2008 NIT Basketball Game Preview: Virginia Tech vs Morgan State

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Virginia Tech (19-13, 9-7 ACC) vs. Morgan State (22-10, 14-2 MEAC)

Wednesday, March 19, 2008, 7:00

TV: ESPN Classic

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Game Preview: Virginia Tech will be looking to pick up win #20
in their first NIT game, Wednesday night against Morgan State in Cassell
Coliseum. A win would set up another game in Blacksburg against either UAB or
VCU, but first the Hokies must get by Morgan State, who was just a game away
from going to the NCAA tournament.

Morgan State finished first in their conference during the regular season,
but got upset by Coppin State during their conference tournament on March 15.
They were a game away from going to the NCAA tournament. They dominated their
conference during the regular season, going 14-2, and they also played UConn and
Miami to 4-point games on the road.

Morgan
State is coached by Todd Bozeman. If that name sounds familiar, it’s because he
is the former head coach at Cal, where he did very well. From 1993-1996, he went
63-35, guiding the Bears to the Sweet 16 at the age of 29. Bozeman took Cal to
the NCAA tournament three times overall. He recruited Jason Kidd and Shareef
Abdur-Rahim, and he is a very good basketball coach who has done wonders for
Morgan State in two short years.

So why is he coaching at Morgan State? Because he got busted for rules
violations at Cal. Bozeman paid the parents of Jelani Gardner $30,000 over two
years so they could travel to see their son play. After Gardner’s playing time
decreased, his parents turned Bozeman in to the NCAA. Around the same time, he
was also the subject of a sexual harassment complaint.

The NCAA stepped in and imposed an 8-year “show cause” on Bozeman.
That was his penalty for paying the parents of Gardner, and lying about it
during the investigation. That effectively banned him from college coaching for
eight years. However, he’s back on the job now, and if he keeps up this success
at Morgan State he might find himself a better job soon.

Here is a look at the Morgan State starting lineup.


Probable Morgan State Starting
Lineup

Pos

Player

Ht

Wt

Year

PPG

RPG

Assists

G

Jerrell Green

5-10

170

Sr.

5.4

2

109

G

Reggie Holmes

6-4

180

So.

13.0

3.3

16

G

Jamar Smith

6-2

210

Sr.

17.0

5.6

36

F

Marquise Kately

6-5

220

Jr.

12.8

6

52

F

Boubacar Coly

6-9

220

Sr.

9.6

11.1

22

Morgan State has a very balanced scoring lineup, with three players who average
in double figures, and a fourth who scores nearly 10 points per game. Reggie
Holmes might not start for Morgan State, but he’ll play 25 minutes per game. The
lineup listed above is the Bears’ main lineup, not necessarily their starting
lineup.

They don’t matchup particularly well with Virginia Tech from a size
standpoint, with the exception of senior forward Boubacar Coly. Coly is an
excellent rebounder and a competent scorer. He has a great basketball background
from the Laurinburg Institute and Oak Hill Academy.

Morgan State has two other very good rebounders in Jamar Smith and Marquise
Kately. However, they are undersized, and they got their rebounding stats
playing other undersized teams in their small conference this year. Coly is the
exception, however. He has proven that he has the ability to compete with the
big boys. He posted a double-double in the season opener against UConn, a narrow
69-65 loss.

Morgan State has a trio of good scorers in Holmes, Smith and Kately. Holmes
in particular isn’t shy about shooting the three-pointer. He is 60-of-164 this
year, good for 36.6%. Overall this isn’t a great outside shooting team, but they
can knock down the open jumper.

Smith is hobbled with a high ankle sprain and is questionable for the game.
His injury, whether it results in absence or compromises his performance, could
have a big impact on the game.

One thing the Bears do lack is depth. Three players get over 30 minutes of
playing time per game, and only two backups get more than eight minutes. They
will win or lose with their top seven players.

As a result, they play the game at a fairly slow pace. They won’t charge into
Cassell Coliseum and try to run the Hokies up and down the court. Take a look at
the statistical comparison below, and you’ll see that they aren’t going to set
the arena on fire with offense.


VT vs. Morgan State

Category

VT Stat

MORG Stat

Advantage

FG%

43.3%

43.3%

Even

FG% Defense

40.5%

40.8%

VT

3-Pt.%

32.7%

33.0%

MORG

3-Pt.% Defense

34.8%

32.3%

MORG

FT%

68.3%

66.4%

VT

Rebounding Margin

+4.7

+5

MORG

Turnover Margin

+0.2

+1.8

MORG

Assist/TO Ratio

0.87

0.8

VT

Scoring Offense

69.2

67.7

VT

Scoring Defense

64.8

61.4

MORG

Morgan State doesn’t score a lot of points, and they don’t shoot it particularly
well. They compensate for that by slowing the game down and playing tight
defense. They held UConn to 69 points. They held Miami to 55, though the ‘Canes
were without First Team All-ACC guard Jack McClinton. Only one team has scored
more than 68 points on them since January.

The most extreme example of their slow down, defensive basketball style is
their game at Delaware State on March 1. The Bears won the game 39-36. If you
get them running up and down the court, they won’t be able to match you
athletically. They lost to Maryland 89-65 back in early December.

There are a few things in this game that will be very important for Tech.
First off, they must focus defensively. The Bears aren’t going to earn a lot of
points against the Hokies’ stifling defense, so don’t give them anything they
don’t deserve. Second, defensive rebounds. Don’t give them extra possessions.
And last, when the Hokies rebound defensively, they need to push it up the court
and get some baskets in transition. It will be important to play with a lead,
because Morgan State doesn’t have the offensive firepower to come back.

For teams who almost made the NCAA tournament but instead have to play in the
NIT, sometimes that first NIT game is the most difficult. They aren’t quite over
getting left out of the Big Dance. They feel like they are better than the NIT.
If the Hokies are feeling that way on Wednesday night, then look out, the Bears
can get them. However, if Tech shows up and plays like they are capable of
playing, they should be able to win this one without much of a problem.

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