2009-2010 Basketball Game Preview: Virginia at Virginia Tech

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(home games)
  • Date: Saturday, February 13, 2010
  • Time: 8pm
  • TV: Raycom



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Virginia Tech and Virginia will meet for the second time this season on
Saturday night in Blacksburg. The Hokies won a dramatic 76-71 overtime game in
Charlottesville last month, and the Hoos will be looking to return the favor.
This game is big for ACC tournament seeding, as well as the NCAA tournament
hopes of both teams.

Tech pulled off an improbable win in the first meeting. Trailing by 10 points
with under three minutes left, the Hokies rallied to force overtime and walked
out of the John Paul Jones Arena with a huge win.

This is the biggest game between these two teams since ACC expansion. The two
games in 2006-07 were fun to watch and featured Zabian Dowdell and Jamon Gordon
vs. Sean Singletary and J.R. Reynolds, but the outcome of those games didn’t
really mean a lot in the grand scheme of things. Both teams were already safely
in the NCAA tournament.

That’s not the case this year. The Hokies are in right now on most bracket
projections, and Virginia is just out. However, both teams need to add to their
resume. Tech needs to continue to hold serve at home, while the Hoos will be
looking for a big road win.

Virginia Tech has held the advantage in this series recently, winning four of
the last five games. A win on Saturday would give the Hokies five of the last
six meetings, and two sweeps over their in-state rivals in the past three years.

Virginia
Starting Lineup
Pos. Name Ht. Wt. Yr. PPG RPG
G
Jontel Evans
5-11 185 Fr. 2.7 1.4
G
Sammy Zeglinski
6-0 182 So. 10 3.8
G
Sylven Landesberg
6-6 207 So. 18.1 5.2
F
Mike Scott
6-8 239 Jr. 13.1 7.4
F
Jerome Meyinsse
6-9 233 Sr. 5 3.9

To me, the biggest question going into this game is how differently Tony
Bennett will play Virginia Tech defensively this time around. The Hokies had
success posting up Malcolm Delaney and Dorenzo Hudson against the much shorter
Jontel Evans and Sammy Zeglinski. Hudson and Delaney scored well on the inside,
and when they were double teamed they had the ball handling ability to get the
ball back outside.


The Hoos could play more zone, but that’s unlikely. The zone doesn’t fit Tony
Bennett’s personality or coaching style, and the Hokies have moved the ball very
well against the zone this season. Bennett went to a zone for a short time in
the first meeting, and the Hokies were still able to score.

UVA will need Sammy Zeglinski on the court, but it’s easy to see Tony Bennett
electing to play a taller wing, such as Mustapha Farrakhan (6-4, 175, Jr.) or
Jeff Jones (6-4, 190, Jr.) over the short freshman, Jontel Evans. Evans is a
competent player in Tony Bennett’s scheme, but he had trouble in the first
meeting with Tech. He had no points, missed all three of his shot attempts and
had two turnovers. The Hokies were able to take advantage of him several times
with their much bigger guards. Jeff Jones did score 12 points against Tech in
the first meeting, so it’s possible that he could see increased time on Saturday
night.

On the whole, the UVA backcourt must player better this time than it did in
the first meeting. Sylven Landesberg, one of the top players in the ACC, had 18
points on 8-of-16 shooting, but he also had six turnovers. Sammy Zeglinski had
nine points, but three of them came on his buzzer beater to end regulation, and
he also added four turnovers.

Starting
Backcourt Comparison, First Meeting
Team Points Reb. Assists TO
UVA 27 10 10 12
VT 46 13 6 7

The Tech guards and wings outscored and outrebounded their UVA counterparts,
and they also committed fewer turnovers.

Jeff Allen could also turn out to be a big key for Virginia Tech. Allen
generally either doesn’t play well against UVA, or he doesn’t play at all. In
last year’s meeting in Blacksburg, he was held to just three points and went
0-of-6 from the field, and then he was suspended for the game in
Charlottesville. This year he scored four points and had seven rebounds before
being ejected in the second half. He’s scored seven total points in Tech’s last
three meetings with the Hoos, and somehow the Hokies have managed to win two of
those games.

Fortunately, Allen has been playing well recently. After starting slowly in
ACC play, he is averaging 15 points, 6.3 rebounds and three steals per game over
the last four contests. If he can keep up that consistent play at home against
the Hoos, the Hokies have a great chance to win the game.

Watch for Assane Sene (7-0, 234, So.), who wears #5 for UVA. He’s been banged
up and missed the first meeting with the Hokies, but he’s returned to play in
UVA’s last three game. Sene doesn’t have much of an offensive skillset, nor is
he a good rebounder for his size. However, his size and length gave Jeff Allen
all sorts of problems in last year’s meeting in Blacksburg. We could see him get
extended minutes in this game, because the Hokies lack height on the inside, and
Sene is a bad matchup for them.

J.T. Thompson, Tech’s undersized 6-6 power forward, lit up the Hoos for 17
points and seven rebounds in the first meeting. A player like Sene could also
give Thompson a lot of trouble.

Virginia Tech must also do a better job on Mike Scott this time around. The
junior power forward dropped 21 points on the Hokies, while also finishing with
eight rebounds and just one turnover. He played a complete game. Tech must do a
better job of defending the post this time around, and they’ve got to keep Scott
and his teammates off the offensive glass. UVA isn’t a team that scores a lot of
points, so it’s important not to let them earn cheap baskets.

Statistically, these teams mirror each other in many ways.

Stats
Comparison, ACC Games Only

 

UVA VT
Category Stat Rank Stat Rank

Scoring Off.
68.8 6 70.3 4

Scoring Def.
63.8 2 67 5

FG%
42.5% 7 41.1% 10

FG% Def.
42.3% 8 41.9% 6

3Pt.%
34.4% 4 30% 8

3Pt.% Def.
29.9% 5 28.4% 3

FT%
75.5% 2 75.8% 1

Reb. Margin
-2 10 -3 11

TO Margin
+2.5 2 +4.67 1

Assist/TO Ratio
1.3 1 0.9 5

Average

 

4.7

 

5.4

Tech and UVA are basically good at the same things, and bad at the same
things. They are both near the bottom of the ACC in rebounding, but at or near
the top in free throw shooting and turnover margin.

The Hokies generally hold a big advantage against their ACC opponents in
turnover margin and at the free throw line, but that won’t be the case against
UVA. While Tech is #1 in the ACC in both of those categories, the Hoos are a
strong #2.

Tony Bennett puts a premium on protecting the basketball. However, the Hokies
were able to turn the Hoos over in the first meeting. With Wednesday night’s
game against Maryland postponed, you can bet Bennett immediately went to work on
his team about protecting the basketball against Virginia Tech. He had most of
the week to make changes to his gameplan against the Hokies.

This game is a big one for the Hokies. They have been playing good basketball
recently, and their defense seems to improve with every game. They’ve won three
in a row, and a win on Saturday would put them at 7-3 in the ACC and give them
20 overall wins. It would be very, very hard for them to not make the NCAA
tournament with six regular season games remaining, plus the ACC tournament.
It’s also the Blackout game in Cassell Coliseum, and the atmosphere should be
top notch.

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Square Condominiums, Blacksburg’s Premier Address

It’s also a big game for Virginia. If the Hoos lose, they’ll drop to 14-8
overall and 5-4 in conference play, with a road trip to Maryland coming up on
Monday night, a home game with FSU on Wednesday, and then a trip to Clemson next
Saturday. With that tough stretch coming up, a loss to Tech on Saturday night
could begin a spiraling freefall through the ACC standings.

Expect a hard fought game on Saturday night, with both teams laying it all on
the line. It’s a game that could easily go either way, though the Hokies have to
be considered the favorite since they are at home.

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