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Virginia Tech (11-8, 2-3 ACC) at Boston College (12-5, 3-1)

Saturday, January 26, 2008, 4:00 p.m.

TV: RLF Split (click for local listings)

Special Preview Items:

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Game Preview: The Hokies have an even more daunting task on Saturday than they did on Thursday. They must travel to Boston to take on Boston College in the Conte Forum, less than 48 hours after playing a physical Duke team. Meanwhile, the Eagles have had the week off and should be fresh and ready to go. This is a very tough turnaround for freshmen, especially without Jeff Allen.

Despite losing Jared Dudley, Sean Marshall and Sean Williams, two of whom were drafted, BC still appears to be one of the best teams in the ACC. They are currently sitting in third place in the ACC with a 3-1 conference record. They are 12-5 overall, and will likely be back in the NCAA tournament. Al Skinner is perhaps the most underrated coach of any high-major program in the country.

Calling Skinner the Frank Beamer of ACC basketball would not be inaccurate. He built a very good program at Boston College with a blue collar, hard nosed style of play. Guys like Craig Smith and Tyrese Rice weren't necessarily the highly-touted type of recruit, but Skinner's evaluations of them were obviously very good, and they buy into his system. Like Beamer's Hokies, they aren't flashy, but they're just very good year after year.

Boston College Probable Starters
Pos Player Ht Wt Year PPG RPG Assists
G Tyrese Rice 6-1 190 Jr. 19.6 3.9 85
G Rakim Sanders 6-5 225 Fr. 12.3 4.5 32
F Tyler Roche 6-7 220 So. 5.5 2.4 41
F Shamari Spears 6-6 238 So. 11.4 7.3 21
C Tyrelle Blair 6-11 242 Sr. 6.6 5.4 12

Tyrese Rice is arguably the best lead guard in the ACC. He's a scoring point guard who can also distribute the basketball. Don't let his three-point percentage (33.3%) fool you. He can stroke it from the outside. He has NBA range on his outside jumper. Shooting so many deep three-pointers leads to a lower percentage, but he can be a backbreaker when he hits them.

The Hokies can't play off Rice. They have to extend and guard him away from the basket. He's an excellent offensive weapon. He played his high school basketball at L.C. Bird in Richmond, Virginia.

Freshman wing Rakim Sanders is a star in the making at BC. He is their second leading scorer at 12.3 points per game. Sanders is shooting an even 50% from the field, and an excellent 43.8% from three-point rage.

Combined with backup freshman guard Corey Raji, who is BC's top player off the bench averaging nine points per game, Al Skinner has found his backcourt of the future. Raji is shooting 64% on the year, including 47.1% from three-point range. However, Sanders and Raji haven't been very good from the free throw line this year. Raji is 62%, while Sanders is only 45.5%.

Biko Paris is another freshman guard who plays quite a bit for the Eagles. BC has a good, young backcourt.

BC has another three-point threat in their starting lineup. Sophomore small forward Tyler Roche isn't a big scorer, but he's deadly from the outside when left open. His percentage so far (33.9%) isn't reflective of how accurate he can be from the outside. In ACC play, he is 41.2%. Virginia Tech was involved in his recruitment.

Shamari Spears starts at power forward for BC, and he is their top rebounded and third leading scorer. He isn't overly athletic, but he's tough, like most BC big men. Spears isn't just a post-up man on the inside. He can hit jumpers from out around the free throw line area. Originally from the Salisbury, North Carolina area, Spears was once thought to be a Virginia Tech lean during the recruiting process.

Deron's sick dunk against BC
last season in Cassell
Watch it full size

Tyrelle Blair, well-known to Tech fans for being dunked on not once but twice by Deron Washington last year, starts at center for BC. He has a solid skill set, but he is a major playmaker on the defensive end. Blair has 71 blocked shots in 17 games. John Oates is his backup, and even though he is big, he's a very good outside shooter. He is 45.5% from three-point range this year.

BC isn't the deepest team in the world, playing just eight guys. Three of their four backcourt players are freshmen. However, the one that isn't a freshman, junior lead guard Tyrese Rice, gives this team an extra gear. Right now, BC isn't that different from Virginia Tech, with the exception that they have an outstanding point guard.

Since every team is at least a quarter of the way through the ACC season, we can start taking a look at conference-only stats. We can get a more accurate comparison of the teams against basically the same competition.

VT vs. BC (ACC Games Only)

Stat ACC Rank Stat ACC Rank
FG % 39% 12 48.30% 2 BC
FG % Defense 43.10% 4 40.10% 2 BC
3-Pt. % 27.50% 11 44.90% 1 BC
3-Pt. % Defense 33.30% 6 30.70% 5 BC
FT % 70.10% 7 71.30% 6 BC
Rebounding Margin +5.0 2 -1.0 6 VT
Turnover Margin -4.8 11 -2.75 10 BC
Assist/TO Ratio 0.55 12 1.28 2 BC
Scoring Offense 69.2 10 83.8 2 BC
Scoring Defense 74.8 5 75.2 6 VT
Average  -- 8  -- 4.2 BC

There you have the cold, hard, ugly truth of the matter. Virginia Tech isn't very good in all things offensively. They are the only team in the league shooting less than 40% in ACC games, and BC is out-shooting them by nearly 10% in conference play. The Hokies are also dead last in assist-to-turnover ratio, while BC is #2. Tech is good defensively, but if you look at the stats BC is just as good, if not better.

The one category where the Hokies have a clear advantage is rebounding, but they'll be missing Jeff Allen.

The Hokies have been competitive in every game they've played this year. Even last night's game with Duke was a one-point game early in the second half. Duke had to work to get the win. Unfortunately, I think this might be a game where the Hokies are out of it from the very beginning.

BC is a very good, very disciplined team with outstanding point guard play. They have had the entire week off to prepare. The Hokies must travel the day after playing a very physical game with Duke. They must do so without their top player, Jeff Allen. This one doesn't set seem to be setting up well.

However, there is a glimmer of hope. Two years ago, the Hokies lost a tough Thursday night game at home to Duke. Two days later, they played Wake on the road without Deron Washington and Coleman Collins. Washington was suspended, and Collins was visiting his ailing father. Tech only played seven players, but left with a 76-70 victory.

The Hokies had two guys step up that day. A.D. Vassallo scored a career-high 29 points, while 6-3 guard Jamon Gordon had 21 points and an amazing 14 rebounds, eight of them offensive rebounds. Tech will need a great performance or two to pull off this one in Boston.