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

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Virginia Tech (16-7, 6-3 ACC) vs. Virginia (16-6, 8-2)

Saturday, February 10, 2007, 4:00

TV: Raycom/Lincoln Financial split (click
here for stations
)


Special Preview Items:

Note: All photos are courtesy of TheSabre.com.

Virginia Tech has had a week off to brood over their recent losses to NC
State and Boston College. This Saturday they’ll return home to face their rivals
from Charlottesville in the most important game of the Virginia-Virginia Tech
basketball series in recent memory. Coming off two losses, and with a road trip
to Chapel Hill coming up, this game is as close to a “must-win” game
that you’ll see in early February.

Virginia enters Saturday’s contest as the hottest team in the ACC, winners of
seven conference games in a row. Once known as a team that generally played
poorly on the road, the Cavaliers have won three straight ACC road games. Five
of the seven victories have come against teams in the bottom half of the ACC
(two over Maryland, one against NC State and one against Miami). The two wins
against teams not in the bottom half were against Clemson and Duke, two 5-5
teams. Virginia Tech on the road will likely be their toughest competition over
this eight game stretch. Nevertheless, they are a team brimming with confidence
and are likely thinking they have a shot to win the ACC.

Sitting at 16-6 overall and 8-2 in ACC play, UVA is in good shape for the
NCAA tournament. When you see that they have just three games remaining against
teams in the top half of the ACC, and two of those are at home, then they are a
virtual lock for the NCAA tournament this year.

Here is a look at Virginia’s starting lineup:


UVA Starting Lineup

Pos
Player
Ht

Wt

Year

Pts

Rebs

G

Sean Singletary

6-0

185

Jr.

18.6

4.4

G

J.R. Reynolds

6-2.5

188

Sr.

18.7

3.9

G/F

Mamadi Diane

6-5

197

So.

11.2

3.7

F

Laurynas Mikalauskas

6-8

255

So.

3.7

1.9

C

Jason Cain

6-10

225

Sr.

7

7

Like Virginia Tech, UVA’s strength is their backcourt. Sean Singletary and J.R.
Reynolds make up one of the most feared and respected backcourts in the nation.
They are the most prolific scoring guard combo in the ACC. Mamadi Diane, who
plays on the wing for the Cavaliers, also scores in double figures.

Singletary runs the point for UVA, and he is likely a future NBA player. He
lacks height, but he is explosive. He gets to the basket very quickly and has a
knack for drawing fouls. He is an 89.1% shooter from the free throw line. 33.9%
of his points have come from the free throw line this season.

Singletary shoots a lot for UVA. His main weakness is shot selection.
Sometimes he plays a little too fast and takes bad shots. He shoots 41.1% from
the field and 40.1% from the three-point line this year. As a small player, he’s
better with a little bit of space. He doesn’t need a lot, and he’s very capable
of creating that space himself. Maryland enjoyed some success defensively
against Singletary by using tall, rangy guards to defend him. Markus Sailes
could possibly draw this assignment when he is in the game.

Singletary’s backcourt mate, J.R. Reynolds, has absolutely exploded since
conference play began. He is averaging 25.3 points per game during UVA’s seven
game winning streak. He is a very confident player who doesn’t appear to have a
weakness in his offensive game. Reynolds can drive to the basket and score in
traffic, knock down the open jumper, and drain deep three-pointers with a hand
in his face.

There is an ongoing argument between Tech and UVA fans about whose set of
guards are better. The two duos went head to head on three occasions last year.
Here are the results of those matchups:



Last Year’s Meetings, Backcourt Comparisons
Date Backcourt Combo
Pts

Rebs

Assists

TOs

Steals


Jan. 15,
2006

Singletary/Reynolds

32

7

9

10

2

Dowdell/Gordon

25

9

6

2

7


Feb. 12,
2006

Singletary/Reynolds

42

9

12

5

2

Dowdell/Gordon

34

14

7

5

3


Mar. 9,
2006

Singletary/Reynolds

31

10

4

7

2

Dowdell/Gordon

19

7

7

1

4

Singletary and Reynolds are the most prolific scorers, but Dowdell and Gordon
out-rebounded the UVA backcourt in two of the three games and dominated the
turnover margin. Simply put, both guard sets are very good. They won’t cancel
each other out in points — UVA’s duo will likely score more — but when you
throw in turnover margin and steals, these four players could end up playing
each other even.

The game could easily come down to the X-factors. Last year, UVA had players
step up in all three of their wins over Tech. Adrian Joseph scored in double
figures in all three games against the Hokies. In the matchup in the ACC
tournament, forward Laurynas Mikalauskas scored 11 points and grabbed 12
rebounds. Mikalauskas made up for an off night by Singletary, who finished with
just eight points on 2-of-10 shooting, including just 1-of-6 from three-point
range.

Three guys from each team could end up being key in this game. Amongst the
starters, the Deron Washington/Mamadi Diane matchup could be huge, as will
Coleman Collins vs. Jason Cain. UVA has developed into a very good offensive
rebounding team, and with such firepower at guard, Virginia Tech has to limit
them to one shot on their offensive possessions. That means Coleman Collins has
to bring is A-game from a rebounding standpoint. If Collins is outplayed by Cain
or Mikalauskas, it’s not a good sign for Tech.

Both teams have a player coming off the bench that could decide the game.
Adrian Joseph doesn’t start for UVA anymore, but he averages 7.4 points per game
off the bench, making him the top reserve on the team. He played well against
the Hokies last year, and they can’t let him become a factor this year. A.D.
Vassallo will come off the bench for the Hokies. His 11 points per game average
is third on the team.

There is one reason, and one reason alone that Virginia beat Virginia Tech
three times last season. That reason is three-point shooting. In games that were
decided by five points, four points and four points, one three-pointer could
potentially make all the difference in the world.


Three-Point Shooting in 2005-06 VT-UVA Games


Date

Virginia

Virginia Tech

Made

Att.

%

Made

Att.

%

Jan. 15

9

20

45.0%

3

21

14.3%

Feb. 12

8

24

33.3%

6

26

23.1%

Mar. 9

5

12

41.7%

2

11

18.2%

Totals

22

56

39.3%

11

58

18.9%

Both teams shot roughly the same number of three-pointers last season, with
Virginia hitting double the amount. Virginia Tech doesn’t take a lot of
three-pointers, and for them to take as many as they took against UVA last year
shows that they were getting good looks at the basket, but they just didn’t
knock them down. Tech shot 32.2% from three-point range a year ago, so they were
nearly 14% off their normal clip when they played UVA. The Hokies are due to
shoot the ball well against the Hoos.

These teams are very evenly matched. They have beaten teams ranked above
them, and they have lost to teams they had no business losing to. The stats
confirm that. You don’t see many games featuring teams this evenly matched
statistically.


Virginia vs. Virginia Tech (ACC Games Only

Category

Virginia

Virginia Tech

Stat

ACC Rank

Stat

ACC Rank

FG %

44%

10

46.70%

7

FG % Defense

39.70%

1

44.40%

4

3-Pt. %

35.80%

3

37.50%

2

3-Pt. % Defense

32%

2

32%

2

FT %

73.80%

3

70.70%

7

Rebounding Margin

+4.7

3

-4.3

9

Turnover Margin

-3.1

11

+2.44

2

Assist/TO Ratio

0.88

9

1.14

1

Scoring Offense

75.3

3

72.1

7

Scoring Defense

70.8

4

73.4

6


Average


4.9


4.7

That’s a very even game. One thing to take a closer look at is three-point
shooting. The percentages are very close, but UVA makes three-pointers far more
often than the Hokies. The Hoos hit an average of 8.3 three-pointers per game,
tops in the ACC and far ahead of second place FSU (6.8 per game). Virginia Tech
hits an average of four three-pointers per game, which is last in the ACC. The
Hokies can knock down three-pointers when they take them, but they don’t get
many looks from the outside.

This game is going to be a very hard-fought contest that could go down to the
wire. If the Hokies win, they still have a good shot to get to 20 wins and make
the NCAA tournament. If they lose, then things will start looking pretty bleak.
I think this game could possibly mean a little more to Virginia Tech, who always
plays very hard against Virginia. If that’s the case, it could mean the
difference between a win and a loss.

Bourbonstreet’s View

#31 RPI Virginia
@ #35 RPI Virginia
Tech

It has been 744 days since our hoopster Hokies were able to beat Virginia.
Three straight Virginia wins last year, all of which were by five points or
less, and behind that a five point UVA win to close 2005. Not only that, but
Virginia has won eight of the last ten games head to head. Le ouch!

Virginia has won seven straight ACC games and is by all accounts the hottest
ACC team right now. That seven in a row streak is quite intriguing however, as
Virginia has shot 44% from the floor during their victorious septa-span. That’s
basically only about average, maybe C+ quality shooting in today’s game. But
Virginia has held four of their last five opponents in the 60’s for scoring
output. Virginia is also 63rd in offensive rebounding and 13th in defensive
board work on the year, and checks in at 34th from the FT-line on the year.

Now for the intriguing part … Virginia is only ranked 249th in scoring
defense on the year. So the cavs have made an effort level adjustment at the
defensive end, ratcheting up their stop-unit intensity of late, as effort is
always a signature of any Coach Leitao hoops team. You can also see this effort
manifest itself in the fact that Virginia is +6 in rebounding margin during
their seven game win streak. Our Hokies are -10.5 in rebounding margin during
our two game skid. If this game is anywhere near -16.5 boards the wrong way, we
may have to recite the Treaty of Versailles. Further, it is defense that is the
sole difference between these two teams right now. Take a look at these head to
head vitals over our last respective five games: offensive scoring: +0.6 for
Virginia, 3-point%: +0.6% for Virginia, FT%: +1.1% for Virginia. But Virginia is
8.4 points of scoring defense better over that same stretch. In other words:
Defense wins Commonwealth Cups.

On our side a lot has been made of what is, or is not wrong with Coleman
Collins. But going up against a 2-headed backcourt monster like UVA’s $ean $ingletary
and J.R. Reynolds, it’s really Jamon Gordon’s recent 32% shooting slump that
will tell the tale. If Jamon can find his stroke, the Hokies have a decent
enough chance to beat Virginia and their 2004 re-mix tour of the St. Joe’s
backcourt-heavy team that was lead by Jameer Nelson and Delonte West. But if
Gordon is still slumped, Z will not be enough all by himself to out duel the
twin rapier backcourt from C’ville of $ingletary and Reynolds.

This one is basically a coin-toss in my book, one that favors the Hokies
slightly, mainly because Tech is playing at home. In C’ville, I’d give Virginia
the slight edge. Seems like another four point game to me, and we seem on our
way to a 1-1 split on the year.

Virginia Tech 68, Virginia 64

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