2008-09 Basketball Game Preview: Virginia Tech vs. Gardner-Webb

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The much anticipated 2008-09 season tips off for the men’s basketball team on
Friday night. The Hokies host Gardner-Webb, a team that is much more dangerous
than their name suggests. It will be the first of two games Tech will play in
Cassell Coliseum before departing for Puerto Rico.

Gardner-Webb will not be intimidated by an ACC team. Last season they
strolled into Rupp Arena and easily handled Kentucky 84-68. This will be their
chance to pull another big upset to start the season, and they’ll be ready to
play on Friday.

Not only did they beat Kentucky last year, but they also played good games
against some other power conference teams. They lost to UConn and Oklahoma by
less than 15 points a season ago.

Gardner-Webb returns four of their five starters from last year’s team.
Unfortunately, the one starter lost is a major loss. Thomas Sanders was the
Atlantic Sun Conference Player of the Year. He averaged 18.1 points and 10.8
rebounds per game. He was the only player on his team to average more than 4.8
rebounds per game, so his loss will be felt on the boards.

Here is a look at the projected Gardner-Webb starting lineup.


Gardner-Webb Starting Lineup

Position

Name

Height

Weight

Year

PPG

RPG

Assists

G

Aaron Linn

6-3

200

Sr.

12.5

4.8

107

G

Grayson Flittner

6-0

200

Jr.

15.3

2.8

120

G

Takayo Siddle

5-11

180

Sr.

5.5

1.3

65

F

Joshua Henley

6-4

220

Fr.

N/A

N/A

N/A

C

Auryn MacMillan

6-8

235

Jr.

4.8

3.8

14

Gardner-Webb is a team that relies heavily on the three-pointer. If they are
knocking down their outside jumper with precision, they are a team that can
upset Virginia Tech. Last year they shot 35.9% from the outside and
made a total of 269 three-pointers.

They will get out and run up and down the court, and head coach Rick Scruggs
will substitute quite a bit to keep his players fresh. Don’t be surprised to see
10-12 different players in the first half on Friday night.

The Bulldogs return their top four outside shooters. Let’s take a look at
what they did last season.


Top Gardner-Webb 3-Point Threats

Name

Made

Att.

Percentage

Overall PPG

Grayson Flittner

107

266

40.2%

15.3

Aaron Linn

46

123

37.4%

12.5

Nate Blank

60

157

38.2%

10.8

Takayo Siddle

34

110

30.9%

5.5

The most important part of this game for Virginia Tech is ball pressure. The
Hokies must play strong perimeter defense and close out on the shooters. It will
be important not to allow Gardner-Webb to establish a rhythm. The Bulldogs
turned the ball over 495 times last season because of their fast paced style.
The Hokies need to take advantage of those turnovers and turn them into easy
points.

If you look at Gardner-Webb’s starting lineup, the first thing you’ll notice
is that they are undersized. The Bulldogs start three guards, two of which are
undersized. Their forward is the same size as most of Virginia Tech’s wings. The
Hokies should have a field day rebounding the basketball on the inside, and Jeff
Allen should be able to go to work in the low post.

The Hokies would like to get out and run the court against the less athletic
Bulldogs. However, Tech’s best open court post player, J.T. Thompson, is out 4-6
weeks with a sports hernia and will miss this game.

Still, this is a game the Hokies should win. They have the talent advantage,
and if they play like they are capable of playing they won’t have any trouble.
However, Kentucky was saying the exact same thing last year at this time. If
Virginia Tech doesn’t show up to play, Gardner-Webb is a team that is capable of
pulling the upset.

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