2006-07 Basketball Game Preview: #23 Virginia Tech vs. Maryland

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#23 Virginia Tech (13-5, 3-1 ACC) vs Maryland (15-4, 1-3)

Sunday, January 21, 2007, 7:30

TV: FSN


Special Preview Items:

#23 Virginia Tech returns to action on Sunday night when they host the
Maryland Terrapins in a key ACC matchup in Cassell Coliseum. The Hokies are 3-1
in conference play and near the top of the standings, while the talented Terps
are 1-3 and desperate for a victory. We could possibly see one of the better
games of the season in Cassell Coliseum on Sunday.

Maryland breezed through the early portion of their schedule, starting 8-0,
including a 62-60 win over Michigan State in Madison Square Garden and a 72-66
victory at Illinois. The Terps have lost games to Notre Dame (81-74, neutral
court), 73-62 at Boston College, 63-58 at home against Miami, and 103-93 at UVA.

Their only bad loss was to Miami, who is suffering from a lack of talent, as
well as the dreaded injury bug. Maryland is a very experienced team, except for
the point guard position.

Maryland
Starting Lineup
Pos Name Ht Wt Year Pts Rebs

G

Greivis Vasquez

6-5
195
Fr.
9.4 3.4

G

D.J. Strawberry

6-5
201
Sr.
15.3 4.4

G

Mike Jones

6-5
204
Sr.
13.8 3.1

F

James Gist

6-8
223
Jr.
11.6 7.4

F

Ekene Ibekwe

6-9
220
Sr.
11.7 7.8

The Terps appear to be a smaller team because they start three guards and two
forwards, but that’s not the case. Everyone in Maryland’s starting lineup checks
in at 6-5 or taller, which makes them difficult to handle on both ends of the
court. Because of their length and athleticism, Maryland head coach Gary
Williams will employ a pressuring, trapping defense that takes advantage of his
team’s strengths.

The top player is wing guard D.J. Strawberry, who leads the team in scoring.
Back to his natural position on the wing after playing point guard last year,
Strawberry has upped his game. He is one of the top defenders in the ACC, so
expect to see him locked up with Zabian Dowdell for most of the night.
Strawberry can hit the outside jumper, but he prefers to slash to the basket,
get into the paint, and shoot the short jumper.

The Terps have two good inside players in James Gist and Ikene Ibekwe. They
are nearly the same player if you just look at their size and statistics. Gist
is the more physical of the two players. He can score like a true center with
his back to the basket. He is also very athletic and attacks the rim for
offensive rebounds.

Ibekwe
is a very athletic player who crashes the glass hard for offensive rebounds.
With Gist and Ibekwe coming to town, Virginia Tech’s frontcourt players must be
ready to be physical and box out. It will be interesting to see Seth Greenberg’s
lineup decisions in this game. At times this year he has favored a smaller
lineup, with A.D. Vassallo and Deron Washington in the game at the same time. He
could elect to go big against Gist and Ibekwe. This is a game where Cheick
Diakite’s physical style of play could be employed with effectiveness.

Maryland’s most dangerous perimeter player is Mike Jones. He was a McDonald’s
All-American coming out of high school, but his career just hasn’t panned out at
Maryland. Jones made just 21 starts in his first three seasons and didn’t crack
the lineup as a full-time starter until Chris McCray was declared academically
ineligible in the middle of last season.

Jones is a very good athlete, but has never taken the step to becoming an
all-around player. He is one dimensional, shooting 44.8% from three-point range,
and 116 of his 194 shot attempts have come from long range. Jones isn’t a great
defender, and neither is point guard Greivis Vasquez, so the Hokies will have a
mismatch somewhere on the perimeter while they’re on offense.

Maryland will use two true freshmen at point guard, the aforementioned
Vasquez, as well as Eric Hayes. Vasquez is the starter, and he’s a good player.
Like Strawberry, he can knock down the open jumper. If he gets comfortable on
the court, he is a very effective point guard. Look for the Hokies to pressure
Vasquez relentlessly and get him frustrated.

Maryland beat Clemson 92-87 earlier in the season, but they did not handle
Clemson’s pressure defense very well, turning the ball over 20 times. They’ll
face the same kind of defensive pressure from the Hokies’ guards, and Vasquez
and Hayes will have to play well for the Terps to have a chance to win.

In Maryland’s four losses, they have not shot well. They are 47.9% from the
field for the season, but in their four losses, they were 42.4% against Notre
Dame, 38.7% against Boston College, 22.4% against Miami and 42.9% against UVA.
Virginia Tech is third in the ACC in field goal percentage defense, with
opponents shooting just 40.1% against the Hokies.

Let’s take a look at some other key stats.

Maryland
vs. Virginia Tech
Category Maryland Virginia
Tech
Stat ACC
Rank
Stat ACC
Rank

FG %
47.90% 5 47.70% 7

FG % Defense
36.30% 1 401% 3

3-Pt. %
39.70% 2 39.10% 3

3-Pt. % Defense
29.20% 2 32.50% 6

FT %
71.10% 5 64.10% 10

Rebounding Margin
+2.4 8 +0.1 10

Turnover Margin
+0.84 7 +6.44 1

Assist/TO Ratio
1.00 7 1.28 2

Scoring Offense
81.6 3 74.4 9

Scoring Defense
65.9 4 60.9 2

Average
4.4 5.3

Maryland has some impressive stats, especially in shooting and field goal %
defense, but it’s not quite as bad as you would think, at least from the
Virginia Tech perspective. In ACC games, Maryland is dead last in the conference
in field goal percentage, shooting 41.1%. Their field goal percentage defense
drops to fourth at 43.3%. Their three-point percentage is 33.8%, eighth in the
ACC (VT is second in this category at 40.9%).

Also, Maryland’s rebounding margin drops to -6.8 in ACC play, which is very
close to Virginia Tech’s -7.5 margin. The Terps are ninth in turnover margin
with a mark of -1.5 in ACC games. They are 10th in assist/TO ratio, while the
Hokies are first in ACC games.

The Terps used their superior talent to beat up on out-of-conference teams,
but they have found ACC competition to be much tougher. Still, they are a
talented team that has started 1-3 in conference play. They are desperate for a
win, especially with a home game against Georgia Tech and a road trip to Florida
State coming up. This one should be a good one.

Bourbonstreet’s View

This weekend the Maryland Terrapins enter the Cassell looking to leave their
defensive mark. It is very likely that this will be the best defensive
basketball team Tech plays all year. Maryland checks in at a down right
parsimonious 4th in defensive FG% allowed on the year in all of D-1, as Maryland
only allows 35.8% of opposing shots to tickle the twine — that is, if you can
actually get an offensive shot off vs. the Terps, as Maryland swats 8 shots per
game, which is good for 2nd best in blocked shots in college basketball.

That’s not all the Terps bring to Blacksburg this weekend. They are also 18th
in defensive boards, and 19th in scoring offense. Maryland’s top four scorers
are all upperclassmen, and the top six Terps all stand 6-5 or taller. That’s
what I call a well-balanced hoops team, folks. Maryland also fields quite
possibly the premier one-on-one perimeter defender in all of the ACC, in senior
2-guard D.J. Strawberry.

Last year Maryland went 1-6 vs. top-25 ranked RPI teams. So far this year the
Terps are 2- 2 vs. the top-39 ranked RPI teams, and that 2-2 does not include
dropping a 12 point decision to 96th ranked Virginia. So Maryland routinely
beats the teams that they should, but does not fare as well vs. top-shelf
competition. That and Tech’s 271 spot edge in turnovers makes me like the
Hokies’ chances to get well at home this weekend.

Virginia Tech 77 Maryland 70

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