

Maryland’s leading scorer is 6-5 shooting guard Chris
McCray. McCray is averaging 14.8 points per game and coverts 52.5% of his field
goal attempts. He is a capable three-point shooter at 36.1%, and is nearly
automatic from the free throw line at 89.7%. He has 55 assists and 33 steals on
the year as well.

Perhaps the most well-known player on Maryland’s team is
forward Nik Caner-Medley (6-8, 240). Caner-Medley is a versatile player who can
play both forward positions. He is averaging 13.2 points and 5.9 rebounds per
game. He is shooting 48.4% from the field and 29% from three-point range. He is
also a very good free throw shooter, hitting 81.4% of his shots.

Ekene Ibekwe is Maryland’s most effective post player.
He is averaging 11.6 points and 6.4 rebounds per game. Ibekwe is tall and rangy
(6-9, 220), not to mention very athletic. Travis Garrison (9.7 points, 6.5
rebounds) and James Gist (8.6 points, 4.2 rebounds) are two other very talented
post players. Expect Gary Williams to use Will Bowers (7-1, 262) against the
Hokies this week. Bowers is averaging just 10.9 minutes per game, but his size
could make him very effective against the smaller Tech frontcourt.

A player to watch off the bench is 6-5 guard Mike Jones.
Jones plays 18.2 minutes per game and averages 8.1 points per game. He has hit
27 of his 60 three-point attempts this season, good for 45%.

The only weakness the Terrapins have is at point guard.
D.J. Strawberry, son of former MLB star Darryl Strawberry, is a former wing
guard/forward who is doing an admirable job filling in at point guard, but it is
not his natural position. He is known for his defense, but he has shot the ball
well this year, drilling 52.9% of his field goal attempts. He has hit 12-of-22
shots from three-point range (54.5%).

Strawberry’s weakness is protecting the ball. He has 43
turnovers this season, which doesn’t seem like a lot, but he turned it over
seven times against GW, six times against Miami and five times against Duke. He
also had three turnovers against Gonzaga, meaning 21 of his 43 turnovers, or
roughly half, have come in Maryland’s four losses. He only had 15 assists
during those four games. If Strawberry plays well on Saturday night, the Hokies
don’t have much of a chance, but if they can pressure him into turnovers, they
can give themselves a much better chance.

Realistically, with the problems the Hokies have been
having offensively the last few games, it will be very difficult for them to
keep up with the Terps in the Comcast Center. Maryland is averaging 82.5 points
per game, which ranks 10th nationally. They are second in the ACC in three point
shooting (39.2%) and second in free throw percentage (74.2%). They rank second
in the conference in offensive rebounding, while Tech is last in defensive
rebounding.

As good as they are offensively, Maryland finds themselves
near the bottom in most defensive categories. They are last in scoring defense,
allowing 70.5 points per game. The Hokies are first in the conference in this
category at 60.4 points per game. The Terrapins are ninth in field goal
percentage defense and 10th in three-point percentage defense. Virginia Tech
ranks fifth and fourth respectively in those categories.

For Virginia Tech to have a chance to win this game, they
must play great defense and hope Maryland has a bad shooting night. They must
also get better offensive production than they did against UNC and Virginia,
which should happen. Sooner or later the shots will fall for VT, and going
against one of the ACC’s worst defensive teams can make that happen very
quickly.

But if you look at the overall picture, the deck is
stacked against the Hokies. Maryland has a lot of talent, a deep bench, is
undefeated at home and scores a lot of points. VT will counter with a short
bench, a poor road record (1-4) and a subpar offense. That is a not a good
recipe for success against one of the ACC’s top programs.

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