2008-09 Basketball Game Preview: Virginia Tech at Boston College

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Virginia Tech (14-6, 4-2 ACC) at Boston College (16-6, 4-3)

Saturday, January 31, 2009, 8:00

TV: Raycom (check your local listings)


Special Preview Items:

Virginia Tech has a quick turnaround game this week. Just two nights after
hosting Clemson, the Hokies will play at Boston College and try to get back to
their winning ways. Both teams are sitting in the top half of the ACC standings,
and both have a chance to make the NCAA tournament. This is a big game for both
teams.

This isn’t the first time the Hokies have been in this situation. Last season
Tech lost a Thursday night home game to Duke, traveled to Boston on Friday and
then took on the Eagles on Saturday afternoon. That was a quick turnaround game,
but the Hokies managed to pull out an 81-73 overtime win despite Jeff Allen
being suspended. They’ll have to show the same type of mental toughness to beat
BC this time around.

The good news is that the Hokies shouldn’t need much time to prepare for the
Eagles. Tech defeated Boston College 79-71 in Cassell Coliseum back on January
17. These two teams play each other twice a year, so they should be very
familiar with each other.

Boston
College Starting Lineup
Pos. Name Ht. Wt. Yr. PPG RPG Assists
G
Tyrese Rice
6-1 190 Sr. 18 3.9 121
G
Rakim Sanders
6-5 225 So. 12.2 4.1 36
F
Corey Raji
6-6 214 So. 11.1 6.5 40
F
Joe Trapani
6-8 218 So. 13.8 7.2 37
C
Josh Southern
6-10 242 So. 5.8 5.3 17

Obviously Boston College has a pretty big lineup. They like to pack a lot of
guys on the inside in their tight flex offense, and Al Skinner has another solid
group of players to work with this year.

Tyrese Rice is the man who makes the Eagles go. Rice is one of the best
players in the ACC. He has extreme range on his outside jumper, and he’s capable
of getting hot at any point and carrying the team on his back. He has a quick
first step, and he likes to come off screens and take advantage of defensive
switches.

Rice scored 19 points against Virginia Tech two weeks ago, but he was just
6-of-19 from the field. Malcolm Delaney and Hank Thorns did a terrific job
staying with him and denying him the basketball. Rice finishes well on the
inside, and he shoots it well from the outside. He is a very difficult player to
defend, and when he’s “on” there’s not much you can do about it. Last
season he scored 46 points against North Carolina, including 37 in the first
half.

In the first meeting between these two teams, it was Joe Trapani who caused
the Hokies the most problems. Trapani finished with 23 points and 10 rebounds
against the Hokies, and he was 3-of-8 from behind the three-point arc. The
Hokies need to find a way to limit Trapani in this game. He had too many open
looks from the outside in the first meeting earlier this month.

Rakim Sanders gave the Hokies trouble early in the game in the first meeting.
Sanders is a big guard, but you have to see him in person to appreciate how big
he really is. He used his brute strength to muscle his way to the basket on
several occasions against the Hokies. Sanders is also a competent outside
shooter. He is 16-of-36 (44.4%) from three-point range in ACC play, though he
likely won’t be able to keep up that pace. He was just 1-of-6 from beyond the
arc in the first meeting with Tech.

Corey Raji is a solid player, and a particularly solid rebounder. However,
his overall stats look much better than his stats from seven ACC games. In
conference games, Raji is averaging just seven points and 5.4 rebounds per game,
a big dropoff from his numbers in non-conference play.

Boston College is also developing a weapon off the bench. Freshman guard
Reggie Jackson was last week’s ACC Rookie of the Week, and he’s averaging 9.6
points per game for the Eagles in conference play. He only had four points in 23
minutes against Virginia Tech, but he is getting better as the season moves
along.

Jeff Allen lit Boston College up in the first meeting for 30 points. Looking
back on that game, it’s very surprising that the Eagles elected to guard Allen
one-on-one. They rarely helped down on Allen when he got the ball in the post,
and that strategy quickly got starting center Josh Southern in foul trouble.
Southern played just 15 minutes in that game.

Southern isn’t quick enough to handle Allen one-on-one, and no one else for
BC had the goods to hang with him either. Allen has a tendency to turn the ball
over a lot when pressured, so it will be interesting to see if Al Skinner uses
the same strategy in this game. We’ll most likely see more help defense on
Allen, to prevent him from scoring and in an attempt to force turnovers.

VT
vs. BC, ACC Games Only

 

BC VT
Category Stat Rank Stat Rank

FG%
42.3% 6 46.9% 1

FG% Def.
44.2% 8 44% 7

3-Pt.%
36.5% 4 36.1% 6

3-Pt.% Def.
30.4% 3 38.8% 9

FT%
78.7% 1 64.4% 10

Rebounding Margin
-3.1 10 -1 8

TO Margin
0.00 6 +0.83 5

Assist/TO Ratio
1.0 3 0.9 8

Scoring Offense
75 ppg 4 74.8 ppg 5

Scoring Defense
75.4 ppg 8 75.8 ppg 9

Average
5.3 6.8

Boston College certainly has the edge in the statistics, though it’s
interesting to see that Virginia Tech is the #1 shooting team in the ACC. The
Hokies were 49.1% from the field against the Eagles in the first meeting,
including 41.2% from three-point range.

If you’re a Virginia Tech fan, there is some major concern when looking at
those defensive rankings. The Hokies are seventh, ninth and ninth in the three
major defensive categories on the list above (FG% defense, 3-Pt. % defense and
scoring defense). Normally, the Hokies are at or near the top of the league in
those categories. Last year, Tech was second in field goal percentage defense
and first in scoring defense. With the loss of Deron Washington, Tech’s defense
has dropped off.

Of course, the ACC is all about who you play, when you play and where you
play. The Hokies have played six ACC games, including four games against teams
that currently sit in the top half of the ACC standings. That doesn’t include a
road game at Miami, who is an NCAA tournament bubble team.

Meanwhile, Boston College hasn’t quite had that success. The Eagles did knock
off UNC in the Dean Dome, but followed that up with four consecutive losses,
three of which came on their own home court. One of those losses was an 82-70
setback to Harvard. BC responded to those losses by winning their last three
games, and their statistics in ACC games are impressive.

However, they haven’t been playing the best of the best in the ACC recently.
Their last three wins have come against Georgia Tech, NC State and Maryland,
three teams who have combined for a 4-14 record in conference play.

Strength
of Schedule, ACC Play
VT BC
Team Wins Losses Team Wins Losses

Duke
5 1
UNC
4 2

Virginia
1 4
Miami
3 4

Boston College
4 3
Wake Forest
4 1

Wake Forest
4 1
Virginia Tech
4 2

Miami
3 4
Georgia Tech
0 6

Clemson
4 2
NC State
2 4

Totals
21 15
Maryland
2 4

 

 

 


Totals
19 23

Despite playing one less game than BC, Tech’s opponents have combined to win
two more conference games. They are six games over .500 in ACC play, while the
Eagles have played teams who have a combined record of four games under .500.
Tech’s victories have come over teams who are 12-12 in ACC play, while BC’s
victims have gone a total of 8-16 in conference play.

In other words, we aren’t quite sure how good the Eagles are at this point.
We know they are a capable team. After all, they beat UNC on the road. However,
it took a three-game stretch against three of the ACC’s bottom feeders to end
their four-game losing streak.

Each team should be ready to play in this game. If the Hokies win, they’ll
earn a split in this week’s action. There is nothing in the world wrong with a
5-2 start to ACC play, and all they would have to do is play .500 basketball
down the stretch to earn a trip to the NCAA tournament.

The Eagles are sitting at four conference wins, and they still have games
against Virginia, NC State and Georgia Tech remaining. If they can win those
three games, and beat a couple of other teams on their schedule, they could
punch their ticket to the Big Dance.

Both teams have a lot to play for, and it should be another close,
competitive ACC game.

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