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

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Virginia Tech (19-8, 9-4 ACC) vs. Miami (11-16, 4-9)

Saturday, February 24, 2007, noon

TV: RSN (Regional SportsNet/Comcast-Plus; check local listings)


Special Preview Items:

The Miami Hurricanes venture to Cassell Coliseum on Saturday afternoon fresh
off a win over Virginia, and they’ll be looking to turn that into a winning
streak. Virginia Tech will be looking for their 20th win overall and 10th in the
ACC, and if they get it, they’ll lock up their first NCAA tournament appearance
since 1996.

Miami has had no chance to compete with ACC schools this year because of the
problems they have had with their frontcourt. Anthony King, Fabio Nass and
Adrian Thomas are out for the season due to injuries. Jimmy Graham has missed
most of ACC play with an injury, although he returned against Virginia and will
play on Saturday. To top it off, forward Raymond Hicks was recently suspended
for the rest of the season for a violation of team rules.

That’s a lot of players to lose, and as a result Miami has been starting a
walkon at power forward. Can you imagine Virginia Tech’s frontcourt without
Coleman Collins, Cheick Diakite, Lewis Witcher and Robert Krabbendam? There
wouldn’t be a lot of bodies left. That’s what has happened to the hard luck
Hurricanes this season.

Despite the lack of frontcourt players and depth, Miami has won four ACC
games, including two of their last three. They blew out NC State 80-65 in Coral
Gables, lost a close 74-69 contest at Wake Forest, and then defeated Virginia
68-60 at home on Wednesday night. They have been playing much better basketball
of late, and they’ll enter Cassell Coliseum with more confidence than they had
in the teams’ first meeting, a 92-85 Virginia Tech win at Miami.

Miami
Starting Lineup
Pos Player Ht Wt Year Pts Rebs

G

Anthony Harris

6-2
187
Sr.
9.9 2.3

G

Denis Clemente

6-0
178
So.
9.4 2.4

F

Brian Asbury

6-7
214
So.
12.1 5.5

F

Keaton Copeland

6-5
245
Sr.
3.0 2.8

C

Dwayne Collins

6-8
232
Fr.
8.2 6.3

Only one Miami starter averages in double figures, and that’s 6-7 wing Brian
Asbury. He’s Miami’s version of Deron Washington. The Hurricanes are so
depth-shy in the frontcourt that Asbury has to slide down and play power forward
at times.

Miami’s leading scorer, Jack McClinton, now comes off the bench. McClinton
averages 16.3 points per game and shoots 44% from three-point range. He was one
of the ACC’s hottest players back in November and December, but his performance
has tailed off in conference play. In ACC games, he averages 14.3 points, and
shoots just 34.8% from the field. He is actually a much better three-point
shooter (38.8%) than he is from in close.

McClinton
is streaky, but he’s capable of lighting it up on any given night. He dropped 14
points on Virginia on Wednesday. He was 4-of-6 from three-point range, but
0-of-5 on his two-point attempts. McClinton had 18 points against Tech in Coral
Gables earlier this season.

He’ll be joined in the backcourt by veteran point guard Anthony Harris and
dynamic sophomore Denis Clemente. Harris was a starter with Guillermo Diaz and
Robert Hite in the past, so he is battle tested. He has stepped up in ACC play,
averaging 12 points per game in conference contests.

Denis Clemente is small, but he’s very quick. When he’s on, he’s capable of
filling up the stat sheet, as the Hokies can attest. Back on January 23,
Clemente had 24 points, five assists and zero turnovers against Tech in 29
minutes of action. The Hokies were coming off an overtime win over Maryland and
ran out of gas in the second half, and they couldn’t hang with Clemente’s
quickness.

Tech should be a lot fresher this time around, with an extra day of rest and
no travel. Still, the Miami backcourt is talented, and they are difficult to
handle.

Miami’s best inside player is freshman center Dwayne Collins. Collins has had
a very solid year for Miami. He’s been pressed into a lot of service because of
all the injuries, and he’s responded. His numbers improve in ACC play to 9.2
points and 6.8 rebounds. He’s strong and he’s athletic, and he crashes the
offensive glass hard.

Keaton Copeland, a walkon, is the other starting inside player for Miami.
Although he has become a fulltime starter for the Canes, he only plays 15.6
minutes per game. Miami goes small for most of the game and tries to win with
speed and athleticism.

Miami
vs. Virginia Tech (ACC Games Only)

Category
Miami Virginia
Tech
Stat ACC
Rank
Stat ACC
Rank
FG % 40.8% 12 47.5% 4
FG % Defense 48.8% 11 44.0% 4
3-Pt. % 34.6% 7 38.4% 3
3-Pt. % Defense 40.8% 12 32.9% 2
FT % 74.8% 2 71.9% 7
Rebounding Margin -0.5 7 -3.5 9
Turnover Margin +2.15 2 +1.85 3
Assist/TO Ratio 1.08 3 1.18 2
Scoring Offense 69.8 9 73 4
Scoring Defense 77.2 11 72.4 7
Average 7.6 4.5

The easy explanation for why Miami is a losing team? Check out their shooting
percentage and field goal percentage defense. They are the worst shooting team
in ACC play, in the bottom half of three-point shooting, their field goal
percentage defense is next-to-last, and their three-point defense is dead last.
That shows up in scoring offense and defense, where they are ninth in scoring
and 11th in scoring defense.

Because of their solid guard play, the only thing Miami is really good at is
turnover margin and assist/turnover ratio. They have a very experienced point
guard in Anthony Harris, and because of the injuries to their frontcourt, their
smaller lineup has given them a better ball-handling lineup.

However, their defense has suffered greatly. They are being out-shot by 8% on
average in ACC play. Opponents shoot over 40% from the outside. (The Hokies were
8-of-16 from three-point range in the first meeting. A.D. Vassallo was 4-of-7,
and even Deron Washington was 2-of-3.) Vassallo could have a huge game on
Saturday if left open. He is as deadly a three-point shooter as you’ll see in
the conference, shooting 52.8% — that is not a typo — from the outside against
ACC opponents this season.

Beside the fact that the Hokies have more depth and are a better team, just
look at Tech’s record at home and Miami’s record on the road. Tech is 12-1 in
Cassell Coliseum, with blowout wins over teams like BC (79-62), UVA (84-57), Old
Dominion (72-55) and Appalachian State (69-37). Three of those teams are in the
top 50 of the RPI, and Appy State is just outside at #53.

Meanwhile, the Hurricanes have won just three road contests this season.
Their most impressive win was at Maryland back in January, well before the Terps
got on their current winning streak. The others came at Evansville and at UMass.
In their five ACC road losses, they have been outscored by an average of 85.6 to
66.6. That’s 19 points per game. They have also been whipped on the road by
Nebraska (82-67) and Louisville (82-59). This isn’t a team that responds well on
the road.

Look for the Hokies to run their record to 20-8, 10-4 in the ACC, and lock up
an NCAA tournament berth against the Hurricanes.

Bourbonstreet’s View

“The U” comes a calling this Saturday afternoon, after our Hokies
feasted on a major pay-back win vs. the Boston College Flying Eagles on national
television last Wednesday night. The Miami Hurricanes are still missing 26 feet
11 inches worth of front-court ballers (3 forwards and 1 center, if you are
keeping score at home), but they did upset #19 Virginia a few nights ago down in
Coral Gables. So is this yet another letdown game for our Hokies?

In short … yes it is. But VT should be able to out-talent Miami, as the
Hokies hold several Tricia Helfer attractive match-ups that will work in our
favor. First of all health is a major Miami concern right now, as the ‘Canes
have been the least salutiferous hoops team in the ACC all year long. Dwayne
Collins has done fairly well to be a true freshman having to ball inside,
especially on the offensive glass. But you can make a pretty solid case that
Miami is playing without four of their top five front-court ballers right now.

Then there is the ‘Cane defense. Every single Miami defensive ranking is in
the bottom 19% of all D-1 teams. That includes points allowed, FG% allowed,
defensive rebounding, and the fact that Miami is a very user-friendly 8th worst
at defending the three. To exacerbate that is the fact that our Hokies currently
enjoy a mondo, large and in charge experience edge over the Hurricanes, as these
M*A*S*H unit Hurricanes only start one upperclassman to Tech’s four, and only
field two upperclassmen in their Top-9 rotation. Finally, the Hokies are a far
better shooting team at home than Miami is on the road this year, as VT also
holds a whopping 17% shooting margin edge in both FG% and on 3-point% when
comparing VT’s home stats to Miami’s road stats for this 2006-2007 season.

I do expect the Hokies to be a bit “off” for this one, and we may
even look ahead a bit to playing Virginia next week. For the record, I’m not
filled with my instinctive upset oriented dread as I was before we hosted
NC.State in Blacksburg for this one. But since we are inside the Cassell, I like
Tech’s chances to win a ho-hum, mundane, do just enough to win, kinda game.

Virginia Tech 79 Miami of Florida 73

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