2005-06 Basketball Game Preview: Virginia Tech at Miami

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Virginia Tech (13-12, 3-9 ACC) at Miami (14-12, 6-7)

Wednesday, February 22nd, 2006, 7:00 pm

TV: ESPNU

Special Preview Items:

Virginia Tech will travel south to take on former Big East rival Miami in a
critical conference game on Wednesday night. The Hokies (13-12, 3-9) still have
a chance for an NIT berth and will be trying to rebound from a tough loss to NC
State. Miami (14-12, 6-7) appeared to have a good chance to make the NCAA
Tournament this year but has now dropped four consecutive ACC games. Both teams
will be desperate for a win on Wednesday night.

After starting 6-3 in ACC play, Miami has suffered through a tough stretch.
First they lost at home in double overtime to NC State, then they fell to North
Carolina. Since then the Hurricanes have gone on the road and been defeated by
Boston College and Duke. That’s four straight losses to ranked teams for the
Hurricanes. They are glad to see the Hokies on their schedule and are looking
forward for a chance to get back in the win column.

This game will be a battle of the backcourts. Miami boasts two excellent
guards and a third very good guard. Guillermo Diaz and Robert Hite are two of
the ACC’s top perimeter players, and Anthony Harris complements them very
well. They will all start against the Hokies, and they will pose matchup
problems.

Last season Virginia Tech beat Miami by double digits both times the teams
played. Don’t expect the same result this year. Although both teams are
similar to last year from a personnel standpoints, the Hokies are missing one
key ingredient—Carlos Dixon. Dixon was a small forward that could score and
possessed the quickness to defend opposing guards. This year Seth Greenberg has
a problem at small forward.

Markus Sailes started at small forward throughout the non-conference portion
of the schedule. He’s not a scorer, but Sailes is very capable of being a lock
down defender on good offensive players. However when Sailes was in the game,
the Hokies desperately needed scoring from the small forward position, and they
weren’t getting it. Then Seth Greenberg solved that problem by giving Wynton
Witherspoon and A. D. Vassallo more playing time. It worked. Greenberg has
gotten scoring from the position. But another problem arose…defense at the
small forward position.

A.D. Vassallo lacks quickness at this stage in his career and is better
suited to guarding slower opponents, not the quick guards of Miami. Wynton
Witherspoon is capable of playing better defense, but he has been held back all
season because of a fracture in his foot.

Heading into this game, Seth Greenberg is faced with a dilemma. Jamon Gordon
will guard Guillermo Diaz, and Zabian Dowdell has done a great job on Anthony
Harris in the past. But who will guard Robert Hite, the Hurricanes’ best
three-point shooter? The Hokies can either try to match him with their best
three-point shooter, A.D. Vassallo, or they can use the defensive-minded Markus
Sailes a lot more. Or they could even play zone and take away Miami’s driving
lanes, which would frustrate the game of Diaz.

At any rate, the game will likely be decided by which backcourt plays better.
Diaz (16.9 ppg) and Hite (16.2) are Miami’s top two scorers, but they are
different players. Hite is the better percentage shooter (46.5% FG, 41.8%
3-pts.), but Diaz (41.6% FG, 36.8% 3-pts.) can create his own shot and get to
the basket. Diaz is ultra-quick in driving to the basket, and Gordon will have
to be on top of his game defensively. The other Miami guard, Anthony Harris,
averages 11 points per game.

The Hokies are well-known for their turnover margin (+6.17 in ACC play). Tech
won’t quite meet its match against the Hurricanes, but Miami is pretty good,
ranking second in the ACC in conference play at +3.77 turnovers per game.
Guillermo Diaz is third in conference play in assist-to-turnover ratio (1.77),
behind only Zabian Dowdell (1.92) and Jamon Gordon (1.85).

Despite starting three guards, Miami has been a solid rebounding team in ACC
play. They have a rebounding margin of +0.8 in the ACC, good for sixth in the
conference. The Hokies rank last at -5.4 rebounds per game. The Hurricanes are a
great offensive rebounding team, pulling down 14.15 offensive boards per game,
which ranks third in the ACC. The Hokies, who had trouble boxing out at times
against NC State, need to take their rebounding to another level against the
Hurricanes. However Miami does rank last in defensive rebounding, so there will
be opportunities for the Hokies on the offensive glass.

Miami’s best inside player is 6-9, 235 pound forward Anthony King. King is
averaging 8.8 points per game and 6.8 rebounds. King has 47 blocked shots on the
season, and when he doesn’t block the shot, he generally does a good job of
altering it. He is joined on the inside by 6-10, 265 pound center Gary Hamilton.
Hamilton is a wide body, but not much of a scorer, averaging four points and 5.8
rebounds per game. He does have 31 steals, an impressive number for a big man.

Miami’s three main players off the bench are freshman guard Denis Clemente,
sophomore forward Raymond Hicks and freshman forward Jimmy Graham. None of these
players are major offensive threats at this point in their careers. Clemente is
capable. He scored 19 points against Temple earlier in the year and is averaging
5.9 points per game. But he is shooting just 32.5% from the field and 23.8% from
three-point range. Hicks averages 3.7 points per game, while Graham, a former VT
recruiting target, contributes 2.1.

Here is how the two teams match up in some key categories:

VT
vs. Miami Key Stats*
Stat
VT

ACC Rank

Miami

ACC Rank

Scoring Offense
68.3 10 70.2 8

Scoring Defense
71.8 4 70.6 3

FG %
43.6% 7 42.2% 10

3-pt. %
29.7% 11 34.9% 9

FG Defense
46.7% 11 45.5% 8

3-pt. Defense
38.3% 7 40.7% 9

Free Throws
65.2% 10 74.1% 5

Rebounding Margin
-5.4 12 +0.8 6

Turnover Margin
+6.17 1 +3.77 2

*ACC Games Only

For the Hokies to win, they have to play very well. Miami will be fired up
after losing their last four games. The Hokies must stop Guillermo Diaz from
getting to the basket, and they must box out Anthony King when the Hurricanes
miss. This will be a difficult game, but it is one the Hokies can definitely win
if they play up to their potential.

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