2008 NIT Basketball Game Preview: Virginia Tech vs Ole Miss

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Virginia Tech (21-13, 9-7 ACC) vs. Ole Miss (23-10, 7-9 SEC)

Wednesday, March 26, 2008, 7:00

TV: ESPN2

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Game Preview: Virginia Tech is one victory away from heading to
Madison Square Garden for the semifinals of the NIT. To get there, they’ll have
to knock off their most formidable opponent thus far in the tournament: the Ole
Miss Rebels.

Ole Miss is 23-10 overall and had a 7-9 mark during SEC play. They had a
chance to make the NCAA tournament by making a decent run during the SEC
tournament, but they were upset in their first game by eventual tournament
champion Georgia. The Rebels are a good basketball team that has defeated NCAA
tournament teams Mississippi Valley State, South Alabama, Winthrop, Clemson,
Vanderbilt, Mississippi State, Arkansas and Georgia. They are also 5-3 against
teams in the RPI Top 50.

The only thing that kept Ole Miss out of the Big Dance is the fact that they
had a 7-9 record in SEC play. The reason they had a below .500 record in
conference is because they can’t play on the road. The Rebels were just 1-7 in
SEC road games. They didn’t pick up a road win until the last game of the
regular season, when they won at hapless Georgia (hapless until the SEC
tournament, at least).

Their performance on the road doesn’t bode well, as they must travel to
Virginia Tech to play in easily the toughest atmosphere the NIT has to offer.
The winner of this game will face either Ohio State or Dayton in the NIT
semifinals.


Ole Miss Starting Lineup

Pos

Player

Ht

Wt

Year

PPG

RPG

Assists

G

Chris Warren

5-11

170

Fr.

15.5

2

147

G

David Huertas

6-5

195

So.

10.4

3.7

65

G

Eniel Polynice

6-5

200

So.

10.9

5.4

124

F

Kenny Williams

6-8

240

Sr.

8.4

6.6

31

C

Dwayne Curtis

6-8

262

Sr.

15

9.4

34

The Rebels have a very balanced scoring lineup, led by All-SEC Freshman Chris
Warren. Warren is a very good young guard who led his team in scoring this
season. Like many of his teammates, he likes to shoot the outside jumper. Warren
was 94-of-245 (38.4%) on the season from three-point range. He is just two makes
away from the Ole Miss season record.

Warren is also a good distributor of the ball, dishing out 147 assists on the
year. However, he can be prone to turnovers at time, with 92 turnovers on the
season.

Warren is the head of a 3-guard lineup that also features David Huertas and
Eniel Polynice. Their production is similar, but Polynice is a better passer,
while Huertas is a better shooter from the outside. Heurtas has attempted 192
three-pointers this year, hitting 66 of them for a 34.2% clip.

As
a team, Ole Miss has attempted 705 three-pointers this season. That’s even more
than UAB, whom we saw take 17 three-pointers in Cassell Coliseum on Monday
night. The Rebels can beat anybody when they get hot from the outside. But what
are their chances of getting hot in Cassell?

On the road this year, Ole Miss is shooting 30.5% from the outside. Their
overall percentage from the outside is 36.2%, so they shoot much worse on the
road than at home. Over their past three road games, they are just 14-of-62 from
the outside, a 22.6% mark.

Despite not shooting it great from the outside on the road, the Rebels won’t
stop shooting it from long range. They have attempted at least 17 three-pointers
in each of their road games this season.

Unlike UAB, Ole Miss has an inside game to fall back on. It is led by senior
center Dwayne Curtis, who checks in at 6-8, 262. He is averaging nearly a
double-double, at 15 points and 9.4 rebounds per game. 143 of his 311 rebounds
have come on the offensive glass. Virginia Tech must box out, because
Curtis can easily turn a missed three-pointer into two points.

The Rebels don’t have a great deal of depth. Two of their starters play over
31 minutes per game, and the other three play at least 25. They only have three
backups who log over nine minutes per game. It’s a possibility that they could
wear down, especially since they played an overtime game against Nebraska on
Monday night, and then had to turn right around and fly to Roanoke on Tuesday.

If this is a close game, or the Hokies find themselves a little behind late,
fouling would be the right course of action. Ole Miss is just a 65.7% free throw
shooting team on the season. If the Hokies can funnel the ball into the hands of
wing guard Eniel Polynice, he would be the perfect target. He is just a 50.6%
free throw shooter.


VT vs. Ole Miss

Category

VT

Ole Miss

Advantage

FG%

44.10%

45.90%

Ole Miss

FG% Defense

40.50%

43.20%

VT

3-Pt.%

33.80%

36.20%

Ole Miss

3-Pt.% Defense

33.90%

34.90%

VT

FT%

68.40%

65.70%

VT

Rebounding Margin

+4.9

+5.6

Ole Miss

Turnover Margin

+0.3

+1.1

Ole Miss

Assist/TO Ratio

0.9

1.2

Ole Miss

Scoring Offense

70.1

79.7

Ole Miss

Scoring Defense

64.2

72.7

VT

As usual, Virginia Tech does not hold the advantage in the statistical
categories. However, you can throw the stats out the window when you consider
not only how Ole Miss plays on the road, but how the Hokies have been playing
lately, especially in Cassell Coliseum.

The perfect example is three-point shooting. Tech wasn’t a good three-point
shooting team for much of the year, but over the last six games, the Hokies are
43-of-101, good for 42.6%. In their last three home games, the Hokies are
26-of-57, a 45.6% mark. Malcolm Delaney, A.D. Vassallo, and even Deron
Washington have been scorching the nets recently.

Given how well Tech plays at home, and how poorly Ole Miss plays on the road,
you’ve got to consider that the Hokies are the strong favorite for tonight’s
game. Tech has never lost a home game in the NIT (an interesting bit of trivia
— Ole Miss has only lost one home NIT game in their history: Virginia
Tech eliminated Ole Miss from the 1982 NIT with a second-round 61-59 win in
Oxford). If
the Hokies can stay perfect for one more game, they’ll move
on to Madison Square Garden.

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