CHARLOTTESVILLE – Greetings from ‘Hoo-ville and the home of the Virginia Cavaliers, where Tech plays its first ACC road game of the season tonight at 7.
The game is not on TV but will have a live video broadcast on TheACC.com. I’ll try to blog some as we go to keep you updated until my newspaper deadlines start coming into play, so come on board.
And let me just say, the grounds here at UVa are quite lovely this time of year, with snow still on the ground from a recent storm. And from everything I’ve seen of John Paul Jones Arena, it’s first-rate, right down to – yes, the media work room. Hey, we have our priorities.
(I’m told, by the way, they don’t call it a campus round here, it’s got to be called the grounds, the students are first year, second year, etc, instead of freshmen, sophomores, etc., and well, they refer to a certain founding father of ours as Mr. Jefferson.)
I’m a little nostalgic that I didn’t get to see University Hall, having seen it so many years on the tube, but the security guard who walked me to the media workroom (folks are nice around here, I have to say) said something about asbestos. Enough said.
Anyway, the game. And so the Yellow Jackets begin a stretch of back-to-back road games this week, with No. 12 North Carolina coming up on Saturday. And actually, by the rankings, this game is the “easiest” thing Tech will have in a while. After tonight’s matchup, Tech faces three consecutive ranked opponents in No. 12 UNC, No. 24 Clemson at home and No. 25 Florida State on the road.
So this is one the Yellow Jackets need to win to continue the momentum they started with their win over No. 5 Duke on Saturday and to get a running start on this tough stretch with three of four games on the road.
Out of the ACC first’s 14 games heading into tonight, the home team has won 11 of them – the lone exceptions were Florida State’s win at Tech on Dec. 20, Virginia’s win at N.C. State on Saturday and N.C. State’s win at Florida State last night.
Tech’s last road game was pretty much a dud, as you know, in Athens. Coach Paul Hewitt said after that loss to Georgia, he regretted not pressing more and forcing the issue on defense. That’s something the Yellow Jackets came out doing against Duke and it worked to perfection, wearing down Duke’s thin backcourt and taking their legs out of their jump shots.
It would seem like a good idea tonight, to get the energy flowing on the road, but I’m not sure if that’s the best strategy either. Virginia plays three and four guards and is a pretty good ball-handling team. Shoot, 11 of the guys on Virginia’s roster have a “G” by their names.
In fact, the Cavaliers average only 10.5 turnovers per game, which is tops in the ACC. They are also second in the ACC in team free throw percentage at 74.7 percent, trailing only Duke (76.8 percent). (Georgia Tech is fifth by the way, with a 69.3 free throw percentage as a team. And Tech is 11th out of 12 teams in turnovers per game at 16.5)
Virginia made 19 of 20 free throws in its win over NC State Saturday. So the Yellow Jackets will need to move their feet on defense tonight to keep Virginia off the foul line.
As Hewitt said earlier this week, the game should prove to be an interesting contrast in styles with Virginia’s strength playing small, and Tech’s strength playing big. It’ll be interesting to see who has to give into whom. And D’Andre Bell, as usual, will draw the toughest defensive assignment, guarding sophomore Sylven Landesberg, who is averaging 17.0 ppg.
Hewitt recruited Landesberg out of high school and is very familiar with the defending ACC rookie of the year. He’s what Hewitt had to say about Landesberg, leading into tonight’s game.
“Sylven’s a guy who is just a dynamic scorer,” Hewitt said. “He can score a lot of different ways. He’s shooting the 3 better this year. He’s always been able to go to the basket. He’s an outstanding free throw shooter. And you put him at the power forward position he creates a big matchup problem.”
Virginia is trying to go to 2-0 in the ACC for the first time since 1994-95, which for a point of reference was Junior Burroughs’ senior year. Just showing off some old ACC knowledge, and I can do it without Mark Bradley here to put me to shame with his. Talk at you as we go, if there are folks interested in chatting.