2006-07 Basketball Game Preview: #23 Virginia Tech at Florida State

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#23 Virginia Tech (13-4, 3-0 ACC) at Florida State (12-5, 0-3)

Wednesday, January 17, 2006, 7:00 p.m.

TV: none

Special Preview Items:

On paper, things don’t get any tougher than #1 UNC. After passing that test
this past Saturday, #23 Virginia Tech will go on the road to play a game that
could be even tougher than Saturday’s. On Wednesday, the Hokies will take on
Florida State in Tallahassee, and they’ll have a major target on their backs.

Florida State narrowly missed the NCAA tournament last season, so head coach
Leonard Hamilton decided to beef up their schedule to raise their RPI this
season. The Seminoles played three brutal out-of-conference games, including at
Pitt, at Wisconsin and home against Florida. FSU was blown out on the road by
Pitt and Wisconsin, but they beat #1 Florida in Tallahassee, which gives them
something in common with the Hokies. They have both beaten a #1 team.

After coasting through the rest of their out-of-conference schedule, Florida
State hit a wall when they got to conference play. First, they lost at home to
then-undefeated Clemson 68-66. They were blown out 84-58 at UNC, and then they
lost at Georgia Tech 88-80.

Despite being 0-3 in the ACC and 12-5 overall, Florida State is still #25 in
the RPI (per RealTimeRPI.com). The Seminoles have played the 13th toughest
schedule in the nation. Here is a look at their starting lineup:

State Starting Lineup
Pos Name Ht Wt Year Pts Rebs


Toney Douglas

13.6 2.6


Isaiah Swann

8.1 3.1


Jason Rich

10.5 3.2


Al Thornton

17.3 5.9


Uche Echefu

7.2 4.2

Al Thornton is the star of the team, and he is one of the most explosive and
versatile players in the ACC. He considered leaving school early for the NBA
last season but elected to play out his senior season in Tallahassee. Thornton
is a guy who can shoot from the outside, post up on the inside, or slash to the

Thornton blasted the Hokies for 21 points and 12 rebounds in the two teams’
first meeting last year, a 74-68 Florida State win in Tallahassee. Virginia Tech
did a much better job on Thornton in the second meeting, a 72-61 Hokie win in
Blacksburg, when they held Thornton to 12 points and four rebounds. Deron
Washington had a superb defensive effort against Thornton in that game.

The Hokies have to be quick with their help defense against Thornton, and
they also must keep him off the offensive glass.

Florida State is a perimeter oriented team, starting three true guards, as
well as Thornton, who is a slashing wing. The only true inside player in the
starting lineup is Uche Echefu, a former Virginia Tech recruiting target.

Florida State lost point guard Todd Galloway, the team leader, to graduation,
but they brought in Auburn transfer Toney Douglas. Douglas is a more talented
player than Galloway, and he is currently the second leading scorer on the team.
He also has 46 assists on the year. He is a combo guard, along with fellow
backcourt mate Isaiah Swann.

Florida State plays nine players in their regular rotation. No starter plays
more than 29 minutes per game. Jerel Ellen and Ralph Mims will come off the
bench to add depth to the backcourt, while Casaan Breeden and Ryan Reid help
bolster the frontcourt.

Let’s take a statistical look at both teams.

State vs. Virginia Tech
Category Florida
Stat ACC
Stat ACC

FG %
48.6% 4 47.3% 10

FG % Defense
44.3% 11 39.7% 3

3-Pt. %
34.2% 10 39.3% 4

3-Pt. % Defense
31.3% 5 32.4% 6

FT %
76.3% 1 64.0% 10

Rebounding Margin
-0.6 12 +0.6 10

Turnover Margin
+3 3 +6.88 1

Assist/TO Ratio
0.82 12 1.27 2

Scoring Offense
75.1 8 74.5 10

Scoring Defense
66.8 6 59.7 2
Average 7.2 5.8

The Hokies have an advantage in rebounding, defense and turnovers. Florida State
has one of the worst field goal percentage defenses in the ACC, and because of
their small lineup, they are the ACC’s worst rebounding team.

Florida State is dead last in the conference in assist/turnover ratio,
although they are third in turnover margin. The Seminoles give the ball up 15.9
times per game, but they force 18.9 turnovers per game, more than any team in
the ACC. Meanwhile, the Hokies turn the ball over just 11.5 times per game,
easily the best mark in the conference. That will be a matchup to watch … can
Florida State cause Virginia Tech’s talented and experienced backcourt to turn
the ball over?

Date FSU
Margin Result

Jan. 8, 2005
28 18
VT +10

FSU 77, VT 70

Jan. 7, 2006
13 17
FSU +4

FSU 74, VT 68

Feb. 25, 2006
20 17
VT +3

VT 72, FSU 61

Historically, Florida State has given Virginia Tech a lot of trouble with
turnovers. In the three games since the Hokies joined the ACC, Tech has never
turned the ball over fewer than 17 times against the Seminoles. In the meeting
in Tallahassee last season, FSU actually beat Tech in turnover margin, which is
rare for the Hokies.

It probably sounds old by now, but the Hokies must protect the basketball in
this game. If they can keep their turnover number lower than they have in the
past against the Seminoles, they have a great chance to win.

Bourbonstreet’s View

Fresh off perhaps the biggest win in the history of Virginia Tech hoops, our
Hokies travel to Tallahassee to play the Florida State Seminoles in what could
end up being a decisive postseason game for each team.

A couple of things jump out at me right away regarding this FSU basketball
team … first off is the ‘Noles’ stellar .909 winning percentage at home. Prima
facia, that’s going to be pretty tough to beat. But other than beating then-#1
Florida, the ‘Noles have beaten an assortment of D-1 have nots or has beens at

Another thing that stands out is the fact that the Seminoles are possibly
going to end up being the worst defensive rebounding team the Hokies play all
year, as FSU checks in at a lowly 301st in defensive boards.

The final thing that really stands out about this FSU squad is that for being
the 35th ranked shooting team from the floor in D-1, and the best FT shooting
team that Tech will play all year (14th in FT shooting if you’re keeping score
at home), the ‘Noles drop a nearly astounding 15% in their shooting percentage
from 3-point range compared to their shooting from the floor. Most of the time
when you see a sharp shooting team from the floor and from the charity stripe,
you are also seeing a team of dead-eye ringers from downtown, but oddly enough
that is not the case with this year’s ‘Noles.

All of this conspires to tell me the following: there will be some 2nd chance
points available for our Hokies on the offensive glass, and we must keep our
best dribble-drive defenders on the floor for as long as possible, as the FSU
three guard line-up is getting a lotta easy scores in the paint, but only fields
two players shooting above 36% from downtown. Further … FSU’s starting junior
point guard Isaiah Swann has a reputation as a soft defender, so Zabian Dowdell
needs to have a big night, and the Hokies need to take full advantage of their
186 spot edge in turnovers. I say we will take advantage of these favorable
matchups and beat FSU cowgirl Jenn’s favorite team, but not by much.

Virginia Tech 76 Florida State 73

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