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

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(home games)

#3 Virginia Tech (21-10, 10-6 ACC) vs. #10 North Carolina State (17-14,
5-11)

Saturday, March 10, 2007, 3:30 (approx.)

TV: ESPN/RLF (click
here for RLF affiliate list
)


Special Preview Items:

The Hokies will get their third and final chance to defeat NC State when
Virginia Tech battles the Wolfpack in the ACC Tournament Semifinals on Saturday
afternoon in Tampa. If Tech manages to knock off NC State for the first time
this season, they’ll get a shot at either UNC or Boston College in the ACC
Tournament Finals.

Getting past NC State could prove to be very difficult. The Wolfpack won just
five ACC games during the regular season, and two of them were against Virginia
Tech. They knocked off the Hokies 70-59 in Blacksburg on January 31, and then
blew out Tech 81-56 in Raleigh on February 18.

Both teams arrived in the semifinals in very different ways. After finishing
the regular season 15-14 and 5-11 in conference play, the Wolfpack got the #10
seed in the ACC Tournament and faced #7 Duke in the opening round. NC State
managed to knock off the Blue Devils 85-80 and earned a shot at #2 UVA in the
quarterfinals.

Early on, things didn’t go well for NC State against the Cavaliers. UVA led
40-26 at halftime, and the Hoos were in complete control of the game. The
Wolfpack countered by shooting 73.9% from the field in the second half to
complete the comeback and earn a 79-71 win.

Virginia Tech finished the regular season 20-10 and 10-6 in the ACC. That
mark earned them the #3 seed in the ACC Tournament and an opening round bye.
After watching the first day’s action, as well as the first three quarterfinal
games on Friday, the Hokies crushed Wake Forest 71-52 in the tournament’s
biggest margin of victory thus far.

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

Remember those names, because you’ll be hearing them a lot on Saturday
afternoon. NC State doesn’t have a very deep bench, and they rely on their
starters quite a bit. All five of their starters average double figures in
scoring, and they are all very dangerous players.

NC State’s offense runs inside-out. The Wolfpack have an excellent passing
center in Ben McCauley, and they like to run their offense through his hands. He
has a number of nice post moves in his arsenal, and his 14.9 points per game is
second on the team. McCauley also has 119 assists on the year, which is the
highest mark on the team. McCauley might be the best pound-for-pound passer in
the ACC.

At power forward NC State will rely on r-freshman Brandon Costner. Costner is
a former McDonald’s All-American who has been having a huge season. He is
leading NC State in scoring and rebounding, and he has a very dangerous game on
offense.

Not only can Costner score on the inside, but he can score from the outside
as well. He is shooting 38.2% from three-point range this season, and he isn’t
afraid to put up the shots from the outside, even with a man in his face. He
also has the handle to take you off the dribble, and he’s proving that he’s
going to be a future star in the ACC.

Costner is also having a huge tournament. He scored 30 points in NC State’s
overtime win over Duke on Thursday night, and then dropped another 20 points on
UVA on Friday night. He’s got the hot hand for the Wolfpack.

You can’t talk about NC State without mentioning their outstanding senior
point guard, Engin Atsur. Atsur is a very experienced point guard who has proven
to be a master of controlling the tempo against the Hokies this year. He gets
the Wolfpack into their offense, but he’s also a big part of their scoring
offense. Atsur averages 11.1 points per game and hits 36.5% of his
three-pointers. It feels like more.

On the wing, NC State has Gavin Grant and Courtney Fells. They are both
slashers who like to get to the rim. They are solid three-point shooters when
left open (31.3% for Grant, 31.6% for Fells), but they both prefer to put the
ball on the floor and take it to the basket.

In the first two meetings between Virginia Tech and NC State, the Wolfpack
controlled the tempo and got the Hokies into a slow, half court game. NC State
has several matchup advantages over Tech in the half court offense, and the Pack
exploited those matchups to shoot 53.1% from the field in Blacksburg and 66.7%
in the rematch in Raleigh.

The Hokies can’t afford to let NC State control the tempo in this game. They
need to force the issue early and force the Wolfpack to run, which they don’t do
well. If Tech can keep from getting bogged down in a half court slugfest,
they’ll have a good chance to advance to Sunday’s finals.

Why the Hokies Might Win

1) 33, 31, 34, 17 and 21. Those are the number of minutes that Virginia
Tech’s starters have played in the ACC Tournament. NC State’s have played 74,
80, 73, 57 and 76. The Wolfpack have played on two straight nights, and one of
their games went to overtime. The Hokies blew out Wake Forest, and coasted to an
easy win, while both of NC State’s victories were hard fought. Thus, Tech is the
fresher team.

2) The Hokies have superior depth and athleticism, and as noted above, they
are the fresher team. If they come out with an array of traps and presses, they
could pressure NC State into submission. Not only does playing twice in two days
take a physical toll, but it takes a mental one as well. If the Hokies force the
Wolfpack into a running game, like they did to Wake Forest last night, the
result should be good for Tech.

Why NC State Might Win

1) If NC State is able to run their half court offense with no pressure,
they’ll win. They’ve already shown that they can slice and dice the Hokies with
their half court sets twice this year, and there’s no reason to think Tech can
stop them this time if they are allowed to run their offense unopposed.

2) NC State is hot, and confident. The Wolfpack have knocked off #7 seed Duke
and #2 seed Virginia in back-to-back games. They have won a game in overtime,
and overcome a 14-point halftime deficit. Add to that the fact that they whipped
the Hokies twice during the regular season, and they’ll be expecting to win this
afternoon.

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