2008 NIT Basketball Game Preview: Virginia Tech vs UAB

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Virginia Tech (20-13, 9-7 ACC) vs. UAB (23-10, 12-4 C-USA)

Monday, March 24, 2008, 9:00

TV: ESPN

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Game Preview: The Hokies will be looking to pick up their 21st win of the season and
earn another home game when they take on the UAB Blazers tonight at 9pm in
Cassell Coliseum. A win would send Tech to the quarterfinals of the NIT, and if
they win that game, they’ll be heading to Madison Square Garden. However, UAB
is a very good team who will have something to say about that.

UAB is 23-10 on the year and finished second in Conference USA with a 12-4
record. They are very similar to the Hokies in some ways. They have a good
record and an excellent mark in conference play, but they lacked quality
victories that the NCAA Selection Committee looks for. Their best win of the season
came at Kentucky back in December, but they’ve only beaten three teams in the
Top 100 all season.

Like Tech, UAB played a #1 seed in the NCAA tournament twice. They lost to
Memphis by one point back on February 16, then got hammered by 38 by the Tigers
in their final game of the regular season.

The Blazers defeated a good VCU team on the road to earn the right to travel
to Cassell Coliseum tonight. That’s no small feat, because VCU is good, especially at
home.


UAB Starting Lineup

Position

Name

Height

Weight

Year

PPG

RPG

Assists

G

Aaron Johnson

5-7

175

Fr.

5.2

1.7

137

G

Robert Vaden

‘6-5

207

Jr.

21.4

3.5

84

G

Channing Toney

‘6-5

207

Jr.

10.8

3.3

22

F

Lawrence Kinnard

‘6-8

210

Jr.

11.2

6.8

40

F

Reggie Huffman

‘6-7

216

Jr.

7.6

6.2

11

The Blazers have been hurt by injuries and academics this year. Starting
guard Paul Delaney has missed all but four games because of a knee injury, and
starting forward Walter Sharpe was forced to sit after 12 games because of
academics. UAB might be an NCAA tournament team had they not lost those two
players.

Nevertheless, they still form a very formidable lineup. Robert Vaden is the
top player on the team, and one of the top players in the country. He is
averaging 21.4 points per game. He is an outstanding three-point shooter,
connecting on 41.1% of his shots from the outside. He shoots a lot, having
attempted 343 three-pointers this year. 141 of his 217 made field goals have
come from the outside.

Like all shooters, Vaden is capable of blowing up, or having a bad game. He
has scored as many as 41 points in a game this year, and as few as six. Tech
must do their best to deny him the basketball in good shooting situations. Deron
Washington will likely draw this assignment. He is athletic enough to keep up
with Vaden, and certainly tall enough and athletic enough to challenge the shot.

Lawrence Kinnard is another three-point shooter for the Blazers. He is
49-of-135 from the outside this year, good for 36.3%. He’s a good all-around
player, leading the team in rebounding and blocked shots.

UAB got a boost after the first semester ended when Channing Toney joined the
team. He starts at guard, and he’s averaging 10.8 points per game. He is
shooting 38.2% from three-point range. As you can see, this is a team that lives
and dies by the three-pointer.

UAB has a 5-7 freshman guard named Aaron Johnson who leads the team in
assists with 137. His numbers are similar to Tech freshman point guard Hank
Thorns. He distributes the ball well, but isn’t a huge scoring threat because
of his height. Like Thorns, he played his best basketball down the stretch, and
can be a fun player to watch.


VT vs. UAB

Category

VT

UAB

Advantage

FG%

43.90%

45.80%

UAB

FG%Defense

40.60%

41.30%

VT

3-Pt.%

33.40%

38%

UAB

3-Pt.% Defense

34.40%

33.30%

UAB

FT%

68.70%

71.50%

UAB

Rebounding Margin

+4.9

+2.6

VT

Turnover Margin

+0.1

-0.2

VT

Assist/TO Ratio

0.9

1.0

UAB

Scoring Offense

70

74.3

UAB

Scoring Defense

64.7

67.1

VT

This looks like a good matchup. Neither team is an
offensive juggernaut, but both teams do play very good defense. Both teams won
games this year by keeping them in the 60’s. Both teams will try to win
tonight by stopping their opponents’ top scorer: A.D. Vassallo for the Hokies,
and Vaden for UAB.

One stat that doesn’t appear on the table above is UAB’s road record. The
Blazers are 8-5 on the road this season, a very good mark. They won’t be
intimidated by Cassell Coliseum. They will play confident, and they know they
can win the game if they play well.

The Blazers have plenty of postseason experience, on the court and on the
bench. They are coached by Mike Davis, the former head coach at Indiana who took
the Hoosiers to the National Championship Game in 2002. His teams at Indiana
posted a 7-4 record in the NCAA tournament, and a 21-10 record in the month of
March. Davis knows how to get it done down the stretch.

UAB’s basketball program has only existed for 30 years, but in those 30
years, the Blazers have made 22 postseason appearances.

Overall, UAB has talented players, they are well-coached, and they have a
lot of experience in the postseason. The Hokies will have a challenge on their
hands on Monday night.

If Virginia Tech defeats UAB, they will take on the winner of the Ole’
Miss-Nebraska game, which is also played tonight at 9pm. That game would take
place on Wednesday, March 26 on ESPN2. The time has not been announced.

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