Blacksburg, Va. -- Cassell Coliseum (9,847)
Tuesday, 7:30 p.m., ESPN2 (Mike Patrick, Len Elmore)
"I've been asked who would be the ‘sleeper' [in the ACC race this year], or who doesn't get the most respect, and I've said all along Virginia Tech is one of the three or four best teams in the league and I believe that. I said that before they were a 45-footer away from beating Duke. They have tremendous experience with four of those guys playing so many minutes last year. They're very athletic, they guard you and they share the basketball. I strongly believe they will be an NCAA tournament team at the end of the year." -- Roy Williams
"I've said all along that Carolina is Carolina. They're always going to have players. Just look up in the rafters. They've got a lot of jerseys hanging up there. So just because they lost some guys... You know, they lost [Billy] Cunningham, they lost [James] Worthy, they lost [Michael] Jordan and still they kept on winning. That's just what it is." -- Seth Greenberg
"From what I've seen, Roy's freshmen play as hard as any players in the conference. That's a testament to his ability to communicate and get those guys to understands what it takes to be successful at this level." -- Seth Greenberg
Season To Date: The Hokies have thus far been plagued with the same problem that kept them out of last year's NCAA Tournament -- inconsistency. They've beaten Stanford on the road and nearly pulled off a monumental upset at No. 1 Duke, yet lost to Old Dominion and at home to Bowling Green. Last Saturday's loss to Florida State, in which the Hokies committed 17 turnovers, doesn't help their cause for the 2006 NCAAs either.
Seeking Respect: Seth Greenberg's players feel disrespected. They think they should have made the Tournament last year (a fourth-place ACC finish, but a 16-14 overall mark that included losses to VMI and Western Michigan) and that with the return of four starters, should make it this season as well. "They still have this mindset that they have a little chip on their shoulder, that people don't respect them the way they do other programs or other backcourts or other players," Greenberg said. And if you watched the Hokies play at Duke, losing only because of a 40-foot buzzer-beater by the Blue Devils, you couldn't help but be impressed. "Playing that game in that atmosphere, and playing with the No. 1 team in the nation, just gave us confidence that we can play with anybody in the nation," said Deron Washington. The roster, albeit thin and undersized, does have a number of talented players. And there's little doubt that Virginia Tech is capable of beating any team, but they appear also capable of losing to any team, as the losses to ODU, Bowling Green and Florida State seem to indicate.
Underrated: Coleman Collins is arguably the most underrated player in the ACC. After a strong sophomore season, he's averaging 17.9 points and 8.1 boards through 15 games, yet few outside of Blacksburg seem to notice -- even after putting up 25 points on the nation's top post defender, Shelden Williams. After Collins scored 32 points against James Madison, Dean Keener (JMU's head coach and former Georgia Tech assistant) said of Collins, "At worst, he's the third-best post player in the ACC."
Guard-ed: Starting three guards and a small forward does have its advantages, especially when it comes to perimeter defense. Jamon Gordon (named to last season's ACC All-Defensive Team), Markus Sailes, Zabian Dowdell and Deron Washington have combined to average 7.2 steals per game. The Hokies have held their opponents to 39.5 percent shooting from the field. While Dowdell is more of a scorer, Gordon and Sailes have also been reliable playmakers on offense, as both sport an assist-to-turnover ratio of better than 2.0
Tough Luck: Only two games into the ACC season, the Hokies have already been dealt an extraordinary number of injuries. Senior forward Allen Calloway was diagnosed with cancer over the summer and has managed to play in only two games while undergoing chemotherapy. Sophomore center Robert Krabbendam and freshman forward Terrance Vinson have been unable to recover from injuries and are going to redshirt. Wynton Witherspoon, who played through severe pain in his surgically repaired foot for a career-high 19 points last weekend against Florida State, considered sitting out the rest of the season, but will try to play against UNC and may even be in the starting lineup. The injuries have shortened a bench that was already lacking height. "My concern is our depth, especially up front," Greenberg said. Meanwhile, starting center Coleman Collins has missed several recent practices to be with his father, who is in a hospice suffering from lung cancer.
Series History: UNC holds a 54-10 all-time lead in the series against Virginia Tech. The Tar Heels have won the last 17 meetings between the schools, with the last Hokie win against UNC coming in 1966. In last season's meeting, Carolina trailed 20-19 with 7:46 left to play in the first half, but pulled away for an 85-51 win. Zabian Dowdell led all scorers with 21 points, but it was Sean May's dunk on Tech's Deron Washington that was the game's biggest highlight. "I told him, ‘Welcome to the ACC, baby,'" May recalled.
Background Location: Blacksburg, Va. Enrollment: 28,000 Conference: ACC Nickname: Hokies Colors: Chicago Maroon & Burnt Orange Head Coach: Seth Greenberg Record at VPI: 41-33
Projected Starters: 22 Jamon Gordon (6-3, 200, Jr.) – 10.1 ppg, 5.3 apg 24 Markus Sailes (6-5, 210, Jr.) – 5.2 ppg, 2.4 apg 1 Zabian Dowdell (6-3, 200, Jr.) – 14.9 ppg, 40% 3pt 13 Deron Washington (6-7, 195, So.) – 11.4 ppg, 4.9 rpg 33 Coleman Collins (6-9, 235, Jr.) - 17.9 ppg, 8.1 rpg Key Reserves: 11 Wynton Witherspoon (6-7, 185, So.) – 7.2 ppg, 1.5 rpg 40 A.D. Vassallo (6-6, 213, Fr.) - 5.2 ppg, 1.6 rpg 3 Shawn Harris (6-4, 220, Sr.) – 2.0 ppg 42 Chris Tucker (6-7, 220, Jr.) – 1.8 ppg, 1.6 rpg 34 Cheick Diakite (6-8, 230, Fr.) – 1.3 ppg, 1.9 rpg
Collins ... Gordon
Washington ... Dowdell
Sailes ... Vassallo