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Syracuse vs. Virginia Tech: NIT Season Tip Off Semifinal Preview

Andrew Mott from Virginia Tech was kind enough to whip up this preview for this Wednesday's NIT Season Tip Off Semifinal at Madison Square Garden. Get all up to speed below...

The Virginia Tech Hokies travel to New York City to meet the Syracuse Orange Wednesday night in the semifinals of the NIT Season Tip Off in Madison Square Garden. Jim Boeheim’s squad is no stranger to the Big Apple, but this will be the Hokies’ first appearance in the garden since December of 2007 when they defeated Hofstra and St. Johns in the Aeropostale Holiday Festival. Seniors Dorenzo Hudson and Victor Davila are the only remaining players from that 2007 roster (senior J.T. Thompson is out for the year with an ACL tear).

Seth Greenberg’s Hokies are coming off a 22-12 record (9-7 ACC) in 2010-2011, in which they missed the NCAA tournament for the fourth consecutive year and lost to Wichita State in the second round of the NIT. The Hokies graduated three players from last year’s starting five, including their top two scorers Malcolm Delaney and Jeff Allen. Hokies’ head coach Seth Greenberg has the talent to fill this void, including the 12th best recruiting class in the country according to ESPN. The class includes 3 ESPNU top-100 recruits, highlighted by 5-star SF Dorian Finney-Smith (#17 in the ESPNU 100). The Hokies come into Madison Square Garden 3-0 to start the year, with convincing wins at home over East Tennessee State, Monmouth, and Florida International (coached by Isiah Thomas).

The Hokies’ starting five for Wednesday’s matchup will depend on the health of starting point guard Erick Green (6' 3", 185 lbs). Green strained his left Achilles’ tendon in practice before the season and missed the season opener, but did log significant minutes in wins over Monmouth and FIU. Green had to leave the game against FIU with soreness in the injured Achilles, but with eight days rest before the Hokies’ matchup against the Orange, he should be healthy enough to start. He is coming off a breakout season last year in which he ranked 3rd in the ACC in both assist-to-turnover ratio and steals. Head coach Seth Greenberg has raved about Green’s improvement this off-season, and this has been evident early this year as he’s averaging 11.5 points per game.

Redshirt senior Dorenzo Hudson (6' 5", 220 lbs) starts at shooting guard for the Hokies. Hudson was sidelined for the remainder of the 2010-2011 season after he suffered a foot injury in December of last year. Dorenzo is a prolific scorer, averaging 19.3 points a game this year, including a 31-point outburst in the win over FIU. He can shoot the three, finishes well in transition, and has a lethal mid-range jump shot.

Highly touted freshman Dorian Finney-Smith (6' 8", 192 lbs) starts at forward for Virginia Tech. Finney-Smith is a long, lanky wing player who has been very impressive in his first three games in Blacksburg. Finney-Smith had a double-double in his first career start against East Tennessee State, finishing with 14 points and 10 rebounds (as well as 5 assists). He is averaging 8.3 PPG, 11 RPG, and 4.3 APG in three games this season. Sophomore Jarrell Eddie (6' 7", 218 lbs) has started the first three games of the season at the other forward position for the Hokies. Eddie has shown flashes of brilliance early this year, especially in Virginia Tech’s win over Monmouth where he connected on all 4 of his field goal attempts, including going 3 for 3 from behind the arc. Eddie has a very smooth stroke from three and will be a threat from deep against the Syracuse 2-3 zone.

Senior Victor Davila (6' 8", 242 lbs) is a seasoned veteran in the post for Seth Greenberg. Davila has been an active rebounder and shot blocker in his career at Virginia Tech and has developed a nice repertoire of low post moves. Davila can score with his back to the basket on offense and has been a defensive anchor this season for the Hokies, averaging 6 rebounds a game and 2.3 blocks.

Seth Greenberg has one of the deepest benches he’s had in recent years, as injuries reduced the Hokies to six- and seven-man lineups for a majority of the 2010-2011 campaign. Sophomore Tyrone Garland and freshman Robert Brown will come off the bench to relieve Tech’s starting backcourt. Garland is a 6’1" guard from Philadelphia (home to Scoop Jardine and Dion Waiters), who can score in bunches and find his open teammates on the floor. Freshman shooting guard Robert Brown (6' 5", 190 lbs) is another potential zone-buster versus the 2-3, connecting on over 35% of his 3 point attempts this season. Brown has the green light from Coach Greenberg, and can get hot from deep in a hurry. Reserve forwards Cadarian Raines (6' 9", 238 lbs) and C.J. Barksdale (6' 8", 232 lbs) will come off the bench and provide quality minutes and much needed size against the towering Syracuse frontcourt.

What to Watch For:

  • The Hokies have been excellent in transition, converting turnovers into points quickly on the fast break. Look for the Hokies to try and beat the Orange down the court before they can set up their defense, especially if Syracuse is careless with the ball.
  • Virginia Tech has been whistled for a significant number of fouls early this season, including 24 personals against Monmouth. With Syracuse’s size inside, foul trouble could become an issue for the Hokies and expect the Orange to get to the free throw line early and often.
  • Backdoor cuts have been an effective method of attacking 2-3 zones in the past, and they are an integral part of the Hokies’ half court offense. Expect Virginia Tech to try and exploit gaps along the back line of the Syracuse zone with off-ball screens and cuts.

Bottom Line:

This should be an exciting matchup between two up-tempo, athletic teams. The contest will be a good early season challenge for both squads and will serve as a good barometer to measure each team’s progress to date.