Virginia Tech Primer No. 2 2013

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Justin Anderson , who was named the ACC Rookie of the Week after last week’s games, hopes to help the Hoos sweep the Hokies.

The Virginia men’s basketball team has won 13 straight games at the John Paul Jones Arena, including its most recent home win, a 78-41 romp against Clemson. Virginia Tech won last season’s meeting in Charlottesville and the team will be looking to spoil UVa’s recent streak of success on Tuesday night.

Here are 10 things to consider as the Hoos face the Hokies for a second time (if you are interested in the first meeting tune-up article, click here for that Primer):

1. After losing against Virginia at home, 74-58, Virginia Tech has dropped its next five games. The first four of those games were not terrible losses. The Hokies were down 4 with less than 30 seconds left before falling short in a 77-70 defeat to Clemson at Littlejohn. Tech then led league-leading Miami with less than 12 minutes remaining before running out of gas in a 73-64 home loss. Thereafter, the Hokies couldn’t quite close in an overtime loss (72-60) to UNC at the Dean Dome and a home defeat (60-55) to Maryland. In its last game, however, Virginia Tech immediately fell behind 11-1 and was never competitive in a 64-54 home loss to Georgia Tech.

2. It continues to be a one-man show at Virginia Tech, with Erick Green carrying the team on his shoulders. If we set aside the UNC game in which Green merely tallied 16 points, Green has scored 112 out of 243 (46%) of the Hokies’ points in the other four games since the UVa loss. In the last two games, Green has accounted for 57 out of Virginia Tech’s 109 points (52.3%). This is simply not sustainable, and, indeed, the enduring image from Virginia Tech’s loss to Georgia Tech was teammates carrying Green off the court after he collapsed from dehydration and exhaustion. Given this, I’m not sure that we’ll see Green firing on all cylinders on Tuesday night.

3. In the first Virginia Tech Primer, I noted that starting shooting guard Robert Brown was struggling through an epic slump coming into that game. After going 0-3 against the Hoos, Brown has done little to escape his sophomore slump. Since that game, Brown has shot 27.3% from the field and 25% from 3-point range. In the last three games, he also has 13 turnovers. In the two games following the Virginia loss, James Johnson actually replaced Brown in the starting line-up with Marquis Rankin . Given Brown’s butterfingers, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him riding the pine during the opening tip this time around.

4. But if Brown starts on the bench, who takes his place? In his two games as a starter, Rankin went 2-9 from the field, and, in the loss to the Ramblin’ Wreck, he played a mere 10 minutes and did not attempt a shot.

5. After the UVa game, it started to look like Jarrell Eddie might become a reliable No. 2 scorer for the Hokies. After going 2-11 from the field against the Hoos, the junior notched 19, 14, and 15 points in consecutive games against Clemson, Miami, and UNC. But against Maryland, Eddie recorded only 2 points on 1-8 shooting, and he then went scoreless on 0-6 shooting in only 12 minutes of floor time in the loss against Georgia Tech. So, is Cadarian Raines Tech’s No. 2 option? After scoring 4 points against UVa, Raines hit double digits (10, 12, and 14) in consecutive games against Miami, UNC, and Maryland. But these games were sandwiched between a 1-point performance against Clemson and a 6-point performance on 3-11 shooting against the Yellow Jackets. Besides Eddie and Raines, the only Hokie to hit double figures in any of the last six games is the aforementioned Mr. Brown, who recorded 10 points against UNC and Georgia Tech on 3-12 and 4-16 shooting. A such, I expect Virginia’s strategy once again to be to let Green get his and see what the rest of the Virginia Tech team can muster on the offensive end.

6. The one area in which Virginia Tech played well in the first encounter was rebounding. The Hokies controlled the boards against the Hoos, winning the rebounding battle, 32-24. It is quite possible that this was an anomaly. Virginia Tech ranks No. 238 in defensive rebounding percentage while UVa stands at No. 44. Meanwhile, while the Cavaliers are only No. 238 in offensive rebounding percentage, Virginia Tech isn’t much better at No. 216. Moreover, the Hokies have lost the battle of the boards in each of the previous five games: 1. Clemson 42-33. 2. Miami 33-29. 3. UNC 47-34. 4. Maryland 46-38. 5. Georgia Tech 49-35.

7. One thing that I wanted to watch with the Hokies after the first Virginia game was how forward Marshall Wood performed after coming back from a broken foot. The first meeting with UVa was the freshman’s first back from the injury, and his only contribution to the scoreboard was a turnover. Since that game, Wood hasn’t really shaken off the rust. In the ensuing five games, he has scored a total of 5 points on 2-8 shooting and shouldn’t be a big factor in the game.

8. In the Virginia win last month, sophomore Will Johnston saw the court for a mere 7 minutes and missed his only shot attempt, and he played a total of 4 minutes in the next three games. In the last two games, however, the walk-on has seen has role increase, playing 22 minutes against Maryland and then 23 minutes against Georgia Tech. Against the Yellow Jackets, Johnston did what he was on the court to do, hitting a pair of 3-pointers while committing no turnovers. Johnston is basically a low-risk, low-reward option for James Johnson who can spell some of his fatigued starters.

9. One area in which the Hokies have shown marginal improvement is on the defensive end. As I noted in my prior Virginia Tech Primer, James Johnson started sprinkling in some more zone defense after Virginia Tech was getting abused in its typical man-to-man set. At the time of the first game, the Hokies were No. 251 in adjusted defensive efficiency. They now stand at No. 232.

10. This additional emphasis on the defensive end, however, has started to hurt the Hokies offensively. Virginia Tech was No. 79 in adjusted offensive efficiency when the last game with UVa was played. The Hokies are now outside the top 100 at No. 105.

Prediction: 504-C Brandon has this one as a 72.2-55.5 Virginia victory, with the Wahoos having a 90% chance of winning. I like the Hoos chances here too. Unless UVa can’t buy a shot and a few of the Hokies’ supporting cast have breakout games, I think that the Cavaliers come away with the win. I will predict a 69-54 UVa victory for an 8-3 record in the ACC.

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