With two big, big wins in the past week, the Hokies are right on track for an NCAA tournament bid. Currently, Tech sits third in the ACC pyramid. The league will likely land at 7 teams in the dance, so if the Hokies can stay in the conference’s top 5, they’ll be in the dance: period.
Did you see this coming? I didn’t. Can it last? Let’s see:
at NC State (14-7, 3-4 ACC)
The ‘Pack is a team with eerily similar stats to VA Tech this year. Tech’s scoring 69.2 points a game; NC State scores 67.6. Tech gives up 63.3 a night; the Wolfpack give up 66.6. Both teams are 2-4 on the road; Tech is 9-1 at home, NC State is 9-2.
So, why in teams that fill a box score so similarly (at least right now), has one squad dominated the other so much? NC State has won the last five meetings in the series, dating back to a January 19, 2005 one point Tech win. The run got particularly rough last year as the Wolfpack swept three meetings by an average of 14.7 points an outing.
Last year, NC State exerted dominance in the paint, abusing Tech’s undersized squad with an abundance of height. Senior Gavin Grant is back for another swing through the league; the 6-foot-7 old reliable from the
Grant’s been around; J.J. Hickson is the new sheriff in town. NC State’s leading scorer is a young buck, a 6-foot-9 freshman from
My money’s on Courtney Fells, NC State’s third-leading scorer and most frequent three point threat. With Tech devoting bodies to Hickson, there are going to be kick outs. Fells will be the recipient of his share of dishes, and if he gets hot, it’s probably game over for the Hokies. When Fells runs cold, as he did against Duke (0-for-5 FG), and
Prediction: It’s really hard for me to pick against a team that has owned the Hokies since 2005. The ‘Pack still has big bodies, and Fells has been red hot lately. Too much Fells; the streak runs to 6. NC State by 8.
Consider yourself warned: this team has moxie. The Hurricanes battled Duke like few teams have this year, trading punch for metaphorical punch, and doling out more than a few real ones as well before succumbing late down the stretch, 88-73.
Junior Jack McClinton is the rock ‘em-sock ‘em heart and soul of this Canes squad. McClinton is a feisty one; he can score in bunches, make great passes, commit egregious turnovers, and all the rest. He’s like a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re going to get – except heart, and a lot of it.
Sophomore James Dews is a relative newbie in the McClinton mode who’s earned his keep this year, along with a bunch more playing time, by being a solid three-point option. Dews has raised his percentage beyond the arc from 27.6% to 41.7% - a dramatic and necessary improvement. Dews mailed in 20 against Georgia Tech and 17 at
Fifth year senior Anthony King is the inside threat most likely to bust the Hokies’ chops. In his fifth year in a ‘Canes outfit, King is about as steady as big men get. For four straight years, King has been a rock, averaging between 6 and 9 points a game and 7 and 9 boards. This year – he’s improved in a couple corollary categories. Never before has King boasted an assist:turnover ratio higher than .68; this year, it’s 1.24. To make the problem worse, you can’t just hammer away on King if he’s going off. His 73% FT percentage is great by big man standards; if one player on the ‘Canes is likely to have a break out game and break the Hokies’ back, it’s this guy.
Prediction: I don’t see Tech losing this game at home.