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Virginia Tech (14-9, 5-4 ACC) vs. Miami (15-7, 2-6 ACC)
Saturday, February 9, 2008, 2:00
TV: None (ACCSelect.com)
Roster Card: Click here
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Game Preview: You've heard the expression "every game is big." That couldn't be more true than in ACC basketball, but it's especially true for Saturday's game between Virginia Tech and Miami. The loser of this game can pretty much forget about having a chance at the NCAA tournament, unless they can make a run in the ACC tournament in March. The Hokies are playing at home, and they need to hold serve.
Despite sitting at next-to-last in the ACC with a 2-6 conference mark, Miami is still a Top 50 RPI team. If they can somehow get on a run and finish .500 in conference play, they would have the RPI to make them an NCAA tournament team. The chance of that happening becomes extremely remote if they do not win in Cassell Coliseum on Saturday afternoon.
Virginia Tech has a 5-4 conference record, but they need a couple of things. First, they need at least four more ACC wins to give themselves a chance at the NCAA tournament. That would put their record at 18-12 overall and 9-7 in the ACC at the end of the regular season. They would have a fighting chance, especially if they managed to win an ACC tournament game. Second, they badly need a win against a Top 50 RPI team. Although Miami would likely drop out of the Top 50 with a loss on Saturday, they have the ability to climb back into the Top 50 later in the season.
This will be a battle of desperate teams, as we're seeing all across the ACC right now. Just because the Hokies are the home team doesn't mean you should chalk this one up as a win. In the last five ACC games overall, the road team has won. On Wednesday night, Georgia Tech won at Wake, Maryland won at BC, Florida State won at Miami, Duke won at Carolina, and on Thursday night Clemson won at Virginia.
|Miami Projected Starting Lineup|
Miami has talent, but they have not been playing well recently. They have lost six of their last seven games, all in ACC play. They have not won a road game since they won at Mississippi State back on December 13.
Jack McClinton is Miami's top player. They have made it a point to get him minutes at off guard. He was playing a lot of point guard early in the season, but they want to free him up and let him be a scorer. McClinton is a very good player who is very hard to handle when he gets a hot hand from the outside. However, his production has been way off recently, as has the production of several other key Miami players.
The following table shows the regression of several Miami players since ACC play began.
|Name||Overall FG%||ACC FG%||Overall 3-Pt.%||ACC 3-Pt. %|
Those three players are playing anywhere from 27 to 35 minutes per game in ACC play, and they've all suffered dropoffs in their shooting. McClinton's dropoff has been significant. He is playing six minutes more per game in ACC play, yet his scoring in ACC play is only 0.3 points per game higher than his overall average.
Miami has gone from being one of the league's most dangerous outside threats to one of the ACC's worst three-point shooting teams. That said, they do have the ability to get hot from the outside.
On the other hand, Lance Hurdle has gotten more playing time since ACC play began, and he's benefited. With McClinton moving to shooting guard, highly-touted freshman Eddie Rios stepped into the point guard position and proved that he isn't ready to be an ACC point guard yet. They gave Hurdle the chance, and he has handled himself pretty well.
Miami does lack backcourt depth off the bench. They will bring Brian Asbury, a former starter and third leading scorer at 9.5 points per game, off the bench. He will rotate with Hurdle, McClinton and Dews on the perimeter. Eddie Rios' minutes have dropped to just 6.8 per game in ACC play. He is really struggling against top competition.
Miami has more depth on the inside, which is why they are one of the best rebounding teams in the ACC. They have three legit inside players in Anthony King, Dwayne Collins and Jimmy Graham. They also have the solid, experienced senior Ray Hicks coming off the bench.
Collins gave Tech some trouble last season in Blacksburg, finishing with 11 points and six rebounds. With Miami's group of frontcourt players, and Virginia Tech's rebounding prowess, this could be the best boards battle we see this year.
Despite not being nearly as good at rebounding last year, the Hokies managed to out-rebound Miami 36-34. Cheick Diakite had six rebounds in 19 minutes. If Tech wants to match Miami's physical play inside, look for Diakite to be in the starting lineup.
Miami isn't a big running team and prefers to play in offensive sets, so a smaller lineup that could outrun the 'Canes big men up and down the court is intriguing as well. J.T. Thompson is the choice in this situation, as he is good enough to match Miami on the boards, and athletic enough to beat them in transition.
Here is how the teams compare statistically in ACC play.
|VT vs. Miami (ACC Games Only)|
|Stat||ACC Rank||Stat||ACC Rank|
Virginia Tech holds most of the advantages, but as you can see from the average rankings, things are extremely tight. That's typical ACC basketball.
The Hokies are actually running into someone that ranks lower in field goal percentage in ACC play, albeit just barely. Also, it hasn't been often that the Hokies hold the advantage in turnover margin before the game, but that's the case in this game as well.
Four ACC teams have beaten the Hokies: Wake Forest, Georgia Tech, Duke and NC State. The common theme in those games has been the other team shooting very well (Wake is the one exception) and taking care of the basketball better than the Hokies (NC State is the exception). Heading into this game, Miami does not hold an advantage over the Hokies in those categories. Though be warned ... the 'Canes are capable of getting hot from the outside.
Finally, keep the following table in your mind.
|Turnover Margin, Last 4 Games|
Virginia Tech has been looking like last year's team in turnover margin over the last four games, while Miami continues to have a negative turnover margin. When you struggle offensively like the Hokies, you need extra possessions. Winning the rebounding war and the turnover margin would give them those extra possessions, and those stats will be critical in Saturday's game.