2007-08 Basketball Game Preview: Aeropostale Holiday Festival

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Virginia
Tech had a great experience in Madison Square Garden last season, and they hope
their trip this year nets the same results. Last year the Hokies blew out Seton
Hall in the famous arena, and this year they are one of four teams taking part
in the Aeropostale Holiday Festival.

Tech is guaranteed two games. The first game will take place on Friday at
6:30. The Hokies will play again on Saturday, against either St. John’s or
Marist. Saturday’s consolation game is at 1:00, while the championship game will follow, some time between 3:00 and 3:30. Obviously VT hopes to be playing the late game come Saturday.

This tournament presents another set of unique challenges. They’ll face a
team in Hofstra that features one of the best mid-major players in the nation,
and on Saturday they’ll get either a very experienced Marist team, or a St.
John’s team with a young, talented frontcourt.

Hofstra Pride (2-6)

The only thing you need to know about Hofstra is that senior guard Andre
Agudio is one of the most prolific players in the country. He carries his team.
They depend on him night in and night out. If he has an off night, the Pride
will lose. No question about it.


Hoftstra Starting Lineup

Position

Name

Height

Weight

Year

PPG

RPG

APG

G

Charles Jenkins

6-3

220

Fr.

12.4

4.5

2.5

G

Antoine Agudio

6-3

190

Sr.

26.8

4.1

2.3

G

Nathaniel Lester

6-4

190

Fr.

8

2.4

0.3

F

Greg Washington

6-10

200

Fr.

1.5

4

0.5

F

Mike Davis-Sabb

6-7

240

Jr.

1.8

2.5

0.1

Don’t let that 2-6 record fool you. The Pride have been very close in several of
their losses. They have lost four games by four points or less, including one in
overtime to UNC-Wilmington. They also have a very quality win over Charlotte
thus far. Their record may not show it, but they can beat Virginia Tech if the
Hokies don’t play well.

Obviously the key to this game is shutting down Antoine Agudio. Hofstra is
averaging 68 points per game, and Agudio is responsible for 26.8 of them. He
ranks second in the nation in points per game, and he leads the nation in
minutes played (39.8 minutes). Agudio is capable of doing a lot of his damage
from the outside. He is one of the top three-point shooters in the history of
the CAA with 305 career outside shots.

For
the season, Agudio has hit 32 three-pointers. He’s shooting at a 47.8% clip from
the outside. He has hit 32 of his team’s 50 three-pointers this season. As
another example of how good a scorer he is, Agudio is averaging 17.2 points in
the second half of games this year. VCU’s Eric Maynor is the second leading
scorer in the CAA this year, and he’s averaging 18.3 points per game,
barely a point more than Agudio averages in the second half.

Unfortunately for Hofstra, Agudio was injuried at practice on Wednesday. He
suffered a confirmed high-ankle sprain, and there is a possibility of torn
ligaments as well. His status for this weekend is uncertain, but even if he does
play, he won’t be anywhere near 100%. Without Agudio, Hofstra stands almost no
chance of beating the Hokies unless Tech doesn’t show up.

Agudio and freshman guard Charles Jenkins are the only players that have
started every game for Hofstra this season. They are still finding themselves as
a team. Eight other players have started at the other three spots over the
course of the season, so projecting a starting lineup at this point is nothing
more than a guess.

Hofstra has been solid rebounding the basketball, with a +0.5 margin so far.
However, nobody stands out on the boards. Their top rebounder is Darren Townes,
who averages 5.8 boards per game. Over 40% of his rebounds come on the offensive
glass, so the Hokies have to get a body on him.

Hofstra plays pretty good defense. Opponents are shooting just 40.5% from the
floor and 32.2% from the outside. However, they aren’t a very good shooting team
in their own right, hitting just 41.8% from the field. From the outside they are
solid as a team at 37.9%, but that’s mostly Agudio. Only four other players have
attempted a three-pointer, and those four guys are a combined 18-of-65, not a
very good mark.

Assist-to-turnover ratio is absolutely killing the Pride. They have just 74
assists in eight games, compared to 146 turnovers. That’s a terrible ratio. If
the Hokies come to play, Tech should be able to win this game simply because
Hofstra can’t hang on to the ball.

Marist Red Foxes (6-5)

Marist is a very experienced basketball team that starts four seniors, two of
which are fifth-year seniors. They’ve had a tough schedule early, playing eight
of their 11 games away from home. They are 3-1 in true road games, but 0-4 on
neutral sites.


Marist Starting Lineup

Position

Name

Height

Weight

Year

PPG

RPG

APG

G

David Devezin

6-0

180

So.

8.4

1.9

4.5

G

Louie McCroskey

6-5

208

r-Sr.

13.9

6

1.5

F

Ben Farmer

6-5

193

Sr.

7.7

3

0.8

F

Ryan Stilphen

6-8

222

r-Sr.

7.9

4.2

1.1

C

Spongy Benjamin

6-8

228

Sr.

9

7.5

0.6

Senior swingman Louie McCroskey is the top player on the team. He’s the top
scorer, and a very good rebounder for his size and position. He can light it up
from the outside, as he’s shooting 48.1% from three-point range on the season.

As
a team, Marist is very good from behind the arc. They are shooting 39.2% from
three-point range. They don’t live and die by the outside shot, but they are
very effective from long range.

It’s a different story from the free throw line. As a team, the Red Foxes are
shooting just 61.2% from the charity stripe. Three of their starters are
shooting less than 50%, including both post players. All three of those starters
have at least 21 attempts on the season. The Hokies can’t be afraid to foul.

Only McCroskey scores in double figures for Marist. They aren’t exactly an
offensive powerhouse, scoring just 66.7 points per game. Freshman guard Jay
Gavin comes off the bench to average 9.3 points per game, but he’s the only
other player that is approaching double figures.

Like Hofstra, Marist struggles with their assist-to-turnover ratio. Point
guard David Devezin is very good, with 49 assists and 25 turnovers, but he is
the only player on the team with a positive ratio. As a team, Marist has 129
assists and 164 turnovers. Tight, pressuring defense will likely result in some
steals for the Hokies.

Marist doesn’t have the star power of Hofstra, but they are a more
well-rounded team. They have more experience and have better offensive threats
on the inside.

The Red Foxes have played a fairly tough schedule. Four of their five losses
have come to teams ranked in the top 100 of the RPI (according to
RealTimeRPI.com). Their five losses have come against teams with a combined
record of 42-11 against Division I competition. They have a win over #46 Wright
State. Marist is a good basketball team, and arguably the favorite to win this
tournament.

St. John’s Red Storm (5-4)

It’s possible that the Hokies could face former Big East rival St. John’s on
Saturday. The Red Storm aren’t what they used to be. In fact, they are the Big
East’s version of Virginia Tech this year. Their roster is loaded with freshmen.
If Tech faces the Red Storm on Saturday, youth won’t be an excuse for either
team, because both teams are equally young.


St. John’s Starting Lineup

Position

Name

Height

Weight

Year

PPG

RPG

APG

G

Eugene Lawrence

6-1

210

Sr.

11.1

2.8

5

G

Larry Wright

6-1

172

So.

11.3

1.6

0.6

F

D.J. Kennedy

6-6

208

Fr.

12

8.1

2

F

Justin Burrell

6-8

235

Fr.

11.9

7.6

0.6

C

Tomas Jasiulionis

6-11

249

Jr.

2.2

2.6

0.6

Besides the freshmen forwards, other freshmen who see plenty of playing time
include guard Paris Horne, forward Rob Thomas, guard Malik Boothe, forward Sean
Evans and center Dele Coker. This is a very young basketball team that will be
better in the future than it is right now.

So far, St. John’s has defeated the teams they should have beaten. They’ve
knocked off St. Francis (NY), Sacred Heart, Farleigh Dickinson, Long Island, and
Hawaii. Their four losses have come to Miami, Niagara, Ohio and Tulane, all Top
80 RPI teams. They nearly beat Ohio and Niagara, but of course, they only beat
Hawaii and St. Francis (NY) by single digits. Like the Hokies, they are
talented, but very young.

St.
John’s top two scorers and rebounders are freshmen. D.J. Kennedy has been
especially impressive for a freshman small forward. He’s playing over 30 minutes
per game, shooting 50% from the field and 43.5% from three-point range. Kennedy
is the team’s leading scorer and rebounder.

Justin Burrell leads the team in minutes per game, and he’s second in scoring
and rebounding. Besides Burrell and Kennedy, St. John’s doesn’t have anyone
averaging over three rebounds per game.

St. John’s has a couple of traditional centers in Tomas Jasiulionis and Dele
Coker, but they combine to play just over 20 minutes per game. The rest of the
time, the Red Storm goes small. They’ll bring in Anthony Mason, Jr. as an extra
wing. This very similar to what Virginia Tech has been doing lately. The Hokies
start Cheick Diakite, but for most of the game, the lineup consists of a point
guard, three wings and a post player.

Anthony Mason, Jr. only recently returned from an ankle injury. He’s only
played in four games this year, but he’s as good as a starter. He’s spent most
of his career in the starting lineup. He is averaging 10.8 points per game so
far off the bench. Although St. John’s only averages 70.3 points per game, they
have some solid scoring across the board. They have five players averaging
double-figures, including Mason off the bench.

St. John’s has been playing outstanding defense for such a freshman-laden
team. They are allowing just 65.7 points per game. Opponents are shooting 40%
from the field and 29.7% from three-point range. Opponents have a terrible
86-to-136 assist-to-turnover ratio against the Red Storm.

Like every other team in this tournament, St. John’s has a negative
assist-to-turnover ratio. They have 115 assists and 135 turnovers as a team.

Overall View of the Tournament

All four teams in this tournament will bring a negative assist-to-turnover
ratio into this game.


Bad Assist-to-Turnover Ratios

Team

Assists

Turnovers

Virginia Tech

142

150

St. John’s

115

135

Marist

129

164

Hofstra

74

146

Virginia Tech is the closest of all those teams to having a good
assist-to-turnover ratio. If any of those teams can come through with a positive
ratio over the weekend, they could end up winning the tournament.

You’ve got to like Virginia Tech’s first round draw. If Agudio can’t play for
Hofstra, or he isn’t 100%, I don’t think the Pride has much of a chance against
the Hokies. That would set up a championship game matchup for the Hokies against
either Marist or St. John’s.

This tournament represents a chance for the Hokies to get two neutral court
wins and a tournament victory before New Years. However, don’t expect a very
neutral crowd. St. John’s, Hofstra and Marist are located very close to Madison
Square Garden, 13 miles, 27 miles and 32 miles respectively. Virginia Tech will
be the only non-local school in this event. Madison Square Garden serves as a
second home court for the Red Storm.

That said, I think the Hokies have a shot to go up north and get a couple of
solid neutral site wins. They are the most talented team in the field. We’ll see
if they can get it done.

TV Info

Tech plays tonight at 6:30. If the Hokies win,
they’ll play at roughly 3:30 tomorrow, but if they lose, they’ll play at 1:00. All games
will be shown on MSG TV (shown as Channel 621 on DirecTV’s
web site
and Channel 412 in Dish
Network’s web site
). Check your listings to see if you can receive the game
in your area.

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