2011 NIT Preview: Virginia Tech vs. Wichita State

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Virginia Tech’s competition will take a big step up this weekend. They easily
beat Bethune-Cookman in the opening round of the NIT, but this time they face a
very good and very well-coached Wichita State team that is no stranger to
winning basketball games.

The Shockers are 25-8 on the season, and drubbed Nebraska 76-49 on Wednesday
night. Despite their excellent record, Wichita State did not make the NCAA
Tournament, partly because they had no top 50 wins on the season. However, that
doesn’t change the fact that they are a very capable team.

Gregg Marshall is the head coach, and he is very good. Before moving to
Wichita State in 2007, he guided Winthrop to seven NCAA Tournament appearances
in nine seasons, while racking up a record of 194-83. He has gone 49-17 in his
last two seasons at Wichita State, and overall he is one of the best coaches in
college basketball.

The Shockers play with a 10-man rotation, and every one of those players has
started at least one game this year. Here’s a look at what their starting lineup
looked like against the Nebraska Cornhuskers.

State Starting Lineup
Pos. Name Ht. Wt. Yr. PPG RPG
G Joe Ragland 6-0 193 Jr. 6.8 1.6
G Graham Hatch 6-4 206 Sr. 5.6 2.4
G Toure’ Murry 6-5 203 Jr. 9.1 4.7
F J.T. Durley 6-8 236 r-Sr. 11.3 5.2
F Gabe Blair 6-8 235 Sr. 6.3 6.2

Off the bench, David Kyles (6-4, 184, Jr.) averages 10 points per game, though
he’s started 21 contests, so you really can’t consider him a bench player. Kyles
shoots 40.2% from three-point range, as does Ben Smith (6-5, 215, Jr.), a wing
who comes off the bench to score 7.1 points per game.

Starting guard Graham Hatch doesn’t score a lot of points, but he shoots 41%
from the outside. With guys like Kyles, Smith and Hatch, the Shockers have the
ability to knock down three-pointers and spread out defenses. On the inside, J.T.
Durley is a very capable player who can score in the paint, which makes Wichita
State a versatile team.

The Shockers run a very efficient offense, and they have 500 assists on the
season. Toure’ Murry leads the club with 111 assists, though he does shoot below
40% from the field and just 28% from three-point range. Murry gets it done in
other ways, such as setting up his teammates, and he also leads the team with 37
steals on the season.

Wichita State is also one of the best rebounding teams in the nation, with a
+8 per game margin. There is no one outstanding rebounder on the team, but as a
team they do a great job of keeping the opposition off the glass.

Gregg Marshall uses his bench a lot, and the starting lineup is prone to
change. Everyone in the Wichita State 10-man rotation plays between 14.1 minutes
and 26 minutes per game. This is a team that will be well-rested and fresh on
Sunday morning.

This game doesn’t set up well for Virginia Tech. Starting forward Victor
Davila is rumored to have a significant injury, and after playing 13 minutes in
the first half against Bethune-Cookman, he didn’t play at all in the second
half. If Davila can’t go on Sunday, the Hokies will have just six scholarship
players: Erick Green, Malcolm Delaney, Terrell Bell, Manny Atkins, Jeff Allen
and freshman point guard Ty Garland. From what Tech has gone through this year,
that would be par for the course.

The time and date also don’t favor the home team: Sunday morning at 11am, the
absolute worst time to play a basketball game from a fan support standpoint.
That’s pretty unlucky, considering the Hokies are a #1 seed. BC is also a #1
seed out of the ACC, and they must play at 11am on Saturday.

The other #1 seeds, Colorado and Alabama, get to play their games at 7:30pm
and 8pm (local time), and no other game tips off in the morning, except for that
Boston College game.

Attendance at the Bethune-Cookman game was a paltry 2,892, which included
free admittance for students. That was on Wednesday night at 8pm. How many
people will show up at Cassell Coliseum for an 11am Sunday game? Some people
will be in church, and most students will either be asleep or barely awake. This
one isn’t setting up well for Virginia Tech. Of course, postseason conference
brackets are never kind to the Hokies in any way shape or form, so we shouldn’t
be surprised.

If the Hokies do manage to get by Wichita State, they’ll face either #6 seed
College of Charleston or #2 seed Cleveland State in the NIT quarterfinals. That
game would be held in Cassell Coliseum on March 22 or 23.

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