Virginia Tech gets a chance to avenge one of their out of conference losses of the 2006-07 season when George Washington comes to Blacksburg on Sunday evening. Both teams will look much different than they did a year ago, but this promises to be one of the most entertaining game of the Hokies' out-of-conference slate.
George Washington is one of the more successful mid-majors in the nation, and a well-known team in this region. They have a history with the Hokies. The teams got together every year back in Tech's Atlantic 10 days, and there have been some great battles in the series.
So far this has not been one of GW's strongest teams, thought the potential is definitely there for them to get better and better as the year goes on. They have had some trouble at the point guard position, and have been feeling their way through the early part of the season.
|GW Starting Lineup|
GW was expecting sophomore Travis King to play major minutes at point guard this year, but he has been sidelined with a knee injury. Senior guard Maureece Rice was supposed to be a major scoring threat off the ball, but King's knee injury forced Rice to play the point guard position quite a bit early in the season.
In GW's last game, they experimented with freshman Miles Beatty at point guard, and he handled himself well. Rice played off the ball and scored 18 points, his best performance of the season. If Beatty can continue to handle that point guard position and Rice can play his natural position, it will make the Colonials a much more dangerous team.
One player you'll recognize is forward Wynton Witherspoon. Witherspoon is a former Virginia Tech player who transferred out after his sophomore season in 2005-06. He is playing as well as anyone on the GW team right now, averaging 12.8 points and five rebounds per game. He is also the only GW starter that has a positive assist-to-turnover ratio. That should tell you a bit about the problems the Colonials have been having at point guard.
Somewhere between Blacksburg and Washington, Witherspoon learned how to shoot the basketball. As a Hokie, he shot a low percentage for his career. He was 38.5% from the field, 27.8% from the outside and 48.3% from the free throw line for Tech in 44 career games, including 10 starts. So far this season for GW, Spoon is shooting 53.1% from the field, 40.9% from three-point range, and 80% from the charity stripe. That's quite an improvement, especially on free throw shooting.
Forward Rob Diggs doesn't have the ideal weight to play inside, but he makes up for it with athleticism and natural aggressiveness. He is GW's leading scorer and rebounder. He has 20 offensive rebounds on the season, so the Hokies have to do a good job of boxing him out. He's a very scrappy player.
The Colonials have a very interesting lineup. From a size standpoint, they start one guard and four wing forwards. Diggs has the skill set of an inside player, but he doesn't have the weight. The shortest starter (Rice) is also the heaviest starter.
They are much like the Hokies in that they don't have a true second guard in the starting linenup. However, when Beatty comes in to run the point, Rice slides out to the 2-guard spot, giving them two true guards.
As a result of having trouble in the backcourt, GW is struggling with turnovers. They have turned the ball over 112 times in just six games, an average of almost 18.7 per game. Only one starter, Witherspoon, has a positive assist-to-turnover ratio. They only have three players with more than nine assists through six games games.
Because of the Colonials' lack of bulk on the inside, the Hokies' Jeff Allen should be able to do some damage around the basket. There appears to be no GW defender who can handle Allen's combination of size, aggressiveness and athleticism. If Rob Diggs is assigned to Allen, he'll be out-weighed by 55 pounds.
Since Allen is the guy that can hurt GW the most, I expect he'll draw double teams. He needs to be ready to give the ball up to the open man, and the other Tech players need to be ready to flash to the open spot in the defense.
Although the Hokies will be the bulkier team, GW will present problems for Tech's freshman backcourt of Hank Thorns and Malcolm Delaney. First of all, everyone in GW's starting lineup, with the exception of Maureece Rice, will be almost a foot taller than Thorns. The Colonials are a rangy team with long arms. They can wreak havoc in the passing lanes. Thorns and Delaney need to be conscious of this and play smart. The Hokies have to be good with their spacing.
GW is 3-3, but don't expect them to run at that .500 pace for long. One of their losses was an 83-60 setback to UCLA, one of the favorites to win the National Championship. Another loss came to 6-2 Maryland-Baltimore County, but Maureece Rice was suspended for that game because of a violation of team rules. Their other loss came to Auburn 74-70.
One thing to keep in mind is that George Washington is 0-3 on the road and on neutral courts. All their wins have come at home. That's going to hurt their RPI come March, if they are in a position to earn an at-large berth. They need to pick up some wins on the road. The Hokies are undefeated at home.
Both teams have reasons to feel confident in this game, and I have a feeling it could be one of the best games in Cassell Coliseum this season.