2005-06 Basketball Game Preview: Virginia Tech vs. Georgia Tech

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Virginia Tech (11-9, 1-6 ACC) vs. Georgia Tech (9-9, 2-5 ACC)

Tuesday, January 31st, 2006, 7:00 pm

TV: RSN (check
local listings
)

Special Preview Items:

Virginia Tech recorded their first ACC victory of the season on Saturday when
they downed Wake Forest in Winston-Salem, and they have a great chance to get
another when Georgia Tech visits Cassell Coliseum on Tuesday night. The Hokies
will not have Coleman Collins, who is in Georgia visiting his ailing father, but
they will have the services of Deron Washington. Washington was suspended for
the Wake Forest game but will make his return against the Yellow Jackets.

Georgia Tech is in a major slump. They have lost five consecutive games for
the first time in three seasons. During this slump they have lost to NC State by
nine, Wake Forest by 15, Clemson by 10, Maryland by 12 and Boston College by
two. The Yellow Jackets lost a lot of talent off last year’s NCAA Tournament
team and have been struggling with inexperienced players.

Even without Coleman Collins, the Hokies have a good chance against the
Yellow Jackets. Georgia Tech is 0-5 on the road this season, and their backcourt
is in shambles. Zam Frederick has taken over the point guard spot that was
vacated by Jarrett Jack, and quite frankly Frederick has struggled for the most
part this season.

Frederick is a very inexperienced sophomore who saw action in just 19 games
last season. He has struggled with his shot for the majority of the season and
has also had a problem with turnovers. Frederick is averaging 9.6 points per
game on the year, but has hit just 36.3% of his shots and 28.8% of his
three-pointers. He has 73 assists but has also turned the ball over 67 times, an
unacceptable number from a point guard 18 games into the season.

Let’s compare Frederick to Virginia Tech’s backcourt of Zabian Dowdell
and Jamon Gordon. Dowdell has 62 assists and 49 turnovers, while Gordon has 94
assists and 42 turnovers. Gordon leads the ACC in assist-to-turnover ratio.
Throw Markus Sailes into the mix, and Tech will present a lot of problems for
Frederick, offensively and defensively. Gordon and Dowdell both rank in the top
10 in the ACC in steals, and Deron Washington and Sailes are close behind.

The Yellow Jackets have been struggling at the other guard position as well.
For the first nine games of the season, former walk-on Mario West was the
starter, but he went down with an injury. West has since returned and will play
on Tuesday, but it is unknown if he will start. He isn’t a flashy player,
averaging just 6.4 points per game.

When West was injured, freshman D’Andre Bell assumed the starting position.
Like Frederick, Bell has also struggled. He has 23 turnovers and just 23 assists
on the year and averages 4.2 points per game. He is shooting just 39.7% from the
field and 28.6% from three-point range. Frederick and Bell do not appear to be
very dangerous offensive threats at this point in their careers.

Behind Frederick, Bell and West is more inexperience. Freshman Lewis Clinch
has seen a lot of playing time in the backcourt, averaging 21.4 minutes per
game. Like the others, Clinch has not been shooting the ball well. He is hitting
39.8% of his shots from the field, though he is a solid three-point shooter at
36.8%. Freshman Paco Diaw has also seen starting time at point guard. He is
averaging 1.1 points per game.

The Hokies appear to have an advantage in the backcourt. This could very well
be Virginia Tech’s best matchup in any ACC game this season, and they need to
take advantage of it. Georgia Tech has had a major problem with turnovers on the
season, giving the ball up 323 times. The Hokies rank first in turnover margin
in the ACC (+5.4) while the Yellow Jackets stand at 11th (-2.3), ahead of only
Wake Forest. VT needs to get after the inexperienced Georgia Tech guards early
and often.

Despite their backcourt not being up to snuff, the Yellow Jackets still have
some very good ACC players. Small forward Anthony Morrow is the best of the
bunch. He got a lot of experience as a freshman last year and has played very
well thus far in his sophomore campaign. He is averaging a team-high 16.8 points
per game. He is one of the ACC’s top three-point threats at 42% for the
season. Like the rest of his teammates, he can struggle with turnovers at times,
committing 40 on the season.

The sophomore duo of Jeremis Smith and Ra’Sean Dickey man the frontcourt
for Georgia Tech. Smith, at 6-6, 232, plays the power forward position. He isn’t
overly tall for his position, but he is physical and tough. Smith is Georgia
Tech’s second leading scorer at 13.1 points per game, and he is tied for third
in the ACC at 8.6 rebounds per game.

Dickey is a big body on the inside at 6-9, 255. He is averaging 11.4 points
and 6.8 rebounds per game. He also leads Georgia Tech with 29 blocked shots.
Smith and Dickey combine for one of the ACC’s best rebounding frontcourts.
They rank fourth in the ACC in rebounding margin, while the Hokies are last.
Without Coleman Collins, this matchup works in Georgia Tech’s favor even more.

As mentioned above, Georgia Tech has been very poor on the road this season
with an 0-5 mark. Their only win away from Alexander Memorial Coliseum came in a
neutral site win in Shreveport, LA over Centenary. In five road games they have
given up an average of 81.2 points per game. They surrendered 88 to Michigan
State, 91 to Georgia, 87 to NC State and 86 to Wake Forest. They only gave up 66
points in their recent road loss to Boston College, and that was the only time
this season the Jackets have given up less than 86 points on the road.

The key to beating Georgia Tech is pretty simple. The Hokies must force their
subpar guards into turnovers, and score points off of them, to make up for the
loss in rebounding that is likely going to happen. The crowd needs to be present
and be loud to rattle an already shaky group of guards. This should be an
interesting matchup. Virginia Tech has a major advantage in the backcourt, while
the Yellow Jackets hold the upper hand on the inside. We’ll see which team is
able to make better use of their matchup advantages.

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