2009-2010 Basketball Game Preview: Wake Forest at Virginia Tech

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(home games)
  • Date: Tuesday, February 16, 2010
  • Time: 7 pm
  • TV: ESPN2



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Virginia Tech returns to action on Tuesday night to face #23 Wake Forest in a
big ACC game in Cassell Coliseum. The Hokies are in the field in most projected
NCAA tournament brackets, but not all of them. They still have some work to do
to help their resume. Tuesday night’s game against Wake represents a great
opportunity to pick up their second Top 50 win of the season.

Wake Forest is a near-lock for the NCAA tournament at this point, barring an
unforeseen collapse down the stretch. These two teams have similar resumes in
many ways.


VT and Wake Forest Similarities

VT

Wake

20-4 Overall

18-5 Overall

7-3 in ACC

8-3 in ACC

Won 4 Straight

Won 4 Straight

8-2 in Last 10

7-3 in Last 10

No Bad Losses

No Bad Losses

*Bad loss defined as a loss to a team
outside the Top 100

That’s about as close as it gets. So why is Wake’s RPI at #11, and Virginia
Tech’s only at #50? Because the Demon Deacons’ SOS is #22 in the nation, and
they have knocked off five Top 50 teams. Tech’s SOS stands at just #161
nationally, and their win over Clemson is their only Top 50 win of the season.

However, when you look at the overall records and ACC records, as well as the
recent winning streaks, these teams mirror each other. They are both hot coming
into this game, but somebody will have to lose.

Recent history suggests that somebody will be Wake Forest. The Hokies are 5-1
in their last six meetings with the Demon Deacons. Tech’s average margin of
victory in those five wins is over 11 points. They knocked off then-#1 Wake
78-71 in Winston-Salem last season, and in Wake’s last trip to Blacksburg the
Deacs were dismantled 80-58.

The only victory Wake has over the Hokies in that six game span was a 77-75
buzzer beater on December 23, 2007. Tech has definitely had the upper hand in
this series over the last few years.

That said, the Demon Deacons are a very talented team. Despite losing first
round draft picks James Johnson and Jeff Teague to the NBA, this team is
arguably better than Wake’s 2008-09 team, which ended the season with a
disappointing blowout loss to Cleveland State in the first round of the NCAA
tournament. The Deacons have been playing much better defense recently, and seem
to have better overall team chemistry than in past seasons.


Wake Forest Starting Lineup

Pos.

Name

Ht.

Wt.

Yr.

PPG

RPG

G

Ish Smith

6-0

175

Sr.

13

4.7

G

C.J. Harris

6-2

175

Fr.

10.7

1.8

G

L.D. Williams

6-4

210

Sr.

8.7

5.5

F

Al-Farouq Aminu

6-9

215

So.

16.5

10.9

C

Chas McFarland

7-0

245

Sr.

7.6

7.5

Al-Farouq Aminu is Wake’s top player, the ACC’s leading rebounder by a wide
margin, and a likely NBA lottery pick whenever he decides to enter the draft. He
is the only player in the ACC to average a double-double this season. He also
averages a double-double in conference games, so he’s put up consistent numbers
from start to finish.

Aminu has a smallish build, but he’s a very good, very smooth athlete who has
a nose for the basketball. He’s also a skilled player who can step out and hit
the open three-pointer with solid accuracy for a big man (29.8%) on the year.
Aminu also leads Wake in blocks with 36, and he has 35 steals on the season as
well.


Turnovers have been a problem at times for the talented future millionaire.
He has coughed up the ball 70 times in just 23 games this season. That’s a bit
too much, but he scores and rebounds more than enough to make up for it.

Aminu might be the best player with the most NBA potential, but it is senior
point guard Ish Smith who makes the team go. Smith isn’t a big guy, nor is he a
great shooter (only 10 made three-pointers on the year, and shooting less than
50% from the free throw line), but he is the fastest lead guard in the ACC and
one of the fastest in the country. He can change the pace of the game
single-handedly, and he makes defensive transition the main focus of each
opponent’s game plan.

Though not particularly skilled, Smith is a tough player who averages nearly
five rebounds per game despite his limited size. His speed, toughness and
experience keeps Wake Forest going.

The Demon Deacons mix in three other solid starters to complement Aminu and
Smith. L.D. Williams is the team’s top defender, and a former major recruiting
target of Virginia Tech. Freshman guard C.J. Harris, who also came down to
Virginia Tech and Wake in his recruitment, is a solid scorer and one of the top
rookies in the ACC.

On the inside, Wake has Chas McFarland, a big 7-footer with a solid skill
set. McFarland is a good back-to-the-basket player. He’ll have a major height
advantage on the Hokies underneath, and we could end up seeing more Cadarian
Raines in a defensive role as a result.

Wake’s best player off the bench is freshman wing Ari Stewart (6-7, 200,
Fr.). Stewart is Wake’s best three-point shooter, knocking down 42.7% of his
three-point shots. The other freshman, C.J. Harris, is 36.45 from the outside.
Another wing, junior Gary Clark (6-4, 195, Jr.), is shooting 47.1% from the
outside in conference play. If any of those three players are in the game, they
must be denied open looks from the outside.

Unfortunately, thanks to the height of Chas McFarland and the skills of Al-Farouq
Aminu, the Hokies might have to help down more often than they would like. They
took this risky strategy against Clemson’s Trevor Booker, helping down on him
whenever he got the ball in the low post. It paid off, as the Tigers didn’t have
the shooters to exploit it. Can Wake loosen up a tight Tech defense? We shall
see.



VT-Wake Comparison (ACC Games Only)




Category


Wake


VT


Stat


Rank


Stat


Rank

Scoring Off.

71.8 ppg

3

69.4 ppg

4

Scoring Def.

69.7 ppg

7

65.8 ppg

4

FG%

43.80%

3

40.70%

11

FG% Def.

39.20%

2

40.90%

4

3Pt.%

33.30%

4

30.70%

8

3Pt.% Def.

33.50%

9

27.20%

3

FT%

66.90%

9

76.10%

1

Reb. Margin

+1.8

4

-3.2

11

TO Margin

-0.64

8

+4.1

1

Assist/TO Ratio

0.8

8

0.9

6


Average
 

5.7
 

5.3

Wake Forest is the best team Virginia Tech has faced all season. They have made
their biggest improvements on the defensive end. The Demon Deacons have been
somewhat soft on the defensive end all the way back to the first year of ACC
expansion. The lack of toughness and intensity on defense has held them back at
times when they were very explosive offensively, such as last season, as well as
the Chris Paul era.

Things have been different for Wake this year. They allow fewer than 70
points per game in the ACC, and their field goal percentage defense ranks #2 in
the conference. They are still inconsistent at times, allowing 79 points in
their most recent loss at Georgia Tech, as well as 85 points in last week’s win
against Boston College. However, on the whole, this is a much better defensive
team than in the past. That has allowed them to overcome the loss of such
talents as James Johnson and Jeff Teague.

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The Hokies also play some defense of their own. Tech’s last three opponents
have failed to reach the 60 point barrier, which is an extremely impressive feat
against ACC competition.

The key to this game will be how well Virginia Tech defends the post. The
Hokies whipped the Demon Deacons in the inside last year, which was the key to
the game.


Wake’s Returning Post Players vs. VT
Last Meeting, 1/21/09

Player

Points

Rebounds

Al-Farouq Aminu

10

7

Chas McFarland

0

4

David Weaver

0

2

Tony Woods

0

2

Totals

10

15

That’s pretty pathetic production from a group of players that dwarfs Virginia
Tech’s front line. James Johnson did add 18 points and five rebounds, but two
first round picks combined with big players like McFarland, Weaver and Woods
need to be more productive against a frontline that features 6-7 Jeff Allen and
6-6 J.T. Thompson. That points to one thing … Tech was the tougher team, and
they wanted the game more.

The Hokies need the same type of effort and intensity this year. This Wake
team is better defensively than last year’s group, and also mentally tougher.
They aren’t likely to lay down as easily as they did in the last two meetings.

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