Basketball Preview: Tech Looks to Sweep UVA

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Tonight Virginia Tech will try to do to UVA what the Hoos did to the Hokies last year.  In 2010-11, UVA swept Virginia Tech during the regular season, and arguably kept Tech out of the NCAA Tournament.  This year it’s the Hoos who are heading towards March in much the same situation as the Hokies last year: with a good record, but a low strength of schedule.

Virginia Tech won a tight 47-45 contest in the John Paul Jones Arena earlier this season.  The Hokies had a great gameplan to defend Mike Scott, limiting him to 10 points, six rebounds and three turnovers, easily his worst game of UVA’s ACC schedule.

That loss is one of the reasons why the Hoos aren’t quite a lock for the NCAA Tournament.  Here’s a look at their resume.

  • Overall: 20-6
  • Conference: 7-5
  • RPI: #43
  • SOS: #111
  • Quality Wins: #12 Michigan, #44 Miami
  • Bad Loss: #106 TCU, #101 Virginia Tech, #155 Clemson
  • Vs. Top 50: 2-3

UVA hasn’t played a particularly tough schedule, and their only win against a team that is guaranteed to make the NCAA Tournament was at home against Michigan.  The Hoos need another quality win or two, and it would help them if Virginia Tech finished in the top 100 of the RPI.  That would wipe a bad loss off their resume.

However, if Tech wins tonight, and later goes on to finish outside the top 100, that would give the Hoos four “bad” losses on the year.  With their lack of quality wins, their resume would be very similar to Virginia Tech’s over the last four seasons.

UVA is expected to use their same starting lineup that they used against the Hokies in the first meeting.

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In the first meeting, Virginia Tech used effective double teaming of Mike Scott to slow down the UVA offense, which is very slow paced to begin with (#335 in tempo ranking).  The Hokies often double teamed off Jontel Evans, who failed to beat the Hokies with his shooting.  Victor Davila did a great job of defending Mike Scott, and Sammy Zeglinski had a terrible game, failing to make a single basket.  The result was a tight Virginia Tech win in Charlottesville.

This time around, Virginia Tech is likely going to have to score more than 47 points.  You can’t depend on a quality shooter like Sammy Zeglinski going 0-fer from the field for the second meeting in a row.  More importantly, Victor Davila is expected to miss his third consecutive game with a groin injury.  Davila is Virginia Tech’s best post defender, and he played a big role against Mike Scott in the first meeting.

Cadarian Raines and C.J. Barksdale aren’t as good defensively as Davila at this point in their careers.  I think we’ll see Seth Greenberg try some creative ways yet again to slow down Scott, including the 2-3 zone.  I don’t think we’ll see a whole lot of zone, because UVA is an experienced team with good outside shooters in Joe Harris and Zeglinski, and you don’t want those guys getting hot.

A big question heading into this game is how healthy is UVA guard Joe Harris?  He broke his left hand in UVA’s 70-52 loss to North Carolina, and his minutes have been limited since.  He had just two points and two rebounds in UVA’s 60-48 loss to Clemson, and six points and four rebounds in Saturday’s 71-44 win against Maryland.  In that game, the Hoos really didn’t need Harris.  They outscored the Terps 40-13 in the second half after the game had been tied at 31 at the break.

If Harris is limited against the Hokies, it could have a big impact on the game.  He is UVA’s second leading scorer, and their top outside shooter.  He replacement, Malcolm Brogdon (6-5, 215, Fr.) is a quality freshman, but Tony Bennett would rather have a healthy Harris in the game.

Perhaps more important for the Hokies will be figuring out UVA’s packline defense.  Tech scored just 54 points against it in both meetings last year, and only 47 in last month’s game. The Hoos will be determined to keep the ball out of the post, and Virginia Tech will have to make some outside jumpers.  They are coming off a game in which they went 11-of-20 from three-point range against Georgia Tech.  However, UVA is one of the top defensive teams in the country, and they will make things a lot more difficult for VT than the Yellow Jackets.

Tip-off for tonight’s game in Cassell Coliseum is scheduled for 9pm, and it will be televised by ESPNU.


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