Virginia Tech Preview

It's do or die time for the Hokies and Mountaineers as they square off for a spot in the Big East Tournament.

SCOUTING THE HOKIES

The Tech frontcourt carries the Hokies, and is anchored by forward Bryant Matthews and hulking center Terry Taylor. Matthews (17.1 ppg, 7.0 rpg) is a multitalented player who shoots well enough from the outside to force defensive coverage, but also excels at taking the ball to the basket. Matthews is also a rebounding force who jumps well and positions himself effectively on both the offensive and defensive glass.

Matthews is nicely complemented by Taylor (15.5 ppg, 7.2 rpg), who patrols the lane and uses his big body effectively in the post. They are joined by sophomore Dimari Thompkins, who has started just over half of Tech's contests. Thompkins is the tallest of the three front liners, and doesn't venture outside much in the Tech offense.

Philip McCandies and Allen Calloway provide bench depth up front, but combine for fewer than five points and five rebounds per contest.

At guard, Brian Chase (7.2 ppg, 37% 3 Point FG) is the Hokies' best weapon from downtown. He, like several other teammates, have missed games this year, which has hurt Tech's consistency, especially on the offensive end. Chase is expected to be joined in the starting backcourt by Eric Branham (3.2 ppg).

The wildcard is junior Carlos Dixon, who started 20 of the 24 games he has played in. Dixon missed four games recently with a broken bone in his foot, but returned for the Villanova and Miami games. It would not be a surprise to see Dixon back in the starting lineup against WVU. He gives the Hokies another inside/outside threat and makes them much more dangerous offensively.

KEY MATCHUP

West Virginia center Kevin Pittsnogle vs. Virginia Tech center Terry Taylor

As Tech's only consistent post up threat, Taylor will draw the attention of the Mountaineer defense inside. On the other end, Pittsnogle will have to continue to fight to break out of his late season slump.

BlueGoldNews.com
Game Info
Sat 3/8 2:00 p.m.
WVU Coliseum
Records
WVU 13-14, 4-11
VT 4-11, 11-17
SeriesWVU leads
45-27
TV
Fox Sports Pittsburgh
RPI
WVU - 91
VT - 181
Line: WVU -7
Taylor makes his living almost entirely in the lane, but Pittsnogle has been learning a few tricks of his own on the defensive end. The slender freshman has been getting better at coming from behind and blocking shots, but will still be at a disadvantage when Taylor tries to use his bulk against him.

One thing Pittsnogle can do is break contact with Taylor occasionally when he's on the post, then reestablish defensive position when the ball comes inside. That strategy can keep Taylor from using his weight and size to such great advantage.

Pittsnogle will also look to regain his shooting touch against the Hokies -- while it hasn't been bad over the last few games, he's fallen off his early season pace. To his credit, he's kept taking good shots, and hasn't forced many, which are the signs of a good shooter.

Just as WVU gives Pittsnogle help on the post, Tech could well put Thompkins on Pittsnogle when the Hokies play man to man, which could open up opportunites for other players against the less mobile Taylor.

INJURY REPORT

WVU: None

VT: None

OUTLOOK

Just a few months ago, the Mountaineers and Hokies squared off on the football field in a game with huge conference implications, and WVU came home with the win. While this basketball game doesn't have the same import at the top of the league, it does hold great significance for two teams trying to climb up from the bottom of their respective divisions.

Tech must win and get a Miami loss Saturday night to make it to New York, while the Mountaineers control their own destiny - with a win, WVU is in the Big East tournament.

The Mountaineers will have to contest Chase and Dixon all over the floor on the offensive end, as they are excellent three point threats. Matthews scores a lot of points as well, but that's in part due to his great number of shots. He only hits 41.7% from the field overall, so look for WVU to try to limit his close in opportunites and force him to make a few from the outside. Look for a box and one again at times, or man to man in order to prevent the Hokies from getting off open threes against the Mountaineer defense.

This Mountaineer team deserves to have something good happen to it and for it. Doesn't karma have to roll around to the WVU side once in a while? It did in football this year, and perhaps it will on the basketball court on Saturday afternoon.

FAST BREAKS

Due to injuries, discipline problems and performance issues, Tech has sent eleven different starting lineups out for the opening tip this year.

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WVU has tried to keep games low scoring this year, but against Tech that could be a dangerous move. The Hokies are 9-2 when holding opponents under 70 points, but just 2-15 when the opposition scores 70 or more.

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If he continues his current pace, Bryant Matthews will become the first player in Big East history to lead his team in points, rebounds, assists, steals and blocked shots in a single season. While that's a great accomplishment, it also points out the Hokies' lack of across the board talent.


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