Virginia Tech (16-7, 5-5) vs. NC State (16-7, 6-4)
Time: 9 p.m.
TV: RSN (click here for listings)
Virginia Tech will look to get back on track when they host the NC State Wolfpack on Wednesday night. Both teams are fighting for an NCAA Tournament berth. As of Monday, both Joe Lunardi and Jerry Palm have both teams listed on the “Last 4 In” list. Eight regular season games remain for each team to improve their resume…or make it worse.
NC State has had an interesting season. Check out some of their highs and lows…
Nov. 22: Beat No. 2 Arizona 90-84 in the Bahamas.
Nov. 23: Lost to Northern Iowa 64-60 in the Bahamas. Northern Iowa is dead last in the Missouri Valley.
Dec. 16: Lost to UNC Greensboro 81-76 at home.
Jan. 6: Beat No. 2 Duke 96-85 at home.
Jan. 11: Beat No. 19 Clemson 78-77 at home.
Jan. 27: Beat UNC 95-91 on the road.
The Wolfpack can score 60 against a bad Northern Iowa team the day after they drop 90 against Arizona. They can beat Duke, but lose to UNC Greensboro. They’ve been an inconsistent lot. Virginia Tech cans can sympathize, because the Hokies have been inconsistent as well.
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Kevin Keatts is NC State’s new coach. He was an assistant under Rick Pitino at Louisville before taking the head job at UNC Wilmington, and before that he was the long-time postgraduate head coach at Hargrave Military Academy in Chatham, Va. He is a Lynchburg native and Ferrum graduate. Former Virginia Tech head coach James Johnson, also a Ferrum grad, is on Keatts’ staff at NC State.
Keatts got UNC Wilmington to the NCAA Tournament in his final two seasons, after a CIT bid in his first. He’s poised to take the Wolfpack to the Big Dance in his first year on the bench.
Here’s a look at NC State’s projected starting lineup.
G Markell Johnson (6-foot-1, 175 pounds, So.): Averaging 8.1 points per game, 7.6 assists per game and 2.1 steals per game. Johnson isn’t a big scorer, but he dishes out a lot of assists and averages over two steals per game. He’s a very good player who has had double digit assists in his last four games, and he shoots 40 percent from outside.
G Braxton Beverly (6-feet, 180 pounds, Fr.): Averaging 10.1 ppg and 4.1 apg. Beverly is an 86 percent free throw shooter and plays just over 31 minutes per game as a freshman. He is second in the ACC with a 2.81 assist-to-turnover ratio, and he shoots 35 percent from the outside.
G Torin Dorn (6-foot-5, 210, Jr.): Averaging 13.7 ppg and 6.7 rebounds per game. The Charlotte native is regarded as NC State’s most versatile player.
F Abdul-Malik Abu (6-foot-8, 240 pounds, Sr.): Averaging 5.8 ppg and 3.9 rpg. Abu is currently projected to get the start against the Hokies, but he only plays 17 minutes per game.
C Omer Yurtseven (7-feet, 245 pounds, So.): Averaging 13.7 ppg and seven rpg. The native of Turkey has had a strong sophomore season at NC State. A very skilled player, Yurtseven is 13-of-26 (50 percent) from three-point range this season.
Not listed as a projected starter in NC State’s game notes is Allerik Freeman (6-foot-3, 210 pounds, r-Sr.), a graduate transfer from Baylor. He has started 19 of the Wolfpack’s 23 games this year, and he leads the team in scoring at 14.2 points per game. He’ll likely come off the bench against the Hokies in a role that is new to him. However, he scored 29 points in 41 minutes off the bench in NC State’s overtime win against North Carolina. Freeman has the most three-point attempts on the team (125), but shoots 32.8 percent from outside, sixth on the team among players with more than 20 attempts.
Here’s a look at NC State’s key numbers this year…
Offensive Efficiency: No. 42
Effective Field Goal %: No. 142
Rebounding %: No. 92
Turnovers per Possession: No. 53
Defensive Efficiency: No. 96
Defensive Effective FG%: No. 183
Opp. Turnovers per Possession: No. 39
NC State relies on extra possessions to create success. They are very good at not turning the ball over, and they are very effective at turning their opponent over. Their defense has not been particularly good when opponents have been able to protect the ball, as they rank only No. 183 in opponents’ effective field goal percentage. By comparison, Virginia Tech ranks No. 120 in that category, and the Hokies aren’t exactly good when it comes to defense.
Here is NC State’s turnover margin in their key wins…
The Wolfpack had a big turnover edge in three of those four wins, and they were all very close games. The key for Virginia Tech on Wednesday night is to protect the basketball. The efficiency numbers indicate that the Hokies are a little better than NC State, but if they give the Wolfpack extra possessions, then we could see Tech’s fourth loss in Cassell Coliseum this season.
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