Previewing Virginia Tech
Scouting Report / Game Plan
|Four Factors||Percent||Nat'l Rank|
|Off Reb Rate||34.1||150|
Coming off a postseason-less 14-16 season, the Hokies have not only positioned themselves as an NCAA tournament-worthy team, they've also become legitimate contenders for the ACC title.
Entering this season, Virginia Tech was fairly easy to peg as a rebound candidate for a couple of reasons, and the league's media members illustrated as much when they picked the Hokies to finish sixth in the ACC. The Hokies were expected to improve largely because they were returning all of their important pieces, but there was another factor which made the Hokies almost certain to improve: they were ridiculously unlucky in 2006--and I'm not just talking about the bit of unpleasantness dealt them by Sean Dockery. Take a look in the 2006 scouting report at their luck factor--the Hokies were so unlucky that they finished five wins below expectation. Virginia Tech's 2007 makes a lot more sense when you consider that they were really a 19-11 team last year, not a 14-16 team.
Their misfortune was also evident when I examined expected win-loss records after last season. The Hokies finished their conference slate with a 4-12 mark, but their efficiency margin suggested they were in fact a 6-10 team. I wrote:
On the flip side, Georgia Tech, Virginia Tech, and Wake Forest finished about two games worse than their expected records. Virginia Tech, in particular, is an interesting case. Last year, the Hokies were lucky: they had an expected conference record of 5-11 but managed 8-8. Note that, this year, their expected record was 6-10, yet they finished 4-12. So they may have actually been a better team this season, but they still finished four games worse than their 2005 mark.
Ken Pomeroy later confirmed my suspicions:
Luck comes in many forms, some obvious, some not. In the case of the Hokies it was obvious at times, as they actually lost twice when leading as the buzzer sounded. They suffered one defeat by scoring a game-losing basket on their own hoop, and in another were felled by a successful halfcourt heave. Everyone of note is back for Tech, who should have higher than normal expectations for a team that won just four of 17 conference games.
The Hokies have put 2006's frustration behind them and have made a breakthrough in 2007. Both the offense and defense have improved, and in terms of efficiency margin, Virginia Tech has become one of the 20-25 best teams in the nation.
Offensively, the improvement has been mainly in two areas: field goal percentage and offensive rebounding. Tech has a 52.8 effective field goal percentage so far in 2007 (up from 49.6% last year). The difference is outside shooting:
2006 50.0 32.2
2007 50.8 39.2
In the offensive rebounding department, they've increased their OR% from 30.0 in 2006 to 34.1 this season. And as usual, the Hokies do not turn the ball over. Like, ever. Their TO% in conference games (17.3%) is tops in the league.
Jamon Gordon (6-3, 215) -- One of the best thiefs in the country, and together with Dowdell forms a turnover-causing nightmare of a backcourt. Not something you want to deal with if you lack ballhandlers as we do.
Zabian Dowdell (6-3, 200) -- A big reason why Tech's offense has improved is because Dowdell has improved. He's shooting better from everywhere (from three, from two, from the line), his free throw and assist rates are up, and his turnover rate is down. He's averaging 21.7 PPG in ACC play. He has a total of nine turnovers in seven conference games.
Deron Washington (6-7, 205) -- Washington has an excellent free throw rate but is only hitting 57% of his freebies. Shoots well from two, not so much from three. He's had to be more involved offensively in 2007 and has stepped up and become a more efficient player.
Lewis Witcher (6-9, 220) -- He has started every conference game Tech has played, but he's only averaging 13 min/g and isn't a factor at the offensive end. Does offensive rebound well, though.
Coleman Collins (6-9, 240) -- Collins has taken a smaller role in the offense this season but he remains a solid contributor. He is the team's best overall rebounder, he gets to the line a lot, and he is a shot blocking threat.
AD Vassallo (6-6, 215) could easily start the game Wednesday, but if not, he'll be the first guy off the bench. He'll get 25 minutes regardless. Vassallo is a big factor in the offense when he's on the floor and he is shooting really well from three-point range (44.9% overall this season, 59.1% in ACC games). He and Dowdell are Tech's outside threats, although the Hokies don't take many threes.
The rest of the bench in anagram form:
Cheick Diakite: Kicked It...I Ache
Markus Sailes: Muskier Salsa
Nigel Munson: Sunning Mole
Robert Krabbendam: Brand Marketer Bob
Chris Tucker: Tick Crusher (he's fearsome!)
|Four Factors||Percent||Nat'l Rank|
|Off Reb Rate||34.6||208|
The source of Virginia Tech's defensive improvement is field goal percentage defense. Defensive rebounding is an issue--conference foes are grabbing 36% of their own misses.
Predict-O-Meter: Tech 77, State 64 in a game with 68 possessions.