Decent college freshman
Join Date: Jun 2006
Re: NCAA Tournament Game Previews.
Illinois v. Virginia Tech
Guards: Chester Frazier (7.4 ppg, 4.5 rpg, 4.4 apg) and Rich McBride (9.5 ppg, 2.1 rpg, 2.3 apg) v. Jamon Gordon (11.3 ppg, 4.5 rpg, 4.6 apg)/Zabian Dowdell (18 ppg, 3.6 rpg, 3.3 apg)
No one player typifies the Illini more than Chester Frazier: played hurt all year, outstanding defender, huge heart, makes a handful of terrific hustle plays every game....and is very limited offensively. However, he's not afraid to take- and make- big shots, and he is capable of heating up, hitting 5-of-9 threes en route to 21 points against Penn State, and scoring 17 points in a critical January win over Michigan State. Rich McBride is a one-trick pony as a scorer; if he heats up he's dangerous from as far as 30 feet out, but it doesn't happen nearly often enough and he's been ice cold of late. He's a very strong, very underrated defender, however, despite his athletic limitations.
Gordon and Dowdell were probably the second-best backcourt in the ACC this year behind Virginia's Sean Singletary and J.R. Reynolds, and one of the best in the entire country. Gordon's kind of like Chester Frazier with scoring ability, contributing in almost every facet of the game and stuffing the stat sheet across the board, and he's the head of an agressive Hokie defense and one of the best ballhawks in the nation, averaging nearly 3 steals a game.
Dowdell was a strong ACC POY candidate. Like Gordon, he's a prolific ballhawk at 2.2 swipes a game, and can score in a multitude of ways. He's strong and athletic enough to take almost anyone off the dribble (nearly 6 FTA a game) and though he prefers to attack, he can hit from deep (39% 3pt%).
EDGE: Big-time to Virginia Tech. As hard as he plays, Frazier has subpar vision and decision-making skills, especially compared to his Illinois point guard predecessors. Simply put, I fully expect Gordon take the ball away from him.
Forwards: Brian Randle (7.1 ppg, 4.5 rpg, 1.0 apg)/Warren Carter (13.7 ppg, 6.2 rpg, 41.1% 3pt.) v. A.D. Vassallo (11.4 ppg, 3.9 rpg, 44.1% 3pt)/Deron Washington (11.8 ppg, 5.4 rpg, 1.0 bpg)
Randle, as always, is Illinois' X-factor; the Illini are 7-0 this year when he's scored in double figures, 10-7 (in the games he's played) when he hasn't. Yet another injury-plagued year for the talented, superbly athletic yet perpetually disappointing swingman, he too often finds himself in foul trouble. He's playing nowhere near 100%, but remains one of the nation's most gifted defenders when he stays on the court and out of foul trouble. If he can a)get looks in the open court or b)knock down a couple jumpers, he's in business offensively. If not, expect little to nothing from him.
Carter was one of the most improved players in the entire nation, becoming a fine inside-out scorer and a deadly baseline shooter from 15-20 feet for the Illini, capably filling the void left at power forward by James Augustine. His only problem is that he thinks too fast, to put it awkwardly, with the ball at times, leading to too many turnovers, which could be a problem against the Hokies' athletes. Other than that, he's been one of the only reliable sources of offense for the Illini, knocking down jumpers, post moves, driving and finishing on the break. Terrific season for the big Texan.
Both Vassallo and Washington are both wing types in a smallish- not '06 Villanova or '05 Illini small, just not huge- lineup. Washington is one of the most athletic players in the country, and arguably the author of the nation's best highlight reel of dunks and athletic finishes all season, most notably his hurdling of Greg Paulus at Duke in January. If he leaves his feet before you, forget about it. He's putting it down.
Vassallo is a one-dimensional-player offensively; he's going to catch and shoot. He isn't going to make any plays for others, unlike the rest of the Hokies. He isn't going to attack the rim, unlike his teammates. He's strictly catch-and-shoot. But man, he's terrific at it.
Washington is capable of taking over a game, but is just as capable of being a nonfactor. I'll assume Randle will guard him, and if so, this game could come down to which one can stay on the court longer, because each is the X-factor for his team, the guy that can take his club from good to really good. Each averages over three fouls a game, and while Randle has fouled out six times, that's only one more than Washington. Likewise, Vassallo could bury the Illini with a barrage of longballs, but over the 6'9" Carter? That'll be a tall task, and it'll be an even taller task for the Puerto Rican to guard Carter.
Center: Shaun Pruitt (11.6 ppg, 7.6 rpg) v. Coleman Collins (7.7 ppg, 5.0 rpg)
Pruitt became one of the best interior players in the Big Ten this season, averaging nearly 13 and 9 the last two months, finishing with 10 double-doubles and outplaying D.J. White in two of their three meetings. He has limited range, but rarely tries to go outside of it (though sometimes he does to ugly results). Pruitt is strong in the post and has a solid moveset, but too often flips the ball from his shoulder, leading to a lot of blocked shots.
Collins is the only Hokie starter who's not a big scoring threat, but he always seems to find a way to contribute and should make Pruitt work for whatever he gets.
EDGE: Definitely Illinois. Pruitt has gotten better and better as the season has progressed, closing the regular season with consecutive 20-point outings and putting up 16 and 12 on the tourney bid-clinching win over Indiana. Smaller lineups have trouble with the 6'10", 245-pound lefty, and though Collins only gives up an inch or two and maybe 10-15 pounds, no one else in the Hokie rotation has the size to help much.
OVERALL TEAM OFFENSE:It's important to note that both teams play at a very slow pace statistically, Tech finishing 258th in tempo and Illinois 301st, but both teams seem to be most effective when they're able to get going in the open court.
Tech has four starters who average 11+, and they have the all-important go to guy in Dowdell, the guy you can put the ball in the hands of and say, "Okay, make a play." Illinois doesn't have that. The Hokies average 73 ppg on 47% FG shooting, 37% 3pt shooting, both solid, but are shaky at the FT stripe at 66%. They rank a solid 35th in offensive efficiency.
This is the most inept Illini offense in years, a major departure from the days when Dee Brown, Deron Williams, and going a bit farther back, Frank Williams- All-American PGs all of them- ran scintillating offensive shows in the orange and blue. The Illini average 65 ppg on a putrid 43% FG shooting, 35% 3pt shooting, and 63% FT shooting. It's a grave injustice that rims don't have legs when Illinois plays, for otherwise they would flee in terror at the sight of any Illini besides Warren Carter letting loose. They rank 104th in offensive efficiency, just two years after finishing tops in the nation in that category.
EDGE: Major, major edge to the Hokies. They have four scorers and one takeover scorer. Illinois has a quality duo up front with Carter and Pruitt, but even those two have their limitations. If they're both on, Randle is out of foul trouble and being aggressive offensively, and one of the guards gets hot, then look out, but that's a whole lot of "ifs" and those things have all clicked in unison precious few times this year.
OVERALL TEAM DEFENSE/REBOUNDING: This is why the Illini are dancing. They don't come up with a lot of steals, they don't do anything fancy, not much pressing or turnover creating, they just play sound man-to-man defense every possession- literally; the Illini have played three possessions of zone defense in four years under Bruce Weber- and do it in a very nasty, unpleasant fashion. At No. 3 nationally in defensive efficiency and at +4.9 on the glass, this is one of the best defensive units in the nation.
Virginia Tech's guards swipe the ball like no other pair in the country, at over 5 a game, and finished a respectable No. 33 in defensive efficiency, but struggle on the glass at -0.1 a game, a problem that the big Illini frontcourt could really take advantage of.
EDGE: Big-time to Illinois.
Bench: Not a lot either way. I guess I could say minor edge to Illinois, but we'll call it push and move on.
Coaching: Bruce Weber v. Seth Greenberg
Greenberg has done an outstanding job in reviving a dormant VT program, but Weber's been there, done that in the tournament with 11 career wins, taking both the Illini and Southern Illinois to the Sweet 16, including the 2005 title game. I doubt too many other coaches could have dealt with the sh-tstorm of injuries and controversies as well as Weber did this country and still get this offensively challenged group of players to the tourney.
Intangibles: The Hokies have two wins over UNC, something Illinois can't come close to matching. They know what it takes. But the Illini, both players and coaches, have been through the tourney grind before. Most of these guys were around for the '05 title game run, though few of them actually played that year.
PREDICTION: If the Illini can keep the game in the halfcourt and the score in the 50's or low 60's, and consistently find angles to make entry passes to Pruitt, get him 25-30 touches, they'll advance. But more likely, the lack of offensive weaponry will finally be their undoing against a potent Hokie club.
Virginia Tech 62, Illinois 56.
Last edited by TheGame414 : 03-12-2007 at 02:44 AM.