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   Welcome to TSLMail #210 - Friday, January 20, 2006    
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Numbers Do -- and Don't -- Tell the Tale for Hokie Basketball
by Chris Coleman,

Heading into basketball season, there was a lot to be excited about as a Hokie fan. Virginia Tech returned four starters from a team that finished fourth in the ACC and advanced to the second round of the NIT. It appeared that they would be blessed with more depth, and a run to the NCAA Tournament was considered a distinct possibility. Now that the Hokies are one-quarter of the way through their ACC slate, things have changed.

Virginia Tech has suffered injuries, illness and other off-the-court problems that the team canít control. They are 0-4 in the ACC and have lost those four games by a combined 16 points. The Hokies are the same team for the most part, but they arenít closing out games the way they did a year ago. So without bringing their record into the equation, letís take a look and see how this season is going, and compare it to where Tech was 17 games into last season.

Everyone knows the Hokies have some serious depth problems. Four Virginia Tech starters are averaging over 31.4 minutes per game. Deron Washington has seen his minutes increase from 23.1 to 31.4. Coleman Collins is up to 34.9 from 28.2 a year ago. Jamon Gordon has gone up from 34.4 to 34.9, while Zabian Dowdell has increased from 30.5 to 35.3. Gordon, Dowdell and Collins all rank in the top five of the ACC in minutes played.

Markus Sailes is averaging 24.9 minutes per game with 13 starts. With the return of Wynton Witherspoon to the lineup, Sailes will come off the bench for the remainder of the season. Witherspoon is averaging 18 minutes per game. A.D. Vassallo is averaging 11.2 minutes per game, but those numbers have been dropping recently.

While it seemed like the Hokies didnít have much depth last season, it is even worse this year. Through 17 games last season, 11 players had played in ten games or more. This season, that number drops to nine. Before Witherspoonís return from injury, the only relief Tech had in the backcourt was A.D. Vassallo, and Shawn Harris in limited situations. Last season, VT brought Marquie Cooke, Wynton Witherspoon and Shawn Harris off the bench to play in the backcourt.

Things are even worse in the frontcourt. Last year, the Hokies had Chris Tucker, Allen Calloway, Jeff King and Robert Krabbendam coming off the bench. They each didnít play every game, but they were available, and they played a lot in certain situations. This year the Hokies have Chris Tucker and Cheick Diakite, who combine for 2.8 points and 3.2 rebounds per game. Last year the Hokies were getting 34 minutes per game from their frontcourt reserves, and this year they are getting about 17.

Injuries have played a big part in the lack of depth. Wynton Witherspoon has missed part of the season, and nearly took a redshirt year because of a fracture in his left foot. Frontcourt players Robert Krabbendam and Terrance Vinson are redshirting because of injuries.

So if youíre wondering why the Hokies arenít hitting that shot, or forcing that turnover in the final minute to win games like they were last season, depth and fatigue are probably playing a role.

Just take a look at the stats of Zabian Dowdell. Last year Dowdell played 30.5 minutes per game through 17 games, and this year he is up to 35.3. His shooting has dropped this season. Last year he hit 48.7% of his shots, including 44.4% from three-point range, in his first 17 games. This year he is shooting 41.5% from the field and 36.8% from three-point range. His overall field goal percentage this year is worse that his three-point percentage from last season.

Some of that could probably be attributed to late game fatigue. Jump shooting requires a player to leap off the floor and try to release the ball at his highest point, and fatigue hurts a playerís jumping ability, as well as his concentration. His shooting performance has also been hurt by the graduation of small forward Carlos Dixon. Dixon was an outstanding three-point shooter last season for the Hokies, and without his presence this year, opponents can pay closer attention to Dowdell.

Despite moving from point guard to shooting guard, Dowdellís turnovers have gone up. He had just 30 turnovers after 17 games last season, but he has committed 46 this year. His assist numbers have gone down slightly, from 49 to 48.

In contrast to Dowdellís regression in some areas, Jamon Gordon has improved his numbers. His scoring and rebounding are virtually the same: 10.2 points and 5.4 rebounds this year, compared to 10.1 points and 5.3 rebounds last season. But Gordonís shooting has improved dramatically. His field goal percentage is 45.4% this season, a big improvement over 40.6% last year. His three-point shooting has gone up as well, from 22% to 34.8%. His free throw shooting has also climbed, from 52.9% to 63%.

Gordon has also improved his already very good assist-to-turnover ratio. Last year Gordon had 76 assists and 46 turnovers through 17 games, and this year he has 86 assists and 35 turnovers.

Virginia Tech has improved their rebounding since last season. Or more accurately, other teams arenít getting as many rebounds against the Hokies. VT averaged 31.9 rebounds per game at this point last year, and are getting 31.8 this year. But opponents are grabbing 34 rebounds against the Hokies this year, as opposed to 37.2 last season. Tech is still last in the ACC in rebounding margin, but there has been some improvement.

Last season the Hokies were known for forcing turnovers and taking care of the ball. That has been the case this year as well. Although VT has only forced 288 turnovers so far this year, as opposed to 352 at this point last year, they still lead the ACC in turnover margin. But that hasnít helped them win games since ACC play began. The Hokies have forced 46 turnovers the past two games against UNC and UVA, but still lost both games in the final minute.

Virginia Tech is doing many of the things they did in winning eight games in the ACC last season. Unfortunately for the Hokies, they havenít done quite enough. Pass - Your Ultimate Ticket to Hokie Sports!

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-- Will Stewart Updates From the Past Week Postseason Top 30 In-State Recruits for 2006
January 20, 2006
This year's in-state class proved to be pretty deep, certainly deeper than first expected, with some outstanding players at the top of the list and some very intriguing players throughout. The top five basically stays the same as in the preseason ranks, with the only switch coming at the 3 and 4 spots, respectively. There is a lot of movement from the 7 thru 30 spots, however, with several players who were not ranked previously making the cut in this final top 30.

Countdown to Signing Day: Part 3
January 20, 2006
We have less than two weeks until Signing Day 2006. Stay tuned to, as we will continue to provide regular updates on remaining targets as well as Countdown to Signing Day articles. Taking the place of the War Rooms for this month, the Countdown to Signing Day articles includes a brief summary of the class to date, recent developments and a look at the remaining targets still in play. Check out the many recent decisions, information on this weekend's visitors as well as updates on the rest of Virginia Tech's remaining recruits.

Hokie Basketball Not a Ride for the Faint of Heart
January 19, 2006
Seventeen games into last season, the Tech men's basketball team was 11-6 and riding an unexpected five-game winning streak, including four straight ACC victories. The team was 4-2 in the ACC and shocking everyone, including their delirious fans. This season, the team is 10-7, a dismal 0-4 in conference, and if something can go wrong, it has. "These are the times that try men's souls," Thomas Paine wrote, and though he was writing about a much more serious topic than Hokie basketball, the quote fits.

TSL Recruiting Report from "Tech Beat With Mike Harris", for 1/18/06
January 19, 2006
This week, Mike and Chris talk about Virginia Tech's two latest commitments, Mario Edwards and Douglas McNeil. Recent updates on targets such as Hutch Eckerson are discussed, and Mike goes on a bit of a rant, because VT verbal Budd Thacker is about to pull one of Mike's pet peeves: a decommit. (WMA format, compatible with Windows Media Player and MP3 players, 3.8 MB, 24:52)

Weekend Visitor: FB/LB Devven Sutton
January 19, 2006
Northeastern (Elizabeth City, N.C.) fullback/linebacker Devven Sutton will make his official visit to Virginia Tech this weekend. The Hokies seem to be in good shape with the 6-1, 237-pound prospect, who was a member of the North Carolina Shrine Bowl team last month.

Hokies Have Holes to Fill, Questions to Answer for 2006
January 18, 2006
Virginia Tech lost a lot of talented players off a team that had the third-highest final ranking in school history. It will be tough to replace players such as Jonathan Lewis, Darryl Tapp, Jimmy Williams and Marcus Vick, but the Hokies have recruited well on paper in the last few years, and many young, unproven players are going to have an opportunity to step up.

Can VT Snag South Carolina Commit?
January 18, 2006
Olufemi Ajiboye, a 6-2, 290-pound defensive tackle out of Banneker High School in College Park, Georgia, plans to visit Virginia Tech this weekend despite giving South Carolina a verbal commitment last weekend. Can the Hokies overtake the Gamecocks in this race?

Advance Auto Parts Hokie Hotline Notes for 1/16/06
January 17, 2006
Monday night's show featured Tech head basketball coach Seth Greenberg, who talked about the loss to Virginia, the tight nets in Cassell Coliseum, and those slippery shoes the Hokies got from Adidas.

Hokies Land All-State WR
January 16, 2006
Virginia Tech's latest verbal commitment comes from New Town High School in Owings Mills, Maryland. According to New Town head coach Rich Stichel, all-state wide receiver Douglas McNeil, a 6-4, 190-pound prospect who camped at Tech last summer, committed to the Hokies today during a meeting with recruiting coach Tony Ball.

Seven New Players Join Tech Football for Spring Semester
January 16, 2006
With the start of the spring semester Tuesday, Virginia Tech welcomes seven new football players to campus. Those players will participate in winter workouts and spring practice and will be true freshmen in the fall of 2006. The ages of the new players vary, with one originally being part of the class of 2004, and two others graduating high school in December.

Cuffee Adds Offer
January 16, 2006
Deep Creek (Chesapeake, VA) 6-5, 320-pound offensive lineman Billy Cuffee added an official scholarship offer and now boasts official offers from four of his final five schools. Which program is the latest to join the official offer list?

A New Leader for Eckerson?
January 16, 2006
This past weekend, 6-6, 270-pound Lumberton (N.C.) star offensive line prospect Hutch Eckerson made the first of his final two official visits. It was to South Carolina, which was hosting a major football recruiting weekend. Did the experience move the Gamecocks to the top of his list?

Gator Bowl Game Analysis: Great Comeback Overwhelmed by ... Other Things
January 16, 2006
It's a shame this game was overshadowed by the controversy that followed it (and it's a shame this game analysis was delayed so long by that same controversy), because it was a memorable contest. The Hokies did something they almost never do: they overcame a double-digit fourth-quarter deficit to win, an event so rare that it always takes its place in Hokie football legend. This game did just that, but unfortunately for all the wrong reasons, not because of the comeback. The Stomp and all that followed it have been covered in detail here and elsewhere, so there will be little discussion of it in this analysis. Instead, we'll talk about the key elements that took Tech to the win.

Poor Shooting Dooms Hokies, Virginia Wins 54-49
January 15, 2006
A bad shooting performance marred another good defensive effort by Virginia Tech on Sunday, as the underdog Virginia Cavaliers picked up a 54-49 road victory in Cassell Coliseum. It was the sixth time this season that the Hokies have lost by six points or less. Virginia Tech drops to 10-7 overall and 0-4 in the ACC, while the Cavaliers improve to 8-6 and 2-2.

Basketball Game Preview: Virginia Tech vs. Virginia
January 13, 2006
Virginia Tech has a great opportunity to record their first ACC win of the season when they host the Virginia Cavaliers on Sunday afternoon in Cassell Coliseum at 4:00. The Hokies have lost three ACC games by a combined 11 points against Duke, Florida State and UNC and enter the game 10-6 overall and 0-3 in the ACC. Virginia is 7-6 and 1-2 in conference play.
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