2006-07 Basketball Game Preview: Virginia Tech vs. Wake Forest

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Virginia Tech (6-3, 0-0 ACC) vs. Wake Forest (5-3, 0-0)

Sunday, December 17, 2006, 5:30 pm

TV: Fox SportsNet


Special Preview Items:

Virginia Tech will attempt to get off to a good start in ACC play when they
host Wake Forest Sunday evening in Cassell Coliseum. This will be a critical
game for the Hokies, who have not won an ACC opener in their two previous
seasons in the conference. It would also be a major confidence boost heading
into Thursday’s game with Seton Hall in Madison Square Garden.

Wake Forest enters the game with a 5-3 record. The Demon Deacons won their
first five games of the season but have now lost three consecutive games to Air
Force, Georgia and DePaul. They are a very young team, with two seniors, and
everyone else a freshman or a sophomore. Their youth is reflected in their
starting lineup.

The Hokies have a major experience advantage over the young Demon Deacons.
Wake coach Skip Prosser will start three freshmen against Tech, and his rotation
is filled with freshmen and sophomores.


Wake Forest Starting Lineup

Position

Name

Height

Weight

Year

Points

Rebounds

G

Ishmael Smith

5-11

155

Fr.

10.8

4.1

G

Harvey Hale

6-2

186

So.

9.4

1.9

G

L.D. Williams

6-4

210

Fr.

6.4

3.0

F

Jamie Skeen

6-8

220

Fr.

8.8

5.0

C

Kyle Visser

6-11

255

Sr.

19.8

8.8

That may not be Wake’s exact starting lineup for the game. Michael Drum, Kevin
Swinton and Shamaine Dukes have also seen starting time this year. But this is
the most likely starting lineup.

Manning the point guard position for Wake Forest is Ishmael Smith. Smith is a
talented player who has shown very good ability thus far. He currently leads the
ACC in assists, averaging 7.5 per game, but he also averages nearly four
turnovers per game. Smith has a slight build at 5-11, 155, and that could be a
problem against Tech’s big guards, Jamon Gordon (6-3, 215), Zabian Dowdell
(6-3, 200) and Markus Sailes (6-5, 210).

In fact, the entire Wake Forest backcourt is very young. Harvey Hale, a
sophomore, is the most experienced guard in the starting lineup. We could see
some fullcourt or three-quarter court pressure from the Hokies against Wake’s
inexperienced backcourt. Walk-on senior wing Michael Drum comes off the bench
for 21.4 minutes per game, but his athleticism doesn’t match up well against
Tech.

Wake’s best player, and most surprising player, has been senior center Kyle
Visser, who is averaging nearly 20 points per game and 8.8 rebounds per game.
Coming into this season, Visser had never averaged more than five points and 4.3
rebounds in a season, and had never played more than 17.1 minutes per game. He
will be a tough matchup for the Hokies inside.

Visser has gotten to the free throw line 67 times in just eight games, but he
is only a 53.7% shooter from the line. However, he is shooting 70.1% from the
field, the best mark in the ACC.

If there is one thing that Skip Prosser’s teams have become known for over
the past few years, it’s good offense, bad defense, and undisciplined play.
The Demon Deacons know how to score. They are averaging 79.1 points per game, a
good mark that is lower than they are used to. However, they are allowing 78.5
points per game, by far the worst in the ACC.

Teams are shooting 47.5% against Wake, including 37.3% from the outside.
Meanwhile, teams shoot just 38.7% against the Hokies, with a 31.1% mark from
three-point range. Virginia Tech has the defensive advantage in this game.

The Hokies also have a big advantage in turnover margin. Tech, as usual, sits
at the top of the league in turnover margin with a mark of +6.89. Wake Forest is
dead last in the ACC at -0.75. Wake’s freshmen backcourt players have not seen
opposing guards who can pressure the ball like Gordon, Dowdell and Sailes, so
turnover margin could stand out even more with the step up in competition for
Wake’s young players.

Here are some key stats to keep an eye on during the game:



Key Stats


Category


Virginia Tech


Wake Forest
Stat

ACC Rank
Stat

ACC Rank

Field Goals

47.90%

7

47.80%

8

Three-Pointers

35.70%

6

35.30%

7

Field Goad Defense

38.70%

4

47.50%

12

Three-Point Defense

31.10%

4

37.30%

11

Free Throws

62.20%

11

63.20%

10

Rebound Margin

+2.4

8

+1.6

9

Turnover Margin

+6.89

1

-0.75

12

Blocks

44

5

31

8

Assist/TO Ratio

1.22

3

0.87

10

Scoring Margin

+18.2

2

+0.6

12


Average



5.1



9.9

Just looking at those stats, it appears that the Hokies will win the game. Also
keep in mind that Wake Forest is 1-2 on the road, with a 94-58 loss at Air Force
and a 78-63 loss at DePaul. Their only win on the road was an 86-83 overtime
victory over Bucknell, a very good mid-major team. So the Demon Deacons don’t
play very well on the road, like most young teams, while the Hokies are
undefeated in Cassell Coliseum, with five easy to somewhat easy victories.

Looking at the stats, as well as Wake’s performances on the road, I feel
pretty good about this one, providing the Hokies play like they are capable.

Bourbonstreet’s View

The Wake Forest Demon Deacs come-a-calling in the oddball 5:30 PM time slot
this Sunday afternoon. In researching this article I found it rather telling
that Wake does not have a single baller listed in the ACC’s Top-10 returnees
for 2006-2007, in points, rebounding, assists, and FG%. But that’s what
happens when you depart your top four players from the 2005-2006 Demon Deac
hoops team. That’s also what happens when you are forced to take such a vernal
team on the road, as Wake has been outscored by 48 total points when visiting
this year. Wake is so non precocious that the Demon Deacs only employ the
services of two upperclassmen in their top 13 ballers this season.

Wake Forest can score — this is demonstrated by being ranked 27th in
that nation. But it is hard to convince such younglings to defend, as Wake is
only 302nd in scoring defense (out of 325 D-1 teams). Wake does rebound fairly
well, led by likely all-ACC performer Kyle Visser, who has increased his board
work by over 100% this season (4.3 rebounds/game last year, up to 8.8 this
year). If Kyle is not careful, he may very well be on his way to a NBA second
round contract.

The rest of the Demon Deacs are not overly impressive to me. I look for Coach
Greenberg to play a collapsing, sagging defense, hopefully a little 3-2 zone to
take Visser out of the game and make the lesser Demon Deacs actually win this
one on the road. The VT students are gone, and the Cassell will be a bit sleepy
for it. But I still like us to notch our first ACC win of the season, albeit a
narrow one.

VT 75 Wake Forest 72

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