2009-2010 Basketball Game Preview: Virginia Tech at NC State

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(home games)
  • Date: Wednesday, February 10, 2010
  • Time: 9pm
  • TV: ESPNU (ESPN in select locations)



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In their time in the ACC, Virginia Tech has road wins at every ACC school except two: Florida State and NC State. The Hokies have already failed to pick up a road win at FSU this year, and tonight they will try their luck with the Wolfpack of NC State.

On paper, Virginia Tech should win this game. The Hokies are 18-4 with a 5-3 record in the ACC, while NC State is 14-10 and stand at 2-7 in conference play. The Wolfpack are dead last in the conference, which has been common for them recently. They have also lost four ACC games in a row.

Of course, the fact that NC State hasn’t had a good team recently hasn’t stopped them from beating the Hokies. They ran off six straight wins against the Hokies following Tech’s 72-71 win in Blacksburg back in January of 2005. Four of the wins were by double digits. For the most part, this series hasn’t even been close.


In last year’s lone meeting, it looked like more of the same for most of the game. However, the Hokies rallied from an 18-point second half deficit to win 91-87 in overtime. NC State led that game 63-45 with 13:33 remaining in regulation, but VT was able to complete the big comeback behind the offense of Malcolm Delaney and A.D. Vassallo.

To be fair, Tech’s current junior class is 1-1 against NC State. As freshmen, they lost to the Wolfpack 73-63 in Raleigh and then won the game last year. Perhaps they’ll be able to start a streak of their own tonight.

NC State has a bad record, but they are fully capable. They won at Marquette, at Florida State, they blew out Duke at home, and they lost a heart breaker to Florida on a three-quarter court shot at the buzzer.

NC State Starting
Lineup
Pos. Name Ht. Wt. Yr. PPG RPG

G

Javier Gonzalez

6-0

175

Jr..

10.2

3.7

G

Scott Wood

6-7

170

Fr.

8.3

3.2

F

Josh Davis

6-7

205

Fr.

2.6

1.8

F

Dennis Horner

6-9

226

Sr.

12

4

F

Tracy Smith

6-8

247

Jr.

17.6

8.3

Tracy Smith is easily NC State’s best player. He is their best scorer, best rebounder and best shot blocker, and he is one of the most improved players in the ACC. Smith is a big body with plenty of post moves. He’s probably the best natural post scorer that the Hokies will have faced so far this season, with the possible exception of UNC’s Ed Davis.

It will be important to keep Smith off the offensive glass. He has 63 offensive rebounds on the season, and the Hokies need to limit his garbage points. Tech has to defend the post early and not let Smith catch the ball cleanly deep under the basket.

Dennis Horner is also a quality inside-outside player for the Wolfpack. He is big enough to post up inside, but he’s also got the touch to shoot it from the outside. For the season, Horner is shooting 37.3% from three-point range. He also has deceptive athletic ability with 27 blocks.

Javier Gonzalez is an up and down point guard. He can shoot the ball very well, hitting at a 39.8% clip from the outside. However, he has a bad assist to turnover ratio in ACC play, with 26 assists and 32 turnovers. He’ll be facing a Virginia Tech team that is #1 in the ACC in turnover margin, so he has to go into this game with a mindset of protecting the basketball.

The Hokies must especially be mindful of freshman wing Scott Wood. Wood has a slight frame, but he’s an amazing shooter. He scored 31 points on Florida State earlier in the season, going 7-of-11 from three-point range in the process. He is shooting 36.7% from the outside on the season, but in ACC play that mark has gone up to 40%.

Farnold Degand, a regular starter at guard for the Wolfpack, is questionable to play against the Hokies tonight because of a thigh injury. Degand missed NC State’s last game against Georgia Tech. Freshman wing Josh Davis got his first start in place of Degand, but had just four points and two rebounds.

Here’s a look at the stats comparison in ACC play.

Team Comparison, ACC
Games Only

Category
NC State VT
Stat Rank Stat Rank

Scoring Off.
68 8 70.1 4

Scoring Def.
73.6 11 68.9 6

FG%
40.2% 10 39.7% 12

FG% Def.
46.1% 11 44.2% 8

3Pt.%
31.1% 8 29.3% 9

3Pt.% Def.
38.1% 11 30.6% 6

FT%
72.1% 5 75.90% 1

Reb. Margin

-2.2
10
-2.4
11

TO Margin

+0.11
6
+5.38
1

Assist/TO Ratio

0.9
6
0.9
5

Average
8.6 6.3

NC State has struggled defending the three-pointer in ACC play. Opponents are shooting 38.1% from the outside against the Wolfpack, which is the second worst mark in the league.

Virginia Tech, Malcolm Delaney specifically, has not shot well from the outside recently. Delaney has made just four of his last 32 three-point attempts. He hit his first two outside shots against Boston College, but since then he’s connected on only two of his last 30. Considering Delaney’s outstanding reputation as a three-point shooter, those stats are almost hard to believe.

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College basketball is a game of peaks and valleys, and for Delaney he has been marred in a deep valley recently. The Hokies have been able to win despite his shooting struggles because they are #1 in the ACC in turnover margin. In wins over BC, UNC and Clemson, Tech was +11, +9 and +7 in turnover margin. The Hokies won those three games by a combined 16 points.

It will be important for the Hokies to continue that impressive trend in this critical road game. The last time they went on the road they lost to Miami 82-75. The Canes were a poor shooting team heading into that game, but they lit Tech up for 63.2% from the field. Virginia Tech has to take their defensive intensity with them for road games, because they are too inconsistent offensively to have a chance away from Cassell Coliseum. They picked up a big road win at Virginia because they played defense. They didn’t defend in road losses at Carolina and Miami.

As usual, look for turnover margin and Virginia Tech’s defensive intensity to be the key to this game.

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