2006-07 Old Spice Classic Preview

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Virginia Tech is playing in the Old Spice Classic, a basketball tournament in
Orlando, over Thanksgiving weekend. The Hokies will face some tough competition
during the tournament, and we should begin to get an idea of exactly how good
they can be this season.

The Hokies will play three games, the first of which will be on Thanksgiving
night. The other games will be on Friday and Sunday, with time and television
coverage dependant on how Tech is faring. The following preview will take a
short look at each team in the tournament. The tournament bracket can be found
in a link at the bottom of the article.

Western Michigan (1-2)

Virginia Tech will open the Old Spice Classic with Western Michigan on
Thanksgiving Night at 7:30 on ESPN2. This is the Hokies’ first chance of the
year to play in front of a national audience, and they will be looking to
impress.

Virginia Tech has lost their last three games to Western Michigan. Two came
when Ricky Stokes was coaching the Hokies, and the last came two years ago under
Seth Greenberg. The loss two years ago was one of the reasons the Hokies missed
out on the NCAA tournament.

Don’t let Tech’s history with Western Michigan’s football team fool
you. The Broncos’ basketball team isn’t half bad. In fact, they’ve won 80
games over the past four seasons, an average of 20 wins per year. They are
coming off a tough season where they finished just 14-18 overall. However they
did finish 10-8 in the MAC, improving down the stretch and nearly winning the
MAC West.

The Broncos lost two key players in point guard Brian Snider (11 ppg, 5.1 apg)
and forward Stane’s Bufford (9.7 ppg). However they brought in what is
considered to be a very good recruiting class. 6-3 guard David Kool is the first
Mr. Basketball of the state of Michigan that the Broncos have ever signed. 6-9
forward Jon Workman originally committed to Iowa, but eventually signed with
Western Michigan.

Kool has not played as of yet because of a hamstring injury, and Workman has
been struggling. Western Michigan is off to a 1-2 start, with an 86-67 loss to
#5 Pitt and a surprising 73-71 setback to Indiana State. They defeated Detroit
69-67 in their home opener. The Broncos have a dangerous player up front that
the Hokies will have to deal with. Here is their projected starting lineup:


Western Michigan Starting Lineup

Position

Name

Height

Weight

Year

G

Michael Redell

6-0

183

So.

G

Shawntes Gary

6-2

208

So.

F

Derek Drews

6-5

220

So.

F

Andrew Hershberger

6-7

223

Jr.

C

Joe Reitz

6-7

250

Jr.

Their best player is 6-7, 250 center Joe Reitz. Reitz averaged 15.5 points
and 7.4 rebounds last season, leading the team in both categories. He won’t be
the tallest guy on the court, but he will be the widest. He shot 52.9% from the
field last season, and 73.4% from the free throw line.

This season Reitz is averaging 14.3 points and 7.7 rebounds. He is 13-of-19
from the free throw line. He is the type of player than could potentially give
the Hokies fits down low.

In the past, Western Michigan has taken advantage of the Hokies from the
outside. But the Broncos are coming off a very poor shooting season that saw
them finish last in the MAC in field goal (40.8%) and three-point percentage
(29.9%), as well as next to last in free throw percentage (66.4%).

In their first three games of 2006-07, Western Michigan shot 38.5% from the
field. But their three-point shooting has improved to 43.8%. Derek Drews has hit
8-of-11 shots from downtown, while backup guard Derek Fracalossi has hit
5-of-10.

This time around, the Hokies should beat Western Michigan. They have
more talent, better depth and more experience. In fact, they have a lot more
experience. The Broncos don’t have a single senior on their roster.

The experience factor in the backcourt should be the reason the Hokies win
this game. Virginia Tech will start seniors Zabian Dowdell and Jamon Gordon, and
they will face two sophomores in Michael Redell and Shawntes Gary. That talent
and experience matchup should be enough to propel the Hokies into the winners’
bracket, where they will face either Montana or West Virginia

West Virginia (3-0)

West Virginia will use the 2006-07 season as a rebuilding year. Four starters
have departed from last year’s NCAA tournament team, and they accounted for
71.6% of the Mountaineers’ scoring. The lone returning starter is Frank Young,
who was the team’s fifth leading scorer, averaging 7.4 points per game.

Head Coach John Beilein has done a great job at West Virginia, but turning
the 2006-07 squad into another NCAA tournament team would be the best coaching
job of his career. The Mountaineers struggled with Mount St. Mary’s in their
season opener, winning 50-42. They then blew out Division II Slippery Rock 87-37
in their second game of the season. Most recently, they knocked off Canisius
66-43.

Here is a look at West Virginia’s starting lineup:


West Virginia Starting Lineup

Position

Name

Height

Weight

Year

G

Darris Nichols

6-2

190

Jr.

G

Alex Ruoff

6-6

210

So.

F

Frank Young

6-5

210

Sr.

F

Joe Alexander

6-8

210

So.

C

Rob Summers

7-0

240

Sr.

Both of their starting guards are former Virginia Tech recruiting targers.
Darris Nichols is from Radford, VA. Nichols played 13.5 minutes a game last
year, and committed just 13 turnovers for the entire season. Alex Ruoff has the
ability to be a big-time outside shooter, and is the perfect fit for John
Beilein’s perimeter-based offensive system.

Through their first three games, West Virginia’s best player has been 6-7
freshman forward Da’Sean Butler. Butler is averaging 11.3 points and 5.3
rebounds per game so far, leading the team in both categories.

West Virginia’s main problem this year will be their youth and
inexperience. Replacing four starters who averaged 31 or more minutes per game
will gut a basketball program, and generally it takes a rebuilding year for the
new players to get used to playing at a high level. John Beilein has filled the
WVU roster with players that fit his style, but they still have to get their
feet wet.

West Virginia must face Montana in the first round of action. If they end up
playing the Hokies in the second round, Virginia Tech should be able to win the
game. They have more depth, and the experience factor will be a big edge to the
team in Orange and Maroon.

Montana (1-2)

You might now know much about Montana’s basketball program. But the only
thing you need to know is that they’ve gone to the NCAA tournament for two
consecutive years. They are used to winning, and they are traveling to Orlando
with the mindset that they can compete.

The biggest change for the Grizzlies this year is that Head Coach Larry
Krystowiak left in the offseason and took a job as an assistant coach with the
Milwaukee Bucks. Montana turned to longtime assistant Wayne Tinkle, who was a
former Montana player and an assistant for the Grizzlies under three different
head coaches.

It hasn’t been a great start for Tinkle in his first season as head coach.
Montana opened the season by blowing out Montana-State Northern 83-42, but they
followed that up with a 74-57 loss to Utah Valley State and a 76-71 loss to
Wyoming. They are looking to get back on track against an inexperienced West
Virginia team in the first round of the Old Spice Classic. Here is a look at the
Grizzlies’ starting lineup:


Montana Starting Lineup

Position

Name

Heigh

Weight

Year

G

Bryan Ellis

5-10

170

Sr.

G

Matt Martin

6-2

193

Jr.

F

Matt Dlouhy

6-6

205

Sr.

F

Jordan Hasquet

6-9

245

So.

C

Andrew Strait

6-8

245

Jr.

Montana is a favorite to win the Big Sky Conference this season, which would
give them an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament.

Montana’s opening game with West Virginia could be one of the most
interesting games of the tournament. Both teams have different styles, with
Montana using two skilled big guys in Andrew Strait and Jordan Hasquet on the
inside against West Virginia’s perimeter oriented team. Their game against the
Mountaineers could go down to the wire.

If the Hokies face Montana at some point, Tech would have an advantage in
depth and athleticism and should be able to get past the Grizzlies.

Arkansas (2-0)

The Arkansas Razorbacks head into the Old Spice Classic looking to build off
last season’s success. In 2005-06, the Razorbacks advanced to the NCAA
tournament behind a strong and experienced backcourt. But this year, their top
three guards are gone, including Ronnie Brewer, who took his 18.4 points per
game to the NBA a year early.

Also departed from the Arkansas team are guards Jonathon Modici (16.1 points,
4 rebounds) and Eric Ferguson (8.1 points, 2.7 assists). With the loss of this
kind of talent, the Razorbacks are in major rebuilding mode in the backcourt.
Let’s take a look at their starting lineup.


Arkansas Starting Lineup

Position

Name

Height

Weight

Year

G

Gary Ervin

6-0

176

Jr.

G

Patrick Beverley

6-1

172

Fr.

F

Sonny Weems

6-6

201

Jr.

F

Vincent Hunter

6-10

225

Jr.

C

Steven Hill

7-0

250

Jr.

Running the point for Arkansas is the ultra-fast Gary Ervin. Ervin is a
transfer from Mississippi State, where his fast, but sometimes reckless style of
play did not fit well. He is a talented player who recorded 14, 11 and 10
assists in three different games for Mississippi State. But his style of play
comes with a price, as he will turn the ball over. Through two games this
season, he has nine turnovers. If Arkansas ends up facing the Hokies at some
point, he’ll need to protect the ball better against Jamon Gordon and Zabian
Dowdell.

The other starter in the backcourt is freshman Patrick Beverley, who is
averaging 17 points per game. He has knocked down seven of his 10 three-point
attempts on the season.

6-6 wing forward Sonny Weems has been the team’s best player so far,
averaging 18 points and seven rebounds per game, both team highs. Weems was a
highly-touted JUCO prospect in his first season at Arkansas.

The Razorbacks have a big frontcourt, starting 6-10, 225 Vincent Hunter at
power forward and 7-0, 250 Steven Hill at center. Hunter is skilled, averaging
10 points and six rebounds per game. Hill is a space eater who doesn’t put up
great numbers for his size. He averages jut eight points per game, but only
pulls down 3.5 boards. But he is a great defender, having blocked 14 shots
already this season.

The Razorbacks are 2-0 on the season, with victories over Southeast Missouri
State (92-52) and Stephen F. Austin (70-59). They are one of the favorites to
win the Old Spice Classic, but they must first get by Southern Illinois in the
first round. They could potentially face the Hokies in the championship game.

Southern Illinois (2-0)

Southern Illinois is one of the most dangerous mid-major teams in the game.
They have made the NCAA tournament for five consecutive seasons, and are coming
off a Missouri Valley Tournament Championship. This year they will battle
Creighton and Wichita State for the MVC Championship.

The Salukis are one of the most experienced teams in the country, and
appeared in some preseason top 25 lists. Although they feature a very small
lineup, they return all five starters from last season, and have two seniors
starting in the backcourt.


Southern Illinois Starting Lineup

Position

Name

Height

Weight

Year

G

Jamaal Tatum

6-2

175

Sr.

G

Tony Young

6-0

190

Sr.

G

Bryan Mullins

6-2

190

So.

F

Randal Falker

6-7

230

Jr.

C

Matt Shaw

6-7

225

Jr.

The strength of the Southern Illinois team is in the backcourt, where seniors
Jamaal Tatum and Tony Young hold down the fort. They are the top scorers on the
team, with Tatum averaging 20 points per game and Young pouring in 17. In games
against Washington (MO) and Murray State, Tatum shot 80% from three-point range,
while young hit 50%.

The Saluki frontcourt is small, but effective. Matt Shaw appears to be the
best player at this point in the season, averaging 7.5 points and 8.5 rebounds.
Randal Falker averages six points and six rebounds per game.

The Salukis have solid depth, with nine players averaging at least 14.5
minutes per game on the year, and a tenth averaging 8.5.

Southern Illinois will face Arkansas in the first round of the tournament. It
should be one of the most interesting games of the weekend. The only way the
Salukis can play the Hokies is if they meet in the championship game.

Minnesota (2-1)

The Minnesota Golden Gophers will bring a tall lineup to Orlando for the Old
Spice Classic, where they will face Marist in the first round. The winner of the
Minnesota-Marist game will face the winner of the Arkansas-Southern Illinois
game in the second round.

The Golden Gophers are an inside team that features two big bodies in the
frontcourt, and one very good perimeter player that puts up big numbers. They
have no seniors on their team, so there will probably be growing pains this
year. They are 2-1, with wins over North Dakota State and Long Island, and a
home loss to Iowa State.


Minnesota Starting Lineup

Position

Name

Height

Weight

Year

G

Lawrence McKenzie

6-2

180

Jr.

G

Kevin Payton

6-5

200

r-Fr.

F

Brandon Smith

6-6

205

So.

F

Dan Coleman

6-9

225

Jr.

C

Spencer Tollackson

6-9

267

Jr.

As you can see, Minnesota has good height on the wing, as well as some bulk
on the inside, which is typical of Big Ten basketball.

The most dangerous perimeter player is Lawrence McKenzie, who is averaging
19.7 points per game. The transfer from Oklahoma has nailed 12 of his 20
three-point attempts this year, good for 60%. Unfortunately for the Golden
Gophers, McKenzie is the only player on the team who has flashed ability from
the outside, as no other player has hit more than two three-pointers on the
season.

Dan Coleman and Spencer Tollackson form a solid combo on the inside. Coleman
is averaging 14 points and 7.7 rebounds per game, while Tollackson is good for
13.3 points and nine rebounds.

McKenzie, Coleman and Tollackson need some help from the other two starters.
Kevin Payton leads the team with 15 assists, but he is averaging just one point
and 3.3 rebounds per game. The other starter, Brandon Smith, averages 3.7 points
and 2.3 rebounds per game.

The NIT is probably the best result Minnesota can hope for this season. The
Golden Gophers and Western Michigan are the two teams for whom it’s really
hard to make an argument for winning the Old Spice Classic. They are expected to
finish in the bottom half of the Big Ten next year, and they won’t be
harboring any legitimate NCAA tournament hopes until next season.

Marist (2-1)

Marist is the sleeper team of the Old Spice Classic. They return four
starters from last year’s team, and they have well-balanced scoring throughout
their starting lineup. They are 2-1 on the season, with wins over Delaware and
Florida Atlantic, and a loss to Ohio.

The Red Foxes have a very experienced team, starting three seniors and two
juniors, one of which is a fourth-year junior. Overall, Marist features four
seniors, three r-juniors, four true juniors and two r-sophomores. That’s quite
a bit of experience, and it’s rare to see that many players redshirted in
college basketball.


Marist Starting Lineup

Position

Name

Height

Weight

Year

G

Jared Jordan

6-2

182

Sr.

G

Will Whittington

6-3

173

Sr.

F

Ben Farmer

6-5

195

Jr.

F

Ryan Stilphen

6-8

224

r-Jr.

C

James Smith

7-0

240

Sr.

Marist has a good mix of players in their starting lineup. Four of the five
starters average double figures in scoring.

Jared Jordan is the leader of the team. The senior guard is averaging 18
points and six rebounds per game on the year. He also leads the team in assists
with 24. He knows how to get to the basket, as he has shot 21 free throws this
year, hitting 17. He hasn’t found the range on his outside shot as of yet this
season. He is shooting just 15.8% from three-point range.

The other guard, Will Whittington, is averaging 17.7 points per game. He is
the team’s three-point marksman, hitting 42.3% from downtown on the year.
Marist’s post players, Ryan Stilphen and James Smith, are averaging 12.7
points each. However, they average just 4.3 and 5.3 rebounds respectively.
Rebounding is a weakness for the Red Foxes. They have been out-rebounded by an
average of 1.3 per game against Ohio, Delaware and Florida Atlantic.

Despite having so many players on the bench that have redshirted, Marist
doesn’t appear to use very many players. Jordan and Whittington average 37.3
and 36.3 minutes per game respectively. Only three bench players garner
significant minutes, and the leading scorer of that group is forward Shae
McNamara, who averages 3.7 points per game. Marist is a team that could
potentially be worn down by the end of the tournament.

Editor’s Note: Eustace Frederick III, AKA B-street, will be taking part in
our basketball previews for the rest of the season. At the end of the preview,
he’ll give us his thoughts on the game, or in this case, the tournament.

B-Street’s View

Some hoops talking-heads are suggesting that the first round Old Spice
Classic tournament match-up that pits the perennial NCAA tourney bound Southern
Illinois Salukis vs. the always formidable SEC Arkansas Razorbacks, is the de
facto Old Spice championship game. In short, I’m not inclined to agree.
Because of a hoops team that goes by the initials that read “VT” in the
lower bracket.

Why? Because the winner of the Southern Illinois vs. Arkansas game looks ripe
to advance to only the second round by me. As Kevin McHale’s Alma (the
Minnesota Golden-Gophers) and Ric Smitts old-school (the Marist Red-Foxes)
incorrectly appear to compose the lesser two teams in the top-half of the Old
Spice bracket. Minnesota will be one and done for having four new starters and
being a bit backcourt challenged. On the other hand, Marist appears primed to
make a very strong push for the Metro Atlantic Conference’s NCAA auto-bid.
Marist has an all-conference quality backcourt, the most Metro Atlantic depth,
and two frontcourt players who will likely garner Metro-Atlantic 3rd team
all-conference honors.

In the lower half of the Old Spice Classic bracket, we see the two major
conference schools (VT and wvu), the likely Big Sky Conference champion
(Montana), and a middle of the road MAC team, in one Western Michigan. Western
Michigan might very well be the easiest draw of the entire tourney, and this
will hopefully lend itself to a little extra rest for our Hokies, as they must
turnaround and play the Montana vs. wvu winner inside of 22 hours.

“It is your destiny.” We all know which intergalactic villain said that,
but this famous Lucas Arts quote also applies to our likely second round Old
Spice opponent, as I now formally predict we will have to play hateful wvu once
again. The time to knock wvu out would clearly be in the first round, as any
team that relies so predominately on shooting from 12 to 20 feet out will only
become more and more acclimated to the long-distance confines of an unfamiliar
gym with each passing half of play. On the proverbial chalk-board Montana should
beat wvu, but they will not. Here’s how I see it all shaking out…

Arkansas over Southern Illinois: the Razorbacks have four
different 6`10“ or taller ballers in their top-8 rotation right now. I’ll
barely take that over one of the very best small-ball teams in all of D-1, as
the Salukis are even smaller than their previous 3-2 zone or switching
man-to-man defenses have been, and they have never been tall on height.
probability of advancement=53%

Marist over Minnesota: Marist is most likely an NCAA tourney
quality team; Minnesota might be NIT quality team. I’ll take the greater depth
of Marist to eventually wear down the physical, yet not quite Big-10 caliber
physical Golden Gophers of Minnesota.
probability of advancement=65%

VT over Western Michigan: WMU has been a real foil for our Hokies’
hoops team in the past, not to mention the formerly rumored locale of the next
VT football head-coach (Gary Darnell). This makes me feel that this one will be
closer than it should, and the very possible second round match-up with wvu
creates a look-ahead factor as well.
probability of advancement=70%

wvu over Montana: Montana should win, Montana is likely to win. But
whenever wvu heats up from long distance, the mountaineers are gonna be a very
tough out for whomever they play. Call it a hunch, but I sense wvu will drain
enough 3-pointers from downtown Orlando to barely upset Montana. wvu by 3.
probability of advancement=51%

Marist over Arkansas: If I had to anoint a sleeper team to win the
entire Old Spice tourney, that would have to be the Marist Red-Foxes. I love the
balance this Marist team brings to the court, which is a perfect way to play the
high-low offense. Arkansas will be in some sorta tourney come this 2006
post-season. Marist will be in the NC2A’s.
probability of advancement=56%

VT over wvu: wvu is down 3.1% in 3-point FG% this year, which helps. But
departing their top four scorers for 2006 will leave wvu too inexperienced to
win a close, gritty, hard-fought 2nd round game this early in 2007. Hokies by
5.
probability of advancement=61%

Old Spice Championship Game: Virginia Tech 92 Marist 91 (double
OT)

Do you recognize that score? That would be our winning margin vs. Notre Dame
in the 1973 NIT tournament. We are clearly the most tried and tribulated team in
this year’s Old Spice tourney, and it is about time our Men’s hoops team
caught a break. I like our battled-tested upperclassmen to barely edge out
Marist for 1st place honors.
probability of wining=54%

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