2007-08 Basketball Game Preview: Virginia Tech vs. George Washington

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Virginia Tech gets a chance to avenge one of their out of conference losses
of the 2006-07 season when George Washington comes to Blacksburg on Sunday
evening. Both teams will look much different than they did a year ago, but this
promises to be one of the most entertaining game of the Hokies’
out-of-conference slate.

George Washington is one of the more successful mid-majors in the nation, and
a well-known team in this region. They have a history with the Hokies. The teams
got together every year back in Tech’s Atlantic 10 days, and there have been
some great battles in the series.

So far this has not been one of GW’s strongest teams, thought the potential
is definitely there for them to get better and better as the year goes on. They
have had some trouble at the point guard position, and have been feeling their
way through the early part of the season.


GW Starting Lineup

Pos

Name

Ht

Wt

Year

PPG

RPG

APG

G

Maureece Rice

6-1

224

Sr.

11.6

2.4

1.6

G

Xavier Alexander

6-6

215

Fr.

5.8

2.2

1.2

F

Damian Hollis

6-8

205

So.

8.7

6.7

2

F

Wynton Witherspoon

6-7

197

Jr.

12.8

5

3

F

Rob Diggs

6-8

202

Jr.

13.8

8

1.3

GW was expecting sophomore Travis King to play major minutes at point guard this
year, but he has been sidelined with a knee injury. Senior guard Maureece Rice
was supposed to be a major scoring threat off the ball, but King’s knee injury
forced Rice to play the point guard position quite a bit early in the season.

In
GW’s last game, they experimented with freshman Miles Beatty at point guard, and
he handled himself well. Rice played off the ball and scored 18 points, his best
performance of the season. If Beatty can continue to handle that point guard
position and Rice can play his natural position, it will make the Colonials a
much more dangerous team.

One player you’ll recognize is forward Wynton Witherspoon. Witherspoon is a
former Virginia Tech player who transferred out after his sophomore season in
2005-06. He is playing as well as anyone on the GW team right now, averaging
12.8 points and five rebounds per game. He is also the only GW starter that has
a positive assist-to-turnover ratio. That should tell you a bit about the
problems the Colonials have been having at point guard.

Somewhere between Blacksburg and Washington, Witherspoon learned how to shoot
the basketball. As a Hokie, he shot a low percentage for his career. He was
38.5% from the field, 27.8% from the outside and 48.3% from the free throw line
for Tech in 44 career games, including 10 starts. So far this season for GW,
Spoon is shooting 53.1% from the field, 40.9% from three-point range, and 80%
from the charity stripe. That’s quite an improvement, especially on free throw
shooting.

Forward Rob Diggs doesn’t have the ideal weight to play inside, but he makes
up for it with athleticism and natural aggressiveness. He is GW’s leading scorer
and rebounder. He has 20 offensive rebounds on the season, so the Hokies have to
do a good job of boxing him out. He’s a very scrappy player.

The Colonials have a very interesting lineup. From a size standpoint, they
start one guard and four wing forwards. Diggs has the skill set of an inside
player, but he doesn’t have the weight. The shortest starter (Rice) is also the
heaviest starter.

They are much like the Hokies in that they don’t have a true second guard in
the starting linenup. However, when Beatty comes in to run the point, Rice
slides out to the 2-guard spot, giving them two true guards.

As a result of having trouble in the backcourt, GW is struggling with
turnovers. They have turned the ball over 112 times in just six games, an
average of almost 18.7 per game. Only one starter, Witherspoon, has a positive
assist-to-turnover ratio. They only have three players with more than nine
assists through six games games.

Because
of the Colonials’ lack of bulk on the inside, the Hokies’ Jeff Allen should be
able to do some damage around the basket. There appears to be no GW defender who
can handle Allen’s combination of size, aggressiveness and athleticism. If Rob
Diggs is assigned to Allen, he’ll be out-weighed by 55 pounds.

Since Allen is the guy that can hurt GW the most, I expect he’ll draw double
teams. He needs to be ready to give the ball up to the open man, and the other
Tech players need to be ready to flash to the open spot in the defense.

Although the Hokies will be the bulkier team, GW will present problems for
Tech’s freshman backcourt of Hank Thorns and Malcolm Delaney. First of all,
everyone in GW’s starting lineup, with the exception of Maureece Rice, will be
almost a foot taller than Thorns. The Colonials are a rangy team with long arms.
They can wreak havoc in the passing lanes. Thorns and Delaney need to be
conscious of this and play smart. The Hokies have to be good with their spacing.

GW is 3-3, but don’t expect them to run at that .500 pace for long. One of
their losses was an 83-60 setback to UCLA, one of the favorites to win the
National Championship. Another loss came to 6-2 Maryland-Baltimore County, but
Maureece Rice was suspended for that game because of a violation of team rules.
Their other loss came to Auburn 74-70.

One thing to keep in mind is that George Washington is 0-3 on the road and on
neutral courts. All their wins have come at home. That’s going to hurt their RPI
come March, if they are in a position to earn an at-large berth. They need to
pick up some wins on the road. The Hokies are undefeated at home.

Both teams have reasons to feel confident in this game, and I have a feeling
it could be one of the best games in Cassell Coliseum this season.

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