2005-06 Basketball Game Preview: Virginia Tech at Wake Forest

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Virginia Tech (10-9, 0-6 ACC) at Wake Forest (12-7, 1-5 ACC)

Saturday, January 28th, 2006, 3:00 pm

TV: Jefferson Pilot/Raycom (Check local
listings)

Special Preview Items:

Virginia Tech looks to rebound from their loss to #2 Duke on Saturday
afternoon when they take on Wake Forest in Winston-Salem. It will be a battle
for last place in the ACC between two teams who finished near the top of the
conference standings a year ago. Virginia Tech has slipped to 0-6 in ACC play,
and the Demon Deacons are off to a surprising 1-5 start, with their only victory
coming over Georgia Tech.

Generally strong at home, Wake Forest (12-7 overall, 1-5 ACC) has dropped
three games in Lawrence Joel Coliseum this season. They lost to DePaul back in
December and have lost at home to Duke and Florida State since conference play
began. They have also dropped road games at Clemson, Maryland and NC State.

Known as a bad defensive team last season, the Demon Deacons have carried
that trait over into this year as well. But unlike last season, their offense
has been playing poorly since ACC play began. Wake Forest lost point guard Chris
Paul to the NBA, and there have been major problems replacing him with freshman
Harvey Hale. Wake is a talented team, but they haven’t meshed well as a unit.

In ACC games this season, Wake Forest is shooting just 41.8% from the field,
ninth in the conference. ACC opponents are hitting 46.3% against the Demon
Deacons, a mark that ranks 10th in the conference. They also give up 80.7 points
per game in ACC play, which ranks last in the league. Wake allows opponents to
shoot 41.2% from three-point range, next-to-last in conference play.

Another factor that plays into the Hokies’ hands is turnover margin. The
Hokies rank first in the ACC in conference games in this category, while Wake
Forest is tied for eighth. VT averages +5.67 in turnover margin per game, while
the Deacons are at -2.17.

Chris Paul’s replacement in the lineup, freshman Harvey Hale, has had
trouble at times adjusting to life in the ACC. He has more turnovers than
assists on the season. As a team, Wake Forest is terrible at protecting the
basketball. They have committed 323 turnovers on the season, compared to 259
assists.

On paper, this looks like a game the Hokies have a great chance to win. Since
ACC play began, Wake Forest hasn’t been able to shoot, defend or protect the
basketball, which is a recipe for disaster. Unfortunately for the Hokies, center
Coleman Collins has returned home to Georgia to spend time with his ailing
father, Jackson Collins, who is not expected to survive the weekend. Collins
will definitely miss the Wake Forest game, and a timetable for his return has
not been set.

And
it doesn’t end with Collins. Sophomore forward Deron Washington has been
suspended for the game by athletic director Jim Weaver. Washington kicked Duke
forward Lee Melchionni in the face during the second half of the game on
Thursday night.

Without Collins and Washington, the Hokies are going to have a tough time
against Eric Williams, one of the ACC’s best post players. Williams, 6-9, 280,
will have a big-time size advantage on anyone Virginia Tech plays down low.
Freshman Cheick Diakite will likely get the start at center, and with his
limited experience, he does not match up well at all with Williams. Williams is
an outstanding player who averages 16.2 points and 8.8 rebounds per game. In ACC
play, those numbers have jumped up to 16.8 points and 11.2 rebounds. He is one
of the conference’s best finishers inside, hitting 65.1% of his field goal
attempts.

Chris Tucker will get the start at power forward. The Hokies will have no
healthy backups in the frontcourt for this game, unless Shawn Harris returns to
the team after attending his grandmother’s funeral.

The Hokies will have to provide Diakite with a lot of help down low, and that
will give Justin Gray and his teammates more of an opportunity from the outside.
Gray is one of the ACC’s best guards, and he has the ability to put a lot of
points on the scoreboard. He is averaging 23.3 points per game in conference
play and 19.6 points overall. He shoots 39.3% from three-point range, a very
solid mark. Gray has hit 281 career three-pointers, which is 10th in ACC
history. He has 76 assists on the season, but he often tries to do too much. He
has committed 79 turnovers in 19 games.

Other players that can shoot the ball from the outside are Trent Strickland
and Chris Ellis. Strickland is 42.5% from beyond the arch, while Ellis shoots
41.2%. Ellis is also a 6-9, 267 interior player, which makes his shooting touch
even more amazing.

The battle on the boards was going to be very tough for Virginia Tech to win,
even with Coleman Collins. Wake Forest leads the ACC in rebounding margin in
conference games at +10.3. Meanwhile, the Hokies are in last place in this
category at -7.8. With no Coleman Collins in the game, things could get very
ugly on the inside. Wake Forest leads the ACC in offensive rebounds, so look for
the Demon Deacons to score a lot of second chance points against the Hokies.

If the Hokies want to have any chance to win this game without Coleman
Collins, they need to force a lot of turnovers. At least 20 would be preferable.
Tech also needs to limit their own turnovers to single digits. They also need to
actually score off turnovers, rather than getting a steal and then missing a
shot.

The Virginia Tech guards will have to carry the load. Don’t expect much
offensive production from the inside duo of Cheick Diakite and Chris Tucker.
Zabian Dowdell, Jamon Gordon and Wynton Witherspoon all need to have good games
for the Hokies to have a chance.

The game is at 3 pm and will be televised by Jefferson-Pilot/Raycom. Check
your local listings.

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