2008-09 Basketball Game Preview: Virginia Tech at #1 Wake Forest

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Virginia Tech (12-5, 2-1 ACC) at. #1 Wake Forest (16-0, 3-0)

Wednesday, January 21, 2009, 7:00

TV: ESPN2


Special Preview Items:

Note: Stats on HokieSports.com have not been updated to reflect the Boston College game, thus Virginia Tech’s stats in our roster card have not been updated.

The Hokies will face their biggest challenge of the season on Wednesday night
when they travel to Winston-Salem to take on #1 Wake Forest. Though it will be a
significant challenge, it also represents a great opportunity. A road win over a
team as highly regarded as the Demon Deacons would be something good to put in
front of the Selection Committee in March.

This will be Virginia Tech’s fourth meeting against the #1 team in the nation
since joining the ACC.

Hokies
vs. #1
Date Opponent Result

Dec. 4, 2005

at Duke

77-75 L

Jan. 13, 2007

UNC

94-88 W

Mar. 15, 2008

vs. UNC

68-66 L

The Hokies have a habit of playing to the level of their competition.
Sometimes that’s bad, but it’s obviously good when playing highly-ranked teams.
Tech knocked off #1 UNC in 2007, got beat by #1 Duke on a lucky halfcourt shot
in 2005, and lost on a Tyler Hansbrough buzzer beater in the semi-finals of the
ACC Tournament last March. The Hokies are a bounce or two away from being 3-0
against the #1 team since joining the ACC.

Every #1 team the Hokies have faced has been unique. Wake Forest is special
because they have tremendous frontcourt height and athletic ability, along with
Jeff Teague tearing it up in the backcourt. That is a tough combination to
overcome for any team.

Wake
Forest Starting Lineup
Pos. Name Ht. Wt. Yr. PPG RPG Assists
G
Jeff Teague
6-2 180 So. 21.4 4 65
G
L.D. Williams
6-4 210 Jr. 9 2.8 20
F
Al-Farouq Aminu
6-9 215 Fr. 12.8 8.8 33
F
James Johnson
6-9 245 So. 13.4 8 35
C
Chas McFarland
7-0 235 Jr. 10.5 7.1 12

Last year the feature player for Wake Forest was James Johnson. This year,
that torch has been passed to Jeff Teague. Teague is a dynamic guard who excels
offensively and defensively. He is a combo guard, meaning he can play the point
or off the ball. Last season he spent most of his time off the ball, but he has
taken over the point guard duties this year.

Teague has a very quick first step and can get to the glass quickly. Once he
gets there, he knows how to draw contact. He has attempted 131 free throws this
year and hit 83.2% of them. Teague is shooting 53.3% from the field and 52.3%
from three-point range. He has the ability to score in bunches, and he can put
the team on his back at any point.

Despite Teague being a very good outside shooter, the three-pointer isn’t a
big part of Wake’s arsenal. They have hit just 63 three-pointers this year,
though they are shooting at a decent 33.7% clip as a team. The Demon Deacons
prefer to do their scoring inside the arc, and their length on the inside makes
them very dangerous. There are only three major three-point threats on Wake’s
team.

Wake
Forest Outside Shooters
Name 3pt.

Made
3pt.

Att.
Percentage

Jeff Teague
23 44 52.3%

Harvey Hale
17 47 36.2%

James Johnson
10 30 33.3%

Teague is lights out from the outside, while Hale is a very streaky shooter.
Hale has never been “on” vs. the Hokies. In five career games against
Tech, Hale is averaging 4.8 points per game. He is just 9-of-35 from the field
and 3-of-21 from three-point range.

While Teague starts at point guard, he doesn’t spend all his time there. Ish
Smith (6-0, 175, Jr.) plays 17.8 minutes per game off the bench. He was Wake’s
starting point guard the last two years. It was Smith who buried the pull up
jumper that beat the Hokies 77-75 in Winston-Salem last year. He’s not a
particularly good shooter, but he’s a lightning quick guard who can push the
basketball and get to the rim.

Joining Teague in the starting lineup in the backcourt is L.D. Williams.
Williams is a former Virginia Tech recruiting target who gives Wake a perimeter
defensive presence. He was heavily recruited by Seth Greenberg just for that
reason. Williams isn’t a particularly good shooter, but he’s a quality, capable
basketball player who provides solid minutes.

Wake Forest’s frontcourt is very impressive. At the “small” forward
spot is Al-Farouq Aminu. Aminu is a freshman who was among the top 10 players in
the nation coming out of high school. He is a smooth player who can play on the
wing or on the inside. Aminu is one of the highest rated recruits in Wake Forest
history, which says quite a bit about his skill level.

Wake has two other inside players who are just as effective. James Johnson is
a terrific athlete, and he’s a mismatch because he can play inside or spot up
and hit the open three-pointer. Johnson has a 41-inch vertical jump and has a
21-0 record in martial arts competition. His father is a seven time World
Kickboxing champion. He is Wake’s version of Deron Washington, except he has
more natural basketball skill.

At center is the underrated Chas McFarland. McFarland is a seven-footer with
skill. He has good touch on his shots, and he can play with his back to the
basket. He is also an excellent free throw shooter for his size, converting at a
76.9% clip from the charity stripe.

McFarland, Johnson and Aminu combine to grab 23.9 rebounds per game. This is
easily the best rebounding frontcourt in the ACC, and perhaps the best
frontcourt overall. Wake also brings David Weaver (6-11, 240, r-Jr.) and Tony
Woods (6-11, 245, Fr.) off the bench. At times, they’ll play with a 6-9 small
forward, a 6-11 power forward and a 7-0 center. That’s an incredible amount of
height.

Wake’s size and overall athleticism shows in their defense. Opponents are
shooting just 36.2% from the field against the Demon Deacons, and just 28.3%
from three-point range. Wake will sag to the inside a bit on defense, clogging
up the passing lanes. They are able to do that because they have such a tall
lineup that is still able to contest perimeter jumpers. It is very difficult to
get a good shot against Wake. They have two excellent defenders in the
backcourt, and a very long frontline. That combination is hard to handle.

Wake Forest looks like the best team in the ACC right now, and it’s not a
fluke. They have excellent height, tremendous athleticism and great talent. Al-Farouq
Aminu, Jeff Teague and James Johnson are all likely future first round NBA Draft
picks. Think about that for a moment. The Hokies have had just two players
drafted in the last 10 years, and Eddie Lucas and Deron Washington were selected
at the end of the second round. Compare that to Wake, who might have three first
round picks on the same team. The Demon Deacons are loaded.

To have a chance to win this one, the Hokies are going to have to play harder
than Wake. They are going to have to play harder than they’ve played all season.
They have to be on the ground going after every loose ball. Every shot must be
contested, and they’ve got to battle on the offensive glass.

Tech also has to make sure the game stays at a slow pace. The Hokies are
average athletically, and they don’t have the sprinters and the jumpers to
compete with Jeff Teague, James Johnson and Al-Farouq Aminu in a fullcourt game.
They have to keep this one low scoring and slow, just like they did against
North Carolina in last year’s ACC Tournament semifinals.

This will be a tough one for the Hokies to win, but if they can pull it off
their NCAA tournament resume will look much more impressive.

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