2006-07 Basketball Game Preview: #25 Virginia Tech at NC State

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#25 Virginia Tech (18-7, 8-3 ACC) at North Carolina State (13-11, 3-8)

Sunday, February 18, 2007, 4:00

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


Special Preview Items:

On Sunday afternoon, Virginia Tech will head back to the Tar Heel state to
play a game that could potentially put them back in first place in the ACC.
However, it’s going to be a tough task. NC State beat Virginia Tech back on
January 31, handing the Hokies their only loss in Cassell Coliseum this season.
If Tech wants to beat the Wolfpack this time, they need to bring more intensity
than they did back in January.

If UNC knocks off Boston College on Saturday, and the Hokies win on Sunday,
that will put Tech, UNC and possibly UVA into a three-way tie for first place in
the conference, with the Hokies holding the tiebreaker over both schools.

However, Virginia Tech needs to take care of business against NC State. The
Wolfpack embarrassed the Hokies 70-59 in Blacksburg earlier in the year. At that
point, Tech was all alone in first place, while NC State was in the cellar. That
game proved that any team in the ACC can beat any other on any given day.

NC State will likely use the same starting lineup that they used against the
Hokies back in January.

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

NC State’s starters all average at least 32.2 minutes per game, and four
of the five starters are in the top seven in the ACC in minutes played. Point
guard Engin Atsur, who plays 32.2 minutes, would definitely be in the top seven
as well, had he not missed half the season with a hamstring injury. He still
isn’t 100%.

NC State is a much better team with Atsur in the lineup. As soon as they got
him back full-time from his hamstring injury, the Wolfpack knocked off Virginia
Tech and UNC in back-to-back games. However, their injuries and lack of depth
off the bench could be catching up to them.

According to the Raleigh
News and Observer’s Chip Alexander
, this is how the NC State
locker room looked following their 85-70 loss to Maryland on Wednesday night:

Tell them you saw their ad on TechSideline.com!

“N.C. State’s Ben McCauley had an ice pack on his left foot while Gavin
Grant iced down his left knee. Engin Atsur has a sore hamstring, Courtney Fells
a sore tailbone and Dennis Horner a sore nose.”

NC State, already a team with no depth, now appears to be picking up the
injury bug. Courtney Fells had a hard fall in the 80-65 loss at Miami over the
weekend, and played just 19 minutes against Maryland. Fells was so sore that he
had trouble elevating on jumpers, and couldn’t move well enough to play defense
against Maryland’s guards, who like to take the ball to the basket.

Virginia Tech’s first goal for this game should be denying the ball to the
post. In their first meeting with NC State, the Wolfpack repeatedly got the ball
inside to Ben McCauley, who has outstanding back-to-the-basket moves and
finishes well. McCauley is a great passer, perhaps the best on his team. He has
82 assists on the year, a great number for a man his size. NC State runs their
offense around getting the ball to him in the post. If Tech denies him the ball,
they will take NC State out of their offense.

The Hokies have done a great job denying Tyler Hansbrough the ball in two
meetings with UNC, and they need to bring that same defensive intensity to
Raleigh on Sunday.

NC State’s other inside player, Brandon Costner, is very dangerous. Costner
is a former McDonald’s All-American who has a very unique skill set for a power
forward. He’s a left-hander who has deep range on his three-pointer. Costner is
shooting 34.8% from the outside this season, and his 40 three-pointers are more
than any other player on the team. He can also put the ball on the floor and
drive to the basket, preferring to go to his left because he is left-handed.

NC State has two dangerous wings in Gavin Grant and Courtney Fells. Both are
long, lengthy players who like to drive to the basket and pull up for jump
shots. Grant in particular has a very good mid-range game. He isn’t a great
three-point shooter at 31% on the year, but he will knock down the open shot if
the defender gives him space.

Engin Atsur is a very experienced point guard who is the key to NC State’s
offense. If he is playing and feeling good, the Wolfpack can take it to another
level. However, he still isn’t quite back to full health, and his stamina is not
where it has been in the past. Tech needs to attack him offensively.
Defensively, don’t lose him. He is a very effective stand-still three-point
shooter.

NC
State vs. Virginia Tech (ACC Games Only)

Category
NC
State
Virginia
Tech
Stat ACC
Rank
Stat ACC
Rank

FG %
46.6% 6 46.7% 5

FG % Defense
46.5% 7 42.8% 3

3-Pt. %
35.4% 4 37.8% 2

3-Pt. % Defense
38.2% 11 30.0% 2

FT %
72.6% 5 72.2% 6

Rebounding Margin
-5.1 10 -3.8 9

Turnover Margin
-3.82 12 +1.82 2

Assist/TO Ratio
0.86 9 1.16 2

Scoring Offense
68.3 11 74 4

Scoring Defense
75.4 10 72.5 6
Average 8.5 4.1

Virginia Tech needs to control the tempo in this game. Back
in January, NC State was able to dictate tempo to the Hokies. They kept the game
to a slow-paced, half court style. This time, the Hokies need to get out and run
against NC State, who is a below average team athletically. If they make it a
fast paced game, the Wolfpack will be at a major disadvantage. It could also
cause them to wear out late in the game.

In their last two games, NC State has shown that they could possibly be
wearing down in the latter part of the season. They trailed Maryland by just two
at halftime, and the game was tied at 44 at one point in the second half. The
Terps then pulled away for an 85-70 win. Two games ago against Miami, the Canes
led by just three at halftime before winning 80-65. And finally, three games ago
against Georgia Tech, NC State led 43-35 at halftime before being outscored
39-22 in the second half. GT came back to win 74-65.

Overall, NC State has been outscored by an average of 44-30 in the second
half in their past three games. They have allowed 46 points or more in the
second half in two of those games. Also, NC State is shooting just 38.1% in the
second half in the past three games. Poor defense and a low shooting percentage
are generally good indicators that a team is tired. They aren’t elevating on
their shots, and they don’t have the legs to move on defense.

If the Hokies are running the Wolfpack up and down the court in the early
going on Sunday, that’s a good sign.

Bourbonstreet’s View

#18 RPI Virginia
Tech
@ #125 NC
State:

The NC State Wolfpack hoopsters have only won three of their last ten games
and are in need of about four more wins if State wants to play any postseason
hoops this spring. So this is a wounded-animal kinda road game to me. The
Wolfpack is dangerous, and they basically had their way with the Hokies last
time out. But who will win this time?

Back on January 31st, State held Tech’s shooting down to a season low 35%
from the floor and dialed up their rebounding effort, climbing all over the
Cassell Coliseum glass for a +13 rebounding margin edge. That was really
surprising to me. I did not expect to see the 317th ranked offensive rebounding
team take over in our house like that, but State’s top-8 ballers all go 6-4 or
better in height, and State is proficient when they slow the tempo of the game
down. That allows their very tall hoops team to congest the middle, play
patiently and wait for a quality look to develop in their high-low half-court
set.

Now check this little nugget out … in Tech’s 7 L’s on the year, the Hokies
made 47.16% of their shots vs. the six teams that beat them not named NC State.
So “yes” State’s modified stall-ball is not an ideal matchup for VT.
They might even be the one ACC team that just happens to have Seth’s number this
year.

But State is 270th in defending the three, and the Hokies enjoy a 161-spot
edge in turnovers, a 247-spot edge in steals, and a 72-spot edge in blocks.
That’s a lotta potential extra possessions, and that’s how Seth Greenberg wins
games. So we do have a legit chance to win, and I really enjoyed seeing a fiery,
you will not back me down ‘tude on display last Tuesday night down in Chapel
Hill.

NC State has depth problems as well, with four ballers playing 34 minutes or
more, and all five starters checking in at 32 minutes or more. That is
indeed a lot of wear and tear, and wear and tear leads to fatigue.

Virginia Tech 71, North Carolina State 68

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