2006-07 Basketball Game Preview: #16 Virginia Tech vs. N.C. State

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#16 Virginia Tech (16-5, 6-1 ACC) vs N.C. State (11-8, 1-5)

Wednesday, January 31, 2007, 9:00

TV: RSN (check local listings)


Special Preview Items:

The #16 Hokies look to continue their winning ways when the NC State Wolfpack
visit Cassell Coliseum on Wednesday night. With a win over NC State, Virginia
Tech will keep their spot atop the ACC standings, and it would also give them a
win over every single ACC school from the state of North Carolina this season.
Those are serious bragging rights, and it’s not something any of us imagined
just a few short years ago.

NC State has been struggling lately, losing four of their last five games.
Their only win in that span was an 88-74 victory at Wake Forest, who is
currently just above last-place State in the ACC standings. The four losses in
that five-game stretch were all home games for the Wolfpack, and they were all
by double digits.

During this run of losses, NC State hasn’t been good offensively or
defensively. In their four latest ACC losses, the Wolfpack has scored in the 50s
on three occasions and has not given up less than 71 points. Now they must
venture on the road to face a red-hot Virginia Tech team that is undefeated at
home.

NC
State Starting Lineup
Pos Player Ht Wt Year Pts Rebs

G

Engin Atsur

6-4
200
Sr.
11.1 3.4

G

Courtney Fells

6-5
194
So.
11.7 4.1

F

Gavin Grant

6-7
212
Jr.
15.2 5.2

F

Brandon Costner

6-8
230
r-Fr.
16.7 7.8

F

Ben McCauley

6-9
235
So.
15.9 6.6

All five starters for NC State are averaging double figures, but that’s almost
by default. Each starter plays over 30 minutes per game, and four average 34.7
minutes or more. They are the most depth-shy team in the ACC.

NC State has played most of the season without point guard Engin Atsur, the
only senior in the rotation. He is a very experienced ACC point guard who has
been slowed by a pulled hamstring, and his absence has hurt NC State quite a
bit. Atsur has played in just seven of NC State’s 18 games. He is nowhere near
100%, but he did play against UVA last week at “50%” according to coach
Sidney Lowe. He has 34 assists to just 10 turnovers this season.

Gavin
Grant is perhaps NC State’s best all-around player. The Wolfpack have such
little depth that he has spent most of the season playing point guard, a
position that isn’t suited for him, as his 92 turnovers on the year show. Grant
is a much better player on the wing. He’s not much of an outside shooter,
hitting just 28.1% of his three-pointers. He is a slasher who likes to get to
the glass.

NC State’s offense revolves around their young inside duo of 6-8 Brandon
Costner and 6-9 Ben McCauley. Costner is a former McDonald’s High School
All-American who redshirted last year. He has developed into one of the top
freshmen in the country this season, and he leads NC State in scoring and
rebounding. He is also one of the top three-point threats on the team, hitting
35.2% of his jumpers from the outside.

When Engin Atsur was out with his injury, the NC State offense revolved
around Ben McCauley. The Wolfpack likes to spread the floor and get McCauley
isolated on the inside, where he has the option to either attack the basket or
make a pass to one of the many cutting NC State players. He is an outstanding
passer, not just for his size, but for any player. McCauley has 70 assists and
39 turnovers on the season.

NC State’s wings don’t bring much firepower to the table from the outside.
Like Grant, Courtney Fells also shoots a low three-point percentage, just 28.6%.
Atsur is the best outside shooter of the guards, hitting 39.4% of his outside
shots. NC State will bring a pure three-point shooter off the bench in former
Virginia Tech recruiting target Dennis Horner, who hits 45.9% of his
three-pointers.

Horner is one of three regulars off the bench. Another is fellow freshman
wing guard Trevor Ferguson, and senior wing Bryan Nieman. Nieman is a role
player. He began his career at Winthrop and played at Gulf Coast Community
College last season, where he averaged 9.1 points and 4.0 rebounds per game.

Virginia Tech should come out and play a very fast-paced game against NC
State. The Hokies need to force the Pack to work hard on both ends of the court
and make their depth issue come into play. Getting McCauley and Costner in foul
trouble would be helpful as well, as NC State has no true inside players in
their rotation off the bench. The Wolfpack is so lacking in depth that they’ve
only had six players play more than nine games this season.

NC
State vs. Virginia Tech (ACC Games Only)
Category NC
State
Virginia
Tech
Stat ACC
Rank
Stat ACC
Rank

FG %
44.6% 8 48.9% 2

FG % Defense
46.6% 7 42.7% 4

3-Pt. %
34.5% 5 39.2% 2

3-Pt. % Defense
37.9% 9 31.0% 3

FT %
75.0% 3 71.2% 7

Rebounding Margin
-9.5 12 -3.0 9

Turnover Margin
-1.83 10 +2.14 2

Assist/TO Ratio
0.86 8 1.15 1

Scoring Offense
66.3 11 75.9 3

Scoring Defense
75.3 7 73 6
Average 8.0 3.9

Virginia Tech has the edge in every single statistical category except for free
throw shooting. NC State is the worst rebounding margin team in ACC play, and
they rank next to the bottom in scoring offense. Their turnover margin appears
to play right into Virginia Tech’s hands as well.

NC State has played 15 home games this season. They haven’t ventured outside
of the RBC Center very often. They are 1-3 in road games, with their lone win
coming at Wake Forest. They have losses at UVA, Cincinnati and West Virginia.

Virginia Tech has a lot of advantages in this game and should be able to push
their ACC record to 7-1 at the halfway point of conference play.

Bourbonstreet’s View

I can’t quite put my finger on it, but I’m sensing a disturbance in the Hokie
hoops force. The NC State Wolfpack game is not a trap game, nor is it not a
look-ahead game, but it does have the look and feel of a lapse game, one where
the VT effort level drops a bit, due to the preconception that playing NC State
at home is the least challenging of Tech’s nine remaining regular season
basketball games.

State is several things: first and foremost is the fact that the Wolfpack
might very well be the biggest team the Hokies play all year, as no State baller
stands shorter than 6-4 in its top eight rotation, and only one of those top
eight plays south of 202 lbs. To top that off, the top three scorers for State
all climb above 6-8 in their verticality. It is therefore amazing to me
to see NC State check in at 318th in the nation in offensive boards, and a
downright incompetent -9 in rebounding margin per game over their last five
games played.

That makes no sense whatsoever, at least not until you look at how former
national title Wolfpack baller himself, Head Coach Sidney Lowe, doles out
playing-time. If you want to see your kid play, and he’s not in the Wolfpack
top-eight rotation, you’d better go watch NC State practice, as no one averages
more than one minute and change of court-time starting with the 4th guy off of
the NC State bench. The 8-man rotation is a Pat Riley NBA mantra that Coach Lowe
brought with him from the Pro ranks, but it does not translate well at the
collegiate level.

So fatigue is an issue for the Wolfpack, as is youth, as is having dropped 9
of their last 10 ACC conference games. To make State all the thinner, the
Wolfpack has gone through the following since last spring: graduation losses, an
NBA defection, a MLB concentration, a deportation scare, and two major
transfers.

Our Hokies enjoy a 172 spot scoring defense edge, a 192 spot edge from beyond
the 3-point line, a 211 spot edge in steals. And yet I’m just not comfortable
with this game on some subliminal level. But I do know it’s time Lady Luck
bounced Tech’s way. Iron, glass, iron, iron, net, as VT’s final shot saves the
day.

Virginia Tech 77, NC.State 74

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