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

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#23 Virginia Tech (14-5, 4-1 ACC) at Miami (9-11, 2-4)

Tuesday, January 23, 2007, 9:00 p.m.

TV: RSN (Comcast-Plus)


Special Preview Items:

Just two nights after knocking off Maryland in an overtime game in Cassell
Coliseum, the Hokies are on the road in Coral Gables to take on the Miami
Hurricanes in a critical ACC road contest for Virginia Tech. A win over
the Hurricanes coupled with a Boston College loss to Florida State on Tuesday
would give Tech sole possession of first place in the ACC.

Miami is a team that is struggling with bad play and bad luck. The
Hurricanes have had a number of injuries to their frontcourt. Full-time
starter Anthony King (7.9 points, 9.3 rebounds) was lost for the season after
eight games due to a wrist injury. Part-time starter Jimmy Graham (5.1
points, 3.8 rebounds) broke his hand earlier this month against Maryland and is
possibly out for the season.

That’s not all. Miami’s depth has been depleted as well, with the loss
of power forward Adrian Thomas for the season with a sports hernia. 6-11
forward Fabio Nass, who started three games this season, tore his ACL and MCL in
practice last Thursday and will undergo reconstructive surgery.

Add those injuries to the departures of guards Robert Hite and Guillermo Diaz
to the NBA, and you have a very depleted, very inexperienced basketball
team. That shows in the Hurricanes’ record, as Miami enters tonight’s
contest 9-11 overall and 2-4 in the ACC.

Miami has some good wins mixed in with some bad losses. They have lost
games to Buffalo (60-57), Cleveland State (78-67) and Binghamton (79-74).
They have won at UMass (72-71) and at Maryland (63-58). They also beat
Georgia Tech 90-82 in their first ACC game of the season.

But with mounting injuries, the Hurricanes are starting to fade. They
have lost three straight games to Duke (85-63), Boston College (82-63) and
Florida State (86-67). Their win at UMass is the only time they have
scored in the 70s since December 20.

Miami
Starting Lineup
Pos Name Ht Wt Year Pts Rebs

G

Denis Clemente

6-0
178
So.
8.4 2.1

G

Anthony Harris

6-2
187
Sr.
9.7 2.2

G

Jack McClinton

6-1
185
So.
16.0 2.7

F

Brian Asbury

6-7
214
So.
12.2 5.8

C

Dwayne Collins

6-8
232
Fr.
8.5 5.8

Injuries to so many post players have been part of the reason for the offensive
fade, but the regression of guard Jack McClinton is another major factor.
McClinton is averaging 16 points per game, but that average has dropped to 11.3
in ACC contests.

For
the season, the sophomore guard is shooting 38.9% from the field and 44.7% from
three-point range, but in ACC play, those numbers have dropped to 24.3% from the
field and 34.3% from the outside. The three-point percentage is still
respectable, but his overall field goal percentage is downright awful.
McClinton is still very dangerous from the free throw line, hitting 91% of his
shots from the charity stripe, which ranks second in the ACC.

The most experienced player in the lineup is guard Anthony Harris, who
started in past seasons with Guillermo Diaz and Robert Hite. Harris is a solid
point guard for Miami, averaging 3.5 assists per game in ACC play. He has been
bothered with a calf injury lately, although he hasn’t missed any games.

Miami will likely go small against the Hokies, starting guard Denis Clemente
instead of power forward Keaton Copeland, and sliding small forward Brian Asbury
down to the power forward spot.

The Hurricanes’ best weapon on the court could be freshman forward/center
Dwayne Collins. Collins is the reigning co-ACC Rookie of the Week after he
averaged 18 points and 8.5 rebounds in two contests against Boston College and
Florida State. Against BC, Collins had 24 points and pulled down 13 rebounds.

Unfortunately for Miami, Collins’ play has been the only bright spot in Coral
Gables recently. The Hurricanes are near the bottom of the ACC in almost every
key stat. The Hokies are five games into conference play, while Miami has played
six conference games, so we can now look at the teams’ statistics in ACC
contests only. Here is how the two teams compare.

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

FG %
40.9% 11 45.8% 5

FG % Defense
45.4% 7 43.8% 5

3-Pt. %
31.5% 12 38.0% 3

3-Pt. % Defense
37.5% 9 31.8% 4

FT %
74.6% 3 67.4% 9

Rebounding Margin
-0.8 7 -4.6 10

Turnover Margin
-0.67 6 +4.8 2

Assist/TO Ratio
0.90 8 1.11 1

Scoring Offense
67.3 11 73.2 8

Scoring Defense
75.3 6 72.2 4
Average 8 5.1

Miami ranks in the bottom half of the ACC in nearly all of those important
categories. One area where the Hurricanes are very good is offensive rebounding,
which isn’t listed above. They are averaging 14.33 offensive rebounds per game.
They are led by the freshman Collins, who has 59 offensive rebounds on the year,
compared to just 56 defensive rebounds.

When you look at things overall, this is a game the Hokies should expect to
win. They are on a roll, while Miami has been blown out three games in a row,
surrendering over 80 points in all three games. This is probably Tech’s first
road game as members of the ACC that they should expect to win, rather than just
hope to win. 15-5 overall and 5-1 in the ACC would sound very good, and it would
put the Hokies in a great position to earn an NCAA tournament berth.

Bourbonstreet’s View

After beating Maryland in an OT thriller, our Hokies now embark on what may
end up proving to be a very grueling stretch of having to play five of their
next seven games outside the friendly confines of the Cassell. Five of these
seven teams Tech will face are currently ranked, have been ranked, or have at
least received a few Associated Press votes since the season began. Up first …
Tech’s old Big East and current ACC football rival, the Miami Hurricanes.

In studying these ‘Canes for this article, several things jumped out
immediately. This is a particularly mediocre basketball team. I keep track of
all 15 major statistical categories for all 325 D-1 hoops teams. The ‘Canes
check in at +/- 50 spots from the middle of the board in 13 of those 15
categories, but the ‘Canes are actually below the NC2A median in nine of those
15 categories. What does all of that mean? It means Miami is really a C-
quality D-1 hoops team in overall terms, though the Miami offense is a little
ahead of the Miami defense.

Hurricane front-court health, or lack thereof, also jumped out at me, as the
‘Canes are likely to be without the services of a combined 26 feet 11 inches
worth of front-court ballers (3 forwards and 1 center, if you are keeping score
at home) this Tuesday night down in Coral Gables.

Recent shooting margins were the final thing that struck me in comparing
these two teams, as our Hokies have outshot the ‘Canes by nearly 16% from the
floor and by a sizzling 27% from downtown over these two teams’ respective last
five games.

Even though Miami does not fit the Greenberg-ball model for winning games via
extra possessions generated off of turnovers (Miami is a fairly crafty 59th in
turnovers), the lack of Miami front-court health, and the fact that the ‘Canes
have only won three games in their last six weeks of play, have me picking our
Hokies in a game that will be closer than it should. So I’m going to borrow from
our most recent football meeting vs. the ‘Canes and call for a seven point VT
win.

Virginia Tech 75 Miami 68

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