2005-06 Basketball Game Preview: Virginia Tech at Virginia

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Virginia Tech (13-10, 3-7 ACC) at Virginia (11-9, 5-5)

Saturday, February 11th, 2006, 8:00 pm

TV: Raycom/J-P (check local listings)

Special Preview Items:

Virginia Tech will travel north to Charlottesville to take on in-state rival
UVA in a critical ACC matchup on Saturday night. Both teams have been going in
opposite directions recently, with the Hokies winning three out of four games
and the Cavaliers dropping three of their last four contests. UVA is currently
11-9 overall and 5-5 in ACC play, and have greatly resembled Virginia Tech’s
team from a year ago, with their unexpected success. The Hokies stand 13-10 overall and 3-7 in the ACC.

In the January meeting between the two teams, UVA left Blacksburg with a
54-49 victory. Virginia Tech played well defensively and forced 21 turnovers
while committing just seven. But the Hokies did not shoot the ball well, going
just 33.3% from the field and hitting only 3-of-21 (14.3%) from three-point
rage. VT was in the middle of a terrible shooting slump, and it cost them a home
game they arguably should have won.

Virginia has been a very good home team this year with a record of 8-2. The
Cavaliers dropped home contests to Fordham (without star point guard Sean
Singletary) and Florida State. They have knocked
off teams such as North Carolina and Miami in University Hall so far this
season. They are a much improved team under first year head coach Dave Leitao,
and this is showing in the ACC standings, where the Cavaliers currently sit
eighth in the conference.

First let’s talk about Virginia’s strengths and weaknesses and how they
matchup with Virginia Tech. The Cavaliers are a poor shooting team, ranking dead
last in the ACC in conference games in field goal percentage at 39.9%.
Virginia Tech ranks sixth at 44.4%. Both teams rank near the bottom in
three-point shooting. Virginia is 30.9% in ACC games while the Hokies are 32.7%.
But those shooting numbers have been rising recently for Virginia Tech.

In the last four games the Hokies have hit 45.8% of their shots, including
two consecutive games of shooting 50% or better. From three-point range Tech has
hit at a 41.5% clip the past four games. Zabian Dowdell, struggling from the
outside for most of the season, has hit 8-of-15 from downtown in the past three
games. The emergence of A.D. Vassallo has also helped the Hokies tremendously.
Vassallo has hit 10-of-16 three-point attempts in the last four games.

Virginia has struggled in their last four games. The Cavaliers shot 38.5%
from the field during that stretch, including a woeful 27.8% from three-point
range. Against NC State, UVA was just 2-of-21 from beyond the arc. As a result
of their poor shooting season, Virginia is 11th in the conference in points per
game against ACC competition, scoring just 66.4 points per game.

Virginia also struggles at times with turnovers. The Cavaliers are averaging
14 turnovers per game against ACC competition, while forcing just 11.6 per game.
They rank ninth in the ACC in turnover margin at -2.2 per game, while the Hokies
lead the league in that category at +6.4 per game. In assist-to-turnover ration,
UVA is 10th at 0.83. The Hokies are fifth at 1.05.

The Cavaliers make up for their turnovers and lack of offense by playing very
well defensively. UVA is first in the ACC in scoring defense, allowing just 67.3
points per game. The Hokies are third in this category at 71 points per game.
Virginia is fourth in the conference in field goal percentage defense. Opponents
shoot just 42.9% against the Cavaliers. Virginia is second in three-point
percentage defense at 32.1%. The Hokies allow opponents to shoot 47% (11th in
the ACC) from the field and 37.8% (7th in the ACC) from three-point range.

UVA is also an excellent rebounding team, and they will hold a big advantage
against the Hokies, despite there not being much of a size differential between
the teams. The Cavs are second in ACC play in rebounding margin at +6.6 per
game. Meanwhile, the Hokies are ranked last in this important statistic at
-7 per game.

Virginia’s top player is point guard Sean Singletary. Singletary leads his
team in scoring, averaging 18.1 points per game. He is also a terrific rebounder
for his size (6-0, 174), pulling down 4.3 per game. He has been shooting the
ball poorly in ACC play, hitting just 39.4% of his shots from the field and
31.5% from three-point range. He also struggles with turnovers at times. In the
first meeting with the Hokies, Singletary had six assists and seven turnovers.

But don’t judge Singletary simply on turnovers and shooting. The most
important part of his game is his competitive streak and his tendency to hit
shots in clutch situations. He played a poor game against Virginia Tech earlier
in the season, but came up with some big shots near the end of the game to
propel UVA to the victory. Singletary is a winner in every way. His matchup with
Jamon Gordon, who is rapidly developing into one of the most popular players the
Hokies have ever had, should be fun to watch. They both play extremely hard and
at times have simply willed their teams to victory.

Virginia’s strength is their backcourt, and their other guard is J.R.
Reynolds. Reynolds is a very dangerous player, but he is wildly inconsistent. He
is averaging 15.5 points per game on the season. His shooting has been very
suspect however. He is shooting just 34.3% from the field in ACC play and 33.3%
from three-point range. Reynolds did have a very good game against the Hokies earlier
in the year, scoring 16 points and going 3-of-5 from behind the arc.

Adrian Joseph is a very dangerous player for the Cavaliers. The sophomore
small forward is averaging 10.3 points and five rebounds per game. He is
shooting 36% from three-point range in ACC games. He was 3-of-5 from beyond the
arc against the Hokies earlier in the year and hit a crucial three-pointer near
the end of the game to help UVA beat Tech in Blacksburg.

On the inside, Jason Cain is perhaps the most improved player in the ACC.
Cain is averaging 8.6 points and 8.3 rebounds per game. In ACC play, his numbers
actually rise to 9.2 points and 8.5 rebounds. Cain is a pretty good athlete
and finishes well down low, hitting 50.9% of his shots against ACC competition.
He also does a good job of protecting the ball, averaging just 1.6 turnovers per
game in ACC play.

Depth is an issue for UVA. The Cavaliers lack depth and generally go with a
seven-man rotation. This is one of the few games that the Hokies have a slight
advantage with their bench.

It will be important for Virginia Tech’s shooters to establish themselves
on Saturday night. A.D. Vassallo is a regular in the lineup, and he has the
potential to have a big game. Zabian Dowdell needs to continue to shoot the ball
well and outplay J.R. Reynolds. And finally, Coleman Collins has to rebound the
basketball. Virginia Tech can’t depend on Jamon Gordon grabbing 16 boards
every game. Someone else has to step up.

Tech is shooting the ball much better now, but they must go on the road
against a team that has held serve at home pretty well this year. Look for a
higher scoring game than the first meeting. It will be close and should go down
to the wire.

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