After last weekend's loss at Clemson, Virginia Tech fell to 2-4 in ACC play. Unfortunately, the schedule isn't getting any easier. The Hokies take on #14 Miami at 9 tonight. If you hadn't already heard, the Hurricanes are pretty darn good. It's their first time being in the top-15 since 2002, and a talented veteran roster has helped them get there.
The Hurricanes have an experienced team with six seniors on the roster, including four starters. That savvy, and the team chemistry that has formed over the years, is a big reason for UM's success. But there is more to it than that, said North Carolina coach Roy Williams, whose team lost at home 68-59 to the Canes earlier this month. UM's talent, he said, is underrated.
"Having veteran players is a tremendous asset, and some people say that's the only reason UM is winning, but the truth is, they're pretty doggone good," Williams said Monday on a teleconference. "You've got [Shane] Larkin and [Durand] Scott in the backcourt, [Kenny] Kadji presents such matchup problems. You go down the line, and they've got all the parts. [Julian] Gamble makes fewer mistakes, and I'm just looking at it from a distance, than almost any of those quote role players. He dunks the ball every chance he gets, plays great defense. ... Bottom line, he's pretty doggone good."
Six seniors? We have one on scholarship! I guess that shows how Tech is still a pretty young team. Anyway, this is starting to look like a pretty scary matchup. Miami is 6-0 in the ACC and beat top-ranked Duke 90-63. Uhhhhhhh. That's 27 points. Worried yet? The Hurricanes are extremely balanced, with 5 guys averaging double figures. If all of that isn't enough, 6-10, 292-pound Reggie Johnson back from injury. He's still working his way back, but Cadarian Raines will have his hands full tonight.
Erick Green is leading the nation in scoring by over a point, but really couldn't care less about it. Green has scored 20+ in all but one game this season, and has become basically unstoppable.
My gosh, Erick Green is averaging 27.0 ppg in ACC play. 2nd place? Ryan Anderson at 17.1.— ACC Sports (@ACCSports) January 30, 2013
Everyone thought UVa would do a better job against him, but E.G. embarrassed them. A telling quote from Green:
"I'd give them all up. I don't really care about scoring," Green said after the game. "I want to win. I want to leave a legacy before I leave here. Thirty-five is cool, but I want to win games."
Wow. The respect I have for Erick just went up more (if that is even possible). All he wants to do is win. He is the definition of team player. Just a thought: Imagine his assist numbers if his teammates actually made the shots he dished?
The Hokies need to improve their 3-point defense if they want any shot of winning against the Canes. Since mid-way through the season, it's been less than stellar. Joe went deeper into this issue in his Three-Point Analysis. Kenpom.com had another analysis with the thesis being, "With few exceptions, the best measure of three-point defense is a team's ability to keep the opponents from taking 3's." In that case, Tech's allowed 453 attempts, 15th most nationally through 1/27/13. In my opinion, the problem has been defending the three early in the game. If the team doesn't extend the defense early and gives the players wide open shots, it's easy to get into a rhythm. Once that player has developed a groove, he is impossible to stop no matter how good the defense is later on.
Against Clemson James Johnson benched a cold Robert Brown in favor of Marquis Rankin. The two combined for 16 points, 9 and 7 respectively. Johnson hasn't decided if Rankin or Brown will start at the 2 spot (click on the link simply for the picture they used). Undeniably, Robert has struggled and it sounds like his frustration is building:
"It's frustrating to put in all the work that I do, go in every morning at 7, 8 in the morning, and get the shots up and then, in the game, they're not falling," Brown said Sunday after a 4-for-13 performance in Tech's 77-70 loss at Clemson.
The majority of his shots are long and that could be attributed to technique. During warm-ups and practices, he hardly jumps off the ground (and makes the majority of his threes). When game time comes, he uses his legs a lot more and the shot sails over the hoop.
Do I have to do a prediction? I'm really not good at them. Here it is anyway: My heart says that Robert lights it up tonight for 22 points, Cassell is rocking, and we upset the #14 ranked team in the nation 81-76. My brain says we won't be able to shoot and Miami blows us out 84-62. I'll go with my brain this time, but what the heck do I know?
It's 9 p.m. It's Cassell. It's a top-15 team. BE THERE!
I'd love to hear y'all's thoughts and predictions for the game below!