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Virginia Tech (12-8, 3-3 ACC) vs Florida State (13-8, 2-4 ACC)

Tuesday, January 29, 2008, 9:00

TV: Regional SportsNet (check local listings)

Special Preview Items:

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Game Preview: Fresh off a road win at Boston College on Saturday, Virginia Tech returns home to take on Florida State in a big conference matchup on Tuesday night. The Seminoles are coming off a tough home loss to NC State, but the race to see who can finish highest behind Duke and UNC is still on. They are still squarely in the mix, and stealing an ACC win on the road would mean quite a bit.

Florida State is 2-4 in the ACC, one of just two teams (the other being UVA) with four conference losses so far. Ignore that spot in the standings. They are just one game behind Virginia Tech and a bunch of other teams in the loss column. Things are only just beginning to sort themselves out in the ACC.

The Seminoles bring their own set of unique challenges into Cassell Coliseum. This game will be about matchups. In the case of Florida State, they have four experienced guards, three of whom are seniors. That matches up well with Virginia Tech's freshmen point guards, Hank Thorns and Malcolm Delaney.

Here's a look at the starting lineup FSU is expected to use on Tuesday night.

FSU Probable Starters
Pos Name Ht Wt Year PPG RPG Assists
G Toney Douglas 6-1 200 Jr. 14.1 2.7 64
G Isaiah Swann 6-2 198 Sr. 12.2 3.4 63
G Jason Rich 6-3 211 Sr. 12 4.7 44
F Uche Echefu 6-9 225 So. 11.6 7.3 15
F Ryan Reid 6-8 237 So. 4.8 4.7 11

Obviously this is a guard oriented offense. Toney Douglas is the only junior in the backcourt, but he is a r-junior, the same age as a true senior. They've even got senior guard Ralph Mims coming off the bench averaging 10.7 points per game. They are a similar team as the Virginia Tech team we saw last year. They have a lot of experience at guard, and they play very good defense.

The Seminoles have five players that average double figures, four of whom start. Ralph Mims is the fifth leading scorer at 10.7 per game, but there is a big dropoff after him. Ryan Reid is behind Mims in scoring, but he is averaging just 4.7 points per game.

Florida State is capable of scoring points, but their best attribute as a team is their defense. Point guard Toney Douglas leads the ACC in steals, averaging 2.71 per game. Besides Douglas, Isaiah Swann, Jason Rich and Ralph Mims all have good size.

Rich in particular is a very strong guard. He can get in the paint and finish against bigger players. He can back down smaller players, such as Tech's Hank Thorns, or even Malcolm Delaney.

Offensively, Florida State is dangerous, especially when they go with their smaller lineup. It gives them a speed advantage over almost every team they play. All of their guards are capable of hitting the three-pointer, and starting power forward Uche Echefu has even attempted 36 three-pointers this year. They will set a lot of screens to try and get their playmakers set up for open looks. The Hokies must be particularly mindful of Isaiah Swann from the outside. He is a 39.2% three-point shooter, and he's attempted 120 outside shots on the season.

I would expect Florida State to go small for much of this game. They will try to force the Hokies into a smaller lineup, which will negate the Hokies' major rebounding edge to a certain extent. Still, Tech will have the rebounding advantage in this game no matter what lineup FSU goes with.

A couple of names in Florida State's starting lineup might look familiar to you. Isaiah Swann is a former player at Hargrave Military Academy who the Hokies were heavily involved with. Uche Echefu came down to Florida State and Virginia Tech, and ultimately selected the Seminoles.

The 'Noles have had some injury problems this year. Freshman center Solomon Alabi, a 5-star player, is out for the season. Freshman forward Julian Vaughn, a Virginia native and former VT target, has been injured as well, though he is in the process of getting back up to speed. Here is a look at how FSU coach Leonard Hamilton used his players in their latest game against NC State

FSU Playing Time vs. NC State
Name Position Minutes
Uche Echefu F 36
Toney Douglas G 32
Isaiah Swann G 32
Ryan Reid F 30
Jason Rich G 27
Ralph Mims G 26
Julian Vaughn F 10
Matt Zitani F 4
Jordan DeMercy G 3

The 'Noles only played seven guys, and only six players got more than 10 minutes. Hamilton does not have many lineup options right now.

Here is a look at how the teams match up statistically.

VT vs. FSU (ACC Games Only)



Stat ACC Rank Stat ACC Rank
FG % 40.10% 11 41.20% 9 FSU
FG % Defense 42.10% 3 46.40% 10 VT
3-Pt. % 26.20% 11 36.10% 5 FSU
3-Pt. % Defense 33.30% 6 39.30% 9 VT
FT % 67.60% 9 74.80% 3 FSU
Rebounding Margin +5.7 2 -2.3 9 VT
Turnover Margin -4.00 12 +0.17 7 FSU
Assist-to-TO ratio 0.62 12 0.67 11 FSU
Scoring Offense 71.2 10 66.7 12 VT
Scoring Defense 74.5 3 73.5 2 FSU
Average -- 7.9 -- 7.7 FSU

Some of those are very interesting numbers. Generally the Hokies are playing a team that outscores them, but doesn't defend as well. However, Florida State has the worst scoring offense in ACC games, but they feature the #2 scoring defense.

The Hokies have a huge advantage on the boards. The Seminoles are one of the worst rebounding teams in the ACC because of their size. The Hokies are dominating teams on the boards, even without Jeff Allen over the last two games.

Put an asterisk next to the free throw stats. Florida State has dropped off a bit in free throw shooting since ACC play began, but for the entire season they are #1 in the nation, at 79.1%. They have five players shooting above 80% on the year, and two others are above 70%. This is as good a free throw shooting team as you'll see in college basketball.

Overall, just based on the statistical comparison above, this is a very even matchup. Much like the Virginia game and the Maryland game, the 'Noles and Hokies appear to be pretty even. It should be another great ACC game.