2009-2010 Basketball Game Preview: VMI

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Perhaps the most entertaining game in Cassell Coliseum this season will be
held tomorrow night. VMI comes to Blacksburg bringing a high octane offensive
mindset, along with poor defensive execution. The Keydets will score a lot of
points, but they will give up a lot as well.

VMI allows their opponents to score 98.7 points per game and shoot 53.8% from
the field. They play an up tempo style, and it’s not difficult to get good shots
against the Keydets. All of their games are fast paced and exciting.

VMI has scored over 100 points in three games, and they’ve allowed over 100 points in three games. They’ve even allowed over 110 points on two occasions.

VMI’s
2009-10 Results (4-3)
Opponent VMI Score Opp. Score
Army 93 86
Richmond 59 103
West Va. Wesleyan 111 92
UNC Wilmington 95 115
Lynchburg College 108 93
Coastal Carolina 97 111
Charleston Southern 103 91

Average
95.1 98.7

Expect some statistical anomalies in this game. Besides scoring, check out
Tech’s rebounding and assist stats after this game. Opposing teams average over
50 rebounds per game against VMI, and they also average over 22 assists per
game. There will be a lot of transition baskets scored in this game.

VMI has started eight different players this year, so instead of giving you a
starting lineup, here is a list of their main scoring threats.

VMI’s
Top Scorers
Pos. Name Ht. Wt. Yr. PPG RPG APG
G
Keith Gabriel
6-3 180 So. 20.9 4.4 1.4
F
Michael Sparks
6-4 195 So. 17.3 3.1 3.1
G
Austin Kenan
5-11 180 Jr. 16.3 1.9 4.4
G
Ron Burks
6-4 215 So. 10.4 7.4 4.3
F
Stan Okoye
6-5 195 Fr. 8.3 5.3 0.3
F
Nick Gore
6-6 205 Fr. 8.1 2.9 1.1

The Keydets are still a very young basketball team, with three sophomores and
two freshmen amongst their top six scorers.

The key for the Hokies in this game is contesting shots. The Keydets have a
lot of shooters, and all of them are capable of knocking down open jumpers. Tech
has to play fast and play hard. Expect Seth Greenberg to substitute liberally to
make sure he always has fresh defenders on the court.

It’s very important for the Hokies close out on VMI’s three-point shooters.
The Keydets average 42 three-point attempts per game. By comparison, Virginia
Tech has attempted just 111 three-pointers all season.

The Keydets’ best three-point shooter is Michael Sparks. Sparks is 28-of-57
(49.1%) on the year. Keith Gabriel is 28-of-73 (38.4%), and two other players
have hit at least 10 three-pointers as well. Meanwhile, Virginia Tech’s Malcolm
Delaney has made 16 three-pointers in seven games. The closest player to Delaney
is Ben Boggs, who has made five. This game will be a complete contrast in
styles.

One key for the Hokies is to not get lulled into a three-point contest. One
of the problems with playing VMI is that it’s easy for players to get caught up
in a moment and think they are playing street ball, since the Keydets run their
offense at such a high pace. It’s very important for the Hokies to run their own
offense when they have the ball, and to take advantage of their size underneath.

This is a game that Virginia Tech should not have much trouble winning, on
paper. Two of VMI’s wins have come over West Virginia Wesleyan and Lynchburg
College, who are not Division I programs. Their wins over Charleston Southern
and Army have come over small teams who can’t match Virginia Tech’s size and
athleticism.

The Keydets also lost to Coastal Carolina and UNC Wilmington, and both of
those teams managed to put up over 110 points. The closest team to Virginia Tech
that VMI has played is Richmond. The Spiders are a very good basketball team, at
7-1 on the season and a strong contender in the A-10. Richmond had a big size
and athleticism advantage over VMI, and they crushed the Keydets 103-59. That’s
the only game this season in which VMI has failed to score 93 points or more.

On paper, Virginia Tech should win this game, and they should win it
relatively easily. However, this is the type of non-conference game the Hokies
have lost in the past. Tech hasn’t had any bad losses this year. Their only loss
thus far has come to Temple, who is #14 in the RPI. Generally the Hokies lose to
one or two overmatched teams each year. For example, the last time Tech played
VMI, on December 3, 2004, the Keydets came away with the 72-68 upset win.

A win over VMI would put Tech at 7-1 on the season heading into Saturday
night’s game at Penn State. The Hokies started the season very slow, but they’ve
been able to win games. Big games only come about by winning your previous
games. Tech has a chance to make their Saturday night ESPN2 game against PSU a
big game by beating VMI on Wednesday.

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