2006-07 Basketball Game Preview: #21 Virginia Tech at #25 Virginia

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#21 Virginia Tech (20-8, 10-4 ACC) vs. #25 Virginia (19-8, 10-4 ACC)

Thursday, March 1, 2007, 7:00

TV: ESPN


Special Preview Items:

Note: All photos are by Ivan
Morozov
.

What were you doing on January 6, 1968? Many of you probably don’t remember.
Some of you weren’t alive. I sure wasn’t. Will Stewart was a toddler. LBJ was in
the Whitehouse, we hadn’t landed on the moon yet, and Lane Stadium and Cassell
Coliseum were in their first few years of existence. That’s also the last time
Virginia Tech won a men’s basketball game in Charlottesville.

Way back in 1968, nearly 40 years ago, Virginia Tech defeated UVA 84-82 in
Charlottesville. The win was one of four straight victories over the Cavaliers
from 1967-69. After the win in 1969, the Hokies had won 13 of the last 14 games,
and 15 of the last 17, against UVA. Needless to say, things have changed since
then.

Virginia Tech has beaten UVA just 14 times since 1969. Only once since
1969 have they knocked off the Hoos twice in a row. That came in 1975 and 1976.
In other words, the Hokies have a lot of history to overcome if they want to
defeat the Hoos in Charlottesville on Thursday night.

Needless to say, this is the biggest basketball game in the history of the
Virginia Tech-UVA series. This is only the second time that both schools have
been ranked at the time the game is played (VT is 21st in both polls; UVA is #25
in the Coaches’ and not ranked in the AP). In fact, it’s only the second time in
the entire series that Virginia Tech has been ranked at the time they
played UVA.

Think about that. The teams have played 124 times since 1915, and the Hokies
have been ranked in just one of those games. Thursday night will be the second.
The only time Virginia Tech has been ranked when they played UVA, the #21 Hokies
defeated the #22 Cavaliers 72-64 in Roanoke on December 28, 1995.

In the first meeting this year, Virginia Tech blew out UVA 84-57 in
Blacksburg. A.D. Vassallo and Deron Washington were the stars, each scoring 22
points. Washington finished with 10 rebounds, while Vassallo had eight boards.
Zabian Dowdell was held to five points because of foul trouble.

The loss to Virginia Tech didn’t slow the Hoos down very much. They have won
three of their last four games, with their only loss coming on the road to
Miami. They have won their two ACC home games since losing in Blacksburg, first
knocking off FSU 73-70, and then defeating Georgia Tech 75-69. UVA is a perfect
7-0 in ACC home games and 14-1 overall in the John Paul Jones Arena on the
season, with their only loss coming to Stanford 76-75 back on January 7.


Virginia Starting Lineup

Player

Ht

Wt

Year

Pts

Rebs

Sean Singletary

6-0

185

Jr.

18.4

4.3

J.R. Reynolds

6-2.5

188

Sr.

18.2

4.2

Mamadi Diane

6-5

197

So.

10.3

3.6

Jason Cain

6-10

225

Sr.

6.8

6.4

Tunji Soroye

6-11

245

Jr.

1.7

3.2

The Virginia offense relies heavily on the play of Sean Singletary and J.R.
Reynolds, who make up the most prolific scoring backcourt in the ACC. Singletary
and Reynolds are the heart and soul of UVA’s team, and it’s not uncommon to see
them each score 20 points in the same game.

Both players have a number of ways they can score. UVA hits more
three-pointers per game than any team in the ACC (8.21 per game in ACC play),
and Singletary and Reynolds have taken more three-pointers than anyone on their
team. Singletary has attempted 179 on the year, while Reynolds has tried 136. As
a comparison, A.D. Vassallo has attempted 123, the most on Tech’s team. Zabian
Dowdell has tried 98, and no other Tech player has attempted more than 53.

A total of four UVA players have taken at least 100 three-pointers during the
season. Besides Singletary and Reynolds, Mamadi Diane and Adrian Joseph shoot a
lot from the outside. Diane is a starter, and Joseph plays 22.7 minutes off the
bench. Both players played poorly against Virginia Tech earlier in the season,
scoring a total of two points on 1-of-11 shooting between them.

Both UVA guards have excellent body control, and they can knock down the long
range three-pointer. The biggest weakness of the backcourt is shot selection,
and that’s caused mostly by Sean Singletary. He sometimes takes bad shots from
the outside when he’s well-guarded, and he does have a tendency to play out of
control at times. Singletary was held to 13 points in the first meeting by Jamon
Gordon (and Nigel Munson to some extent).

Heading into the first meeting, some people expected the two strong
backcourts to cancel each other out, with the “X-Factors” deciding the
game. That’s exactly what happened. Let’s compare the play in the first meeting
of UVA’s X-Factors with VT’s X-Factors. First, for UVA:


X-Factors, Feb. 10, 2007 – Virginia
Player
Points

Rebounds

FG Made

FG Att.

3-Pt. Made

3-Pt. Att.

Jason Cain

2

1

1

5

NA

NA

Mamadi Diane

2

4

1

5

0

2

Adrian Joseph

0

1

0

6

0

4

Average

1.3

2

0.7

5.3

0

3

Ouch. Hideous is about the only word you can use to describe that. Those three
players, two starters and the Hoos’ top backup, combined for just four points on
two field goals. They missed all of their three-pointers. Jason Cain, checked
all day by Coleman Collins and Deron Washington, managed just one rebound.

UVA’s X-Factors were totally out-played by the Virginia Tech X-Factors.
Here’s a look at the Hokies’ numbers:


X-Factors, Feb. 10, 2007 – Virginia Tech
Player
Points

Rebounds

FG Made

FG Att.

3-Pt. Made

3-Pt. Att.

Coleman Collins

6

4

2

6

NA

NA

A.D. Vassallo

22

8

7

9

4

6

Deron Washington

22

10

9

16

1

6

Average

16.7

7.3

6

10.3

2.5

6

A double-double from Washington, a near double-double from Vassallo, and almost
60% shooting combined. Coleman Collins, who statistically was the least dominant
player on Tech’s list above, still managed to outscore all three UVA X-Factors
by himself.

It doesn’t take a genius to see that those numbers need to get better for the
Hoos if they want to win this game. The most important factor for the Cavs will
be controlling the tempo. The Hokies were able to get out and run, which plays
in Deron Washington’s hands, thus he had a big game. Tech also found A.D.
Vassallo open on the outside in transition. Vassallo is a great transition
three-pointer shooter, and he converted four of his six outside shots against
UVA.

Virginia’s forwards and bigs aren’t built to get into a running game with the
Hokies. If they do, they’ll likely lose again. UVA needs to control the tempo
and turn this into a slower, half court game. The Virginia offense is
fast-paced, but they are fast-paced in a half court offense, not in an open
floor game.

Virginia vs.
Virginia Tech (ACC Games Only)

Category
Virginia Virginia
Tech
Stat ACC Rank Stat ACC Rank
FG % 42.3% 11 47.6% 3
FG % Defense 41.4% 1 43.5% 3
3-Pt. % 35.4% 6 37.6% 3
3-Pt. % Defense 34.4% 3 32.6% 2
FT % 74.1% 3 71.3% 6
Rebounding Margin +2.1 4 -3.1 9
Turnover Margin -1.79 9 +2.21 2
Assist/TO Ratio 0.86 10 1.19 2
Scoring Offense 72.7 4 73 3
Scoring Defense 71.4 6 71.3 5

Average
5.7 3.8

There’s a reason Virginia Tech is tied for first in the ACC — the Hokies rank
in the top three of the conference in seven of the 10 categories listed above.

It’s surprising that Virginia, a team tied for first place in the ACC, ranks
11th in the conference in field goal percentage, but that is the case with UVA.
They make up for it by averaging 13.1 offensive rebounds in ACC games, which is
third in the conference. The Hoos get a lot of second chance opportunities. The
Hokies need to box out and get defensive rebounds for two reasons. First, it
eliminates second chance opportunities for UVA, and second, it gives Virginia
Tech a chance to get out and run.

As noted earlier in the preview, UVA is very good at home. They are 7-0 in
ACC home games and 14-1 overall. However, don’t forget what the Hokies have
accomplished on the road this season. They defeated Duke in Cameron Indoor
Stadium. They are the only team to win at Georgia Tech. They are the only team
to win in the Dean Dome. They won’t be intimidated in Charlottesville on
Thursday. They’ll play that game knowing they have a chance to win.

Bourbonstreet’s View

The biggest Commonwealth Cup hoops game is upon us, or at least the biggest
one since at least the 1982 days of 7-4 Ralph Sampson going against quite
possibly Virginia Tech’s best front-court player of all-time in one Dale
Solomon. Since this is such a mondo, XL, colossal sized match-up, I’m gonna
break this down by assigning edges, then I’ll break down the winner.

Backcourt: (mild edge to Vah.Tech)

Why? Perhaps UVA, or at least so it would appear in prima facia homecourt
terms. But superficial takes do not always hold Evian water, as this one barely
goes to the Hokies.

Supporting Evidence: I used a 45% shooting comparative benchmark from the
floor, as I consider 45% to be a very pedestrian standard for two all-conference
quality backcourts. Then I broke it down tic-mark style for UVA at home, and for
Virginia Tech on the road. The UVA backcourt of $ean $ingletary and J.R.
Reynolds tallied 5 and 8 respectively for a total of 13 tic-marks at home.
Whereas Jamon Gordon and Zabian Dowdell checked in at 8 and 10 respectively for
a cumulative 18 visiting efforts at or above 45% from the floor. Normally I’d
side with the home G’s feeling more comfortable in their own building, but not
this time.

Frontcourt: (a decent sized edge goes to whoever dictates Tempo)

Why? Because UVA will have a mix and match Gestalt Theory edge inside The
John, if this game’s tempo is lowered compared to the tempo of the recent
February 10th matchup. The reverse is proven by the February 10th matchup
itself.

Supporting Evidence: 14 fast-break points in the first 30 minutes of play
alone for our hurrying Hokies last time out vs. UVA. That’s a lotta releasing
for run-out baskets for such a possession thrifty coach as Coach Greenberg.
Turning what could very well be the swiftest frontcourt in the ACC loose to fly
past the Cavs was a tactical stroke of genius by Greenberg. This high octane
approach prevented the Hoos from breaking Tech’s frontcourt down in specific
half-court sets, which would have maximized their +5.5 rebounding margin edge
compared head-to-head on the year. (Ask NC State about how well that works).
Also, our Hokies held a large and in-charge 11:1 ratio in blocks last time out,
and are 124 spots better than Virginia in swats on the year.

Intangibles: Coaching, health, bench, home court, and revenge: (minor
edge to UVA)

Why? This one was very close, but the more objective parts do favor the Hoos.

Supporting Evidence: Coaching appears about equal, Seth Greenberg is
slightly better at strategizing pre-game, Dave Leitao is slightly better at
adjusting in-game, and both are very good all-round coaches. That’s a wash.
Aside from minor nagging hurts, both teams are relatively good-to-go physically
with no major injuries to their respective Top-10 rotations. Bench goes to our
Hokies, primarily because Tech’s bench logs more minutes, sparing their starters
less fatigue, and I like VT pine-riders’ quicks and athleticism compared to the
Hoos, This is not a large nor even a medium edge, as the Hoo bench is more
versatile when it comes to player matchups than Tech’s is. The home court and
revanche edges both go to UVA, there is no debating that. That’s two evens, one
near even, and two in favor of UVA. Hence the minor UVA edge.

The History:

UVA holds a 77-47 all-time hoops edge. But for a +30 overall outcome margin
in the win-loss column, the average historical score is only 60-57 in favor the
Hoos.

The Outcome:

Out-shooting UVA by 26% from the floor and 17% from downtown while playing
inside The John with the Hoos bristling for pay-back is just not gonna happen.
This one will be much closer, much more competitive, and I will be pretty-well
surprised if this one does not get a little chippy, if not flat out feisty at
some point. (Watch to see how the Ref’s handle this much emotion early on.)
While John Paul Jones arena might not know a whole lot about damning torpedoes,
it did open with Cirque du Soleil’s Delirium. That typed, I’m seeing just an
ounce more composure and slightly fresher legs, all in favor of our Hokies in a
true-blue old-fashioned nail-biter. VT by 1 bucket, or less. “C’est la
guerre.”

Virginia Tech 74 Virginia 72

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