2005-06 Basketball Game Preview: Virginia Tech vs. #21 NC State

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Virginia Tech (13-11, 3-8 ACC) vs. #21 NC State (20-5, 9-3)

Saturday, February 18th, 2006, 1:00 pm


Special Preview Items:

Virginia Tech will return to Cassell Coliseum on Saturday afternoon when they
face #21 NC State in an important ACC game that will be televised by ABC at 1
pm. The Hokies (13-11, 3-8) are coming off two overtime games, a 75-74 victory
at Clemson and an 81-77 loss to Virginia. NC State (20-5, 9-3) has won five of
their past six games and currently sits in second place in the ACC.

Both teams have major question marks heading into the game. Coleman Collins’
father finally succumbed to cancer this past Monday after battling the disease
for approximately one year. His memorial service will be held on Sunday. Collins
has been with the team in Blacksburg all week and is expected to play on
Saturday, although he will not start. How much he will play will be a game time

NC State forward Ilian Evtimov injured his foot in Wednesday’s victory over
Florida State. He missed the entire second half of that game. Doctors have
diagnosed him with a sprained Lisfranc ligament in his foot. Although X-rays
revealed no fractures, Evtimov’s status is highly questionable. Evtimov is a
very important part of the Wolfpack team. He is averaging 11.6 points and four
rebounds per game. He is a deadly three-point shooter at 43.4%. He is also a
90.2% free throw shooter, and is probably NC State’s best off the ball
defender. Evtimov has led the Wolfpack in scoring on eight occasions this

Evtimov’s absence would damage an NC State team that currently does not
play many players. Only seven regulars in the lineup average more than seven
minutes per game. If Evtimov does not play, Wolfpack coach Herb Sendek would be
forced to go deeper into his bench.

NC State has a very balanced basketball team. Four players average double
digits in scoring, but no player averages more than 13.2 points per game. The
Wolfpack has had as many as six players score in double figures in the same game
this year. Despite the loss of Julius Hodge to the NBA, the team has improved
since last season.

Here is a look at the regular starting lineups for each team:

Starting Lineup
State Starting Lineup








G Jamon Gordon 6-3 200 G Tony Bethel 6-1 185
G Zabian Dowdell 6-3 200 G Engin Atsur 6-4 200
F Wynton Witherspoon 6-7 185 F Cameron Bennerman 6-4 205
F A.D. Vassallo 6-6 213 F Ilian Evtimov 6-8 222
F Deron Washington 6-7 195 C Cedric Simmons 6-9 233

Cedric Simmons has played very well at center this year, and has given the
Wolfpack an inside-out game that they previously lacked. Simmons is averaging
12.3 points and 6.6 rebounds on the season. His 67 blocked shots are second only
to Shelden Williams in the ACC.

Herb Sendek runs a very unique offense. Some call it the Princeton offense,
though Sendek would take offense to that reference. Whatever you want to call
it, it certainly has been very effective this year. The offense revolves around
movement, screens and three-pointers. As a result, NC State is at or near the
top of the ACC in virtually every offensive category.

In points per game they rank second in ACC play at 78.1, behind only Duke. NC
State is tied with Duke as the best shooting team in the conference at 49.3%.
State is second in free throws at 76.9%. But where the Wolfpack blows the
competition away is from the three-point line. They are shooting 45.7% from
behind the arc in ACC play, an almost unbelievable stat. Here is a look at their
top three-point shooters:

NC State Three-Point Shooters
Name Made Att. Pct.
Tony Bethel 54 113 47.8
Ilian Evtimov 53 122 43.4
Engin Atsur 57 132 43.2
Andrew Brackman 15 39 38.5
Cameron Bennerman 40 112 35.7

Only two Hokies, Zabian Dowdell (35.9%) and A.D. Vassallo (37.1%), would be on
that list, and even then they would be near the bottom.

Against a great three-point shooting team, the Hokies will bring a poor field
goal percentage defense to the table. Virginia Tech is next-to-last in ACC play
in field goal percentage defense. ACC teams are shooting 46.8% against the
Hokies. NC State is second in this category, allowing opponents to shoot 42.9%
from the field. Tech’s three-point percentage defense is decent, seventh in
the conference at 37.3%. NC State is second in this category as well, allowing
opponents to shoot just 31.2% from the outside.

From a rebounding standpoint, the Hokies appear to match up fairly well
statistically. VT is last in the conference in rebounding margin at -6.4, while
NC State is eighth at -2.5. But in this case, stats are misleading. NC State is
dead last in the ACC in offensive rebounding for two reasons. Number one, they
don’t miss very many shots. Number two, their offensive sets are so spread out
that it is difficult for them to crash the boards. In defensive rebounding, NC
State ranks first in the conference, partly because their field goal percentage
defense is very high.

Of course Virginia Tech will have their turnover margin and
assist-to-turnover ratio to fall back on. This is what keeps the Hokies in every
game, and what will probably keep them in this game. VT is first in the
conference in ACC games in turnover margin at +5.91. Meanwhile the Wolfpack
ranks just eighth in ACC at -2 turnovers per game. The Hokies are also second in
the ACC in assist-to-turnover ratio at 1.11. NC State is just behind the Hokies
at 1.09.

This will be a tough matchup for the Hokies because of NC State’s great
defense and their ability to shoot the ball. But it is a matchup they can win.
As always, they must win the turnover battle. Defensively, they won’t be
focusing on any superstars. Instead they will be guarding a system. It certainly
helped that the Hokies had no game during the week, so they had extra time to
prepare for such a complex offense. In the end this game could come down to
simple shooting. If the Hokies force turnovers and shoot the ball well, they’ll
be in the game at the end.

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