2012-13 Basketball Game Preview: Virginia Tech at #5 Miami

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Virginia Tech played a good game against Miami in the first meeting, leading for much of the way until the Canes used their size and experience to pull away late. The teams will meet again tonight in Miami.

Erick Green had 30 points and no turnovers in the first meeting with the Canes. He was 11-of-20 from the field and 5-of-8 from three-point range. Shane Larkin countered with 25 points for Miami in a battle of arguably the two best guards in the ACC. Tonight’s matchup should be very entertaining, and the game will come down to which guard gets the most support from his teammates.

Miami is coming off an upset loss at the hands of Wake Forest. They fell to the Demon Deacons 80-65 in Winston-Salem on Saturday after starting 13-0 in conference play. They are still the odds on favorite to be the #1 seed in the ACC Tournament, but they don’t want any slip ups because they still have to play Duke (currently 11-3 in the ACC) one more time in the regular season. The Canes should be ready to play tonight.

The Players

Miami is a very talented and experienced basketball team. Larranaga typically uses eight or nine players regularly. This is the most experienced team Virginia Tech will face this season, and it’s a big reason why the Canes currently sit atop the ACC standings.

Miami’s Shane Larkin

G Shane Larkin (5-11, 176, So.): The son of baseball star Barry Larkin averages 13.1 points per game, and overall he is Miami’s best overall player. He shoots 47.7% from the field and 41.6% from three-point range, and that’s big-time for his height. He also leads the team with 111 assists. He’s one of the best point guards in the country. The first VT-Miami meeting turned into the Erick Green vs. Shane Larkin show, and the Hokies have to do a better job defensively this time.

G Durand Scott (6-5, 203, Sr.): Scott leads Miami in scoring, averaging 13.3 points per game. He is a big guard, a competent three-point shooter, and one of the most experienced players in the ACC. Scott shoots 64.4% from the field, he can knock down open jumpers, and he also has 41 steals on the season.

G Trey McKinney Jones (6-5, 220, Sr.): Another senior, McKinney Jones is a transfer from Missouri-Kansas City. He averages nine points per game, and shoots 37.3% from the outside. He had 12 points and four assists in the first meeting.

F Kenny Kadji (6-11, 242, Sr.): Kadji transferred to Miami from Florida. Despite his size, he can score from the outside. He averages 12.7 points per game, and is second on the team with 36 blocked shots. Because of his size and the versatility of his offensive game, Kadji could be Tech’s toughest matchup tonight. He shoots 37.1% from three-point range, and he’ll be 25 years old in May.

C Julian Gamble (6-10, 250, Sr.): Gamble averages 6.7 points and 5.2 rebounds per game, and he also leads the team with 52 blocked shots. He had three blocks against the Hokies in the first meeting, and he does a great job protecting the rim.

C Reggie Johnson (6-10, 292, Sr.): Reggie Johnson is a skilled big man who is averaging 9.1 points and 7.9 rebounds per game. With Johnson, Kadji and Gamble, the Canes have a huge front line. Cadarian Raines won the matchup with Johnson in the first meeting, despite the size differential.

G Rion Brown (6-6, 200, Jr.): Brown is Miami’s top guard off the bench, averaging 6.5 points per game. He’s on the court for over 22 minutes per game, though he is not a particularly good shooter.

C Tonye Jekiri (7-0, 227, Fr.): Jekiri averages just over six minutes per game. He’s a very raw player who is just getting his feet wet in college basketball. He’ll be called upon to play a lot more next season on what will be a very young Miami team.

Miami doesn’t have good depth, but they do have a lot of experience. This is a junior and senior laden team, and their least experienced starter (Larkin) is actually their best player overall. With their overall size and experience, it’s easy to see why the Canes have had such a good season. They are still in contention for a #1 seed in the NCAA Tournament.

The Progression of C.J. Barksdale

Since backup power forward Marshall Wood dropped 14 points and 16 rebounds on NC State, C.J. Barksdale has been playing like he has a fire lit under him. He scored 14 points with eight rebounds against Duke, and he followed that up with a 17-point, 9-rebound performance against a bigger Florida State lineup.

That’s quite a turnaround for Barksdale, who averaged 2.3 points and 3.8 rebounds in nine games between January 19 and February 16. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that Barksdale started playing better after Marshall Wood started playing better. Competition is a good thing.

Barksdale is a guy with good skills. He can shoot the ball, and he has pretty decent moves on the inside. I want to see him continue to play consistently good basketball. He struggled in the first meeting with Miami with no points and only two rebounds. He didn’t handle the size of the Hurricane frontcourt very well.

Hopefully we see Barksdale continue to play well tonight. If he does, then perhaps he’s turning the corner late in his sophomore season.

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