#14o R.P.I. Virginia @ #111 R.P.I. Virginia Tech:
TV coverage: 8pm, Thursday, ACCNetwork or ESPN3
Vegas line: VT+5.5
$-line: bet $1 on VT to win $1.90, bet $2.3o on uva to win $1
Tied for no less than forth place -and the first round Atlantic Coast Conference tournament bye, would be none other than the University of Virginia and our very on Virginia Tech! (I know, amazing, ain’t it)
That does not suck and neither would beating the always faux snobby french at home on Wednesday night inside Cassell Coliseum.
Hooever, as you will see below, points will be at a premium in this one as this one has football score written all over it. uva is that damn good on defense and the french ain’t packing a whole lotta offensive points either. Though hoo will win? That’s why Will and Chris pay your now 11-time official prediction thread champion the big bucks and that’s what all of you really wanna know.
I however know this much right now … first one to 5o wins, and that might just be code for the first one to 4o if this game gets as testy, scrappy, and maybe even outright feisty I expect.
uva at a glance: (3 starters return)
- 2nd best in scoring defense at 50.6 ppg allowed!
- 6th best in defensive FG percentage allowed (36.4%)
- 17th in defensive rebounding
- 23rd best in 3-point percentage allowed (28.8%)
- 52nd in blocks (4.8)
- 295th in offensive final points (1o55.o)
N.B.A. pros=1, Akil Mitchell is a 6`8“ 234 lb. Jr. year double-double just looking for a place to happen)
Injuries=1, (Darion Atkins, power-forward, 6`8“ 222 lb. sophomore, shot-blocking machine as an athletic forward who coaches basketball in the summer when he’s not shooting 59% from the floor; stress-fracture, right-shin)
Coach Bennett runs a 3-guard starting rotation, hence the brevity of this section. Now that being said, Darion Atkins is serviceable and Akil Mitchell is a good deal better than that. Atkins is a 6`8“ 222 lb. lengthy power-forward who plays even bigger than he is although he is currently listed as “out indefinitely” with the aforementioned shin-stress-fracture and Coach God bless on that. Right now Evan Nolte has been inserted into the hoo starting frontcourt line-up and they just held F.S.U. to a gridiron ‘esque 36 points, so there you go on that. Or in other words, the starting hoo frontcourt is not suffering so much as the hoo bench is down low. Mr. Nolte is a 6`7“ 2o7 lb. lean Swing who was the AAAAA Georgia player of the year and two time state champion this time last year give or take. There is a quite a bit of a basketball pedigree in this kids family tree, although you have to be wondering if he is playing starting minutes a year ahead of Coach Bennett’s schedule right now? Nolte is said to be a quasi big who has some long-range shooting to his game and that gives him the ability to stretch an opposing defense. His team wide second best or 42% clip from downtown confirms his marksmanship indeed. 6.3 ppg and just south of 3 boards will only improve as Evan is also one of the big-3 freshman class that Bennett just inked last off-season –the other two are below and sub in off the hoo bench right now. So go ahead and get used to seeing all three.
The real deal upfront however is of course #25 Akil Mitchell. Mith’ is a strong looking 6`8“ 234 lb. kid who is not afraid of improvement. Just ask his 2010 33% shooting that went all the way up to 51% last year! This year Akil only paces uva in rebounding (9.3), steals (1.4), FTA’s (74 on 66%) and FG shooting from the floor at 54% on the campaign. He is also second in scoring up at Charlottesville with 12.3 points per game (ppg) if you need him. That’s a stat-line stuffer or a kid who means more to his team than his raw metrics suggest at first blush. Not half bad for a kid who enjoyed something of a defensive reputation coming outta high school.
Association pros=1, (Joe Harris, third-year baller, leading uva in scoring as a 6`6“ 211 lb. 2-guard at 16 ppg, that’s good enough to collect a paycheck, somewhere after recovering from a broken-hand)
Hurts=1, (Malcolm Brogdon, 6`5“ 215 lb. sophomore Guard, great FT shooter, AA player of the year in Georgia,broken left-foot)
Joe Harris is a 6`6“ 223 lb. lead-Guard in his third year who is leading Virginia in scoring at 15.2 ppg and Joe has Jessie the Palmer hair that just won’t quit, only sans the comb. That attempt at humor aside, Joe is a bona fide sharpshooter from range as he netted 50% of his league three’s last year and is knocking down 46.3% of his long-distance shots this campaign so far. Joe is a former Mr. Basketball for the state of Washington, and he also scrapes up 4.1 rebounds and 2.4 assists per contest in his spare time. Note as well that he broke his off (non-shooting) hand last year as he is an orthodox shooter or a righty in playground vernacular. That’s not great though it’s not as dire as you may think in terms of gripping the ball and getting you fingers in the seams. That’s solid enough for a forth best 3-ball in Atlantic Coast terms at this junction of the 2012-2013 basketball season. That said, you should also note that Joe went right on and balled through said broken left-hand injury for the final nine games last year and that right there gives you a hint at a kid who possess some old-school toughs. You gotta hand it to him for taking one for dear old hooVa like that. Jontel Evans is the only real small-fry in the uva playing rotation as this mighty-mite measures up to 5`11“ in stature and 193 lbs. when he tips the Toledo’s. Evans is also uva’s class rank senior leader via default and just like Chevy Chase as “Fletch” fame he must be at least 5`13“ with his hair-style. Evans was on the all-A.c.c defensive team a year ago and he will surely be on such again. In fact coach J’s just anointed him the best on the ball defender in Atlantic Coast terms so go ahead and look for him to play inside of E.Green’s shirt in this one. Evans is a lotta things, he is a quality floor and lockeroom presence, he is very experienced with 78 career starts under his final year belt, and yet he is also injured. Ditto being a bit tough in his own right –having already played through a screw being inserted in his foot to help nail his fifth metatarsal bone in place and that has cost Mr. Jontel Evans nine games thus far this year and a weekly trip to the X-ray machine. Additionally, Jontel is a home-state Bethel baller, so you just know he is gonna wanna do his very best with a mere 8o minutes remaining in his Commonwealth Cup career. Jontel only rushed for 3,687 yards as a Rb in high school and he leads uva in assists with 3.8 this year despite having very limited range on offense from his point-guard station which shows itself in a mere 3 ppg.
Paul Jesperson is a 6 and a ½ foot 197 lb. second-year drink of water. Paul had his r-shirt yanked early last year and he still looks like he could use another year of strength training; maybe two. That being said, Paul is not without talent. Mr. Jesperson is as two time all-state baller and the Wisconsin player of the year; both of which conspire to drop hints at such. As does his 42% from beyond the arc and 88% from the FT-line; even if 38% from the floor could stand some work. Thus far Paul is netting you 4.5 ppg and a couple of boards and an assist to go with that. The name of Jesperson’s game is versatility and yet you have to wonder when a skill-set that is said to be this multipurpose and that did not stay home and BIG-10 in-state ball for Whiskey will finally begin to manifest itself? This kid looks like a keeper to me; he just needs to shed his senior prom body and physically matriculate up into a fully grown power-conference frame.
uva Bench: (2 and change-deep)
Mike Tobey and Justin Anderson are the primary caviler substitutes right now; although Coach Bonnet can stretch that out to one or two other guys if foul-trouble mandates spot-minutes as need be. Tobey in particular is a good looking legitimate big who can at least fill out (if not grown into) his role all the more. 6`11“ 227 lbs. worth of PF/C combo post player says so. Mr. Tobey was first-team all-state (Jersey) 12 months ago and right now he is netting you 6 ppg and hauling in a couple of rebounds in a mere 14 minutes per game. So go ahead and expect those numbers to inflate as his playing-time does the same. Michael is a big with good touch in the key (49%) and from the FT-stripe (83%) alike. That means that Michael is a deft big who may lack some strength in terms of power-conference terms at this juvenile stage of his D-1 career. That said, no matter how much Mike may need another year, uva needs him right now and the Pack-Line defense will need his length all the more. Justin Anderson is a 6`6“ rookie year baller with a near N.B.A. 2-guard body already (226 lbs.) even if he projects as a Small-Forward in college. Only thing is that he has been chillier than forecast all year long. 37% from the floor and 22% from range confirms as much. Still yet, Mr. Anderson is manufacturing 5.3 ppg, 3.2 boards, a couple of assists, and a block and steal in limited minutes thus far this season. Anderson is the crown jewel of Bennett’s recruiting class and he is known to be a brawny, athletic Wing with a solid mid-range game. He is also a well-built on the ball defender who has the look and feel of Virginia’s next big-time star as this kid is not afraid to attack. He was also the 11th ranked three (S/F) outta high school last year. (READERs note: Nolte was the 13th ranked S/F and Tobey was the 17th ranked Center)
Conclusion(s), illation, OPT digits:
Right now this one has plucky defensive struggle written all over or a game where points will be at a premium. Did I say that yet? Yah; if scoring is your thing you might wanna look elsewhere, although if defense is your thing, you’ve prolly come to the right place. Coach J’s and homestanding Vah.Tech might not face a better defensive basketball squad all year and the O&M defense itself has been rather user-friendly –if not downright leaky of late.
Although, the normally trusty so-called Forum guide of Graham Houston fame predicts a narrow 4-point home victory for Virginia Tech in this Commonwealth Cup rivalry game taken to court. Recent history in this series would seem to agree as most of the last 10 games have basically gone right down to the wire or into overtime outright. As of now, I’m inclined to expect more of the same on Thursday night down in the New River Valley. The only real question to me is … can Coach J’s crew somehow manufacture enough points to win vs. what promises to be a stifling defense inside an early spring semester Cassell Coliseum with the students back in full-force?
License does not equal liberty here folks. At least not vs. such a truly intricately laid or damascene pack-line defense that is licensed to kill; as in kill the point total and produce a modern era P.A.C. 12 looking football game outta this one. O&M offensive liberties will be at a minimum, and you really do have to take your points where you can get them vs. Coach Bennett’s pack-line Dee. Be that at the FT-stripe, on the here and there occasional open 3-attempts that the saggy and penetration adverse pack-line will allow or whenever you can flat-out beat the pack-line down the court. Because when the pack-line gets set up and digs in, it might as well be called the vice-line, as it will squeeze any offensive life right on outta our basketball team. The pack-line at uva is the Bud Foster of men’s D-1 basketball defense and that’s outta 345 teams mind you, not outta Bud Stout’s relatively mere 12o.
Now for the fun part, as I was truly amazed to see how the pack-line slumps out on the road. Overall, Coach Bennett’s stop-unit only allows 36.4% of opposing shots to tickle the twine on the balance this season. However, on the road, hooVa allows a much more user-friendly 45.5% of opposing shots to find the net! The caviler’s offense also slumps by 6% from the floor and from beyond the arc as well when they are a visitor in your house. The one thing that does not slump however is uva’s rebounding margin which is +4 to the good out on the road and a backbreaking +13.2 in la` hoos most recent five-games. That’s code for stellar defensive rebounding, seventeenth best if you are keeping score at home, and that’s code for putting the onus or burden of offensive efficiency max squarely on our Thursday night host, or on Coach J’s and our very own Vah.Tech.\
I’m hearing that M.Wood may be back earlier than expected, possibly in-time for Clemson as he dressed-out and warmed-up for Wake last week. That means he is close and we could surely use his defense and rebounding upfront and down-low.
That said, I’m just not sure if we have the offensive chops for this one folks; as the start=the finish here. IF we/VT start out well enough, the homecourt advantage, the Christmas break early-semester all jacked up Student-body, and a suddenly deeper front-line should be enough to keep this one close all the way to the end. However, if we start out cold, and look like we are attending a bricklayer’s convention, we might just dig ourselves too deep of a hole and suddenly hit rock-bottom if we are not extremely careful in the first 10 minutes of play. As Virginia Tech’s post-season margin of error is thinning as I type; what with 6-7 very unfavorable match-ups forthcoming. That means we need to win right now, not at Clemson, not later on, immediately.
So in a basketball game that has Rugby scrum written all over it, I’ma gonna pick the dumbass french to storm our very own Cassell –right? ‘rong! I’ma gonna pick them to lay siege to it, maybe even raze it, as I just do not see how we are gonna amass enough points in a hoops game that will be anything less being easy on the eyes. Unless of course I don’t; as I really don’t know how we are gonna win, although I’ma gonna side with Hokie offensive star-power (Green, Eddie and hopefully what Brown can do for you) and hope that we take Mitchell or Harris outta this game. That will make the french rather impotent on offense, and that gives us our chance to exxtend the pack-line defense and steal a very important home-date tonight down in the New River Valley tonight.
Virginia Tech=55, france=52