The Virginia Tech Hokies come to College Park this weekend staggering in the midst of a three game losing streak. Interestingly the Hokies have lost four league games by no more than 6 points in any one game. This is the opposite of last season when Virginia Tech got some favorable bounces and started the season with a bunch of close wins. You could say that this indicates they are a better team than their record but bad teams find ways to lose close games and Tech has lost a bunch this year.
The Hokies have followed their same formula of last year that relied on tough defense, slow tempo and some clutch shooting. They still have the first two but not the last critical part. Their outside shooting is simply atrocious and among the worst in the league. Zabian Dowdell's shot selection has been dreadful this year and he gobbles up possessions with his low percentage attempts. That is not something the deliberate style of the Hokies can afford, they simply can't give up the possessions since they don't have many to fritter away. They will get out in transition if given the chance but they don't want to run up and down the court with teams. They badly miss the clutch shooting and steals of Carlos Dixon. The Hokies currently do not have a player ranked in the top 250 in offensive efficeincy.
While the defense has been piling up the steals it hasn't translated into victories. In both the North Carolina and Virginia games the Hokies had a double digit advantage in turnovers at home and still lost. That is fairly hard to explain unless you believe that they simply are not a good team. If you're opponent turns the ball over 20 times in a game you should at least win, if not blow them out. You could argue that the sloppy play of UNC and UVA is the only thing that kept the games close when they should have been routs. The frontline of the Hokies has been getting crushed on the glass by some rather pedestrian groups lately in spite of the excellent play of Coleman Collins. With Maryland having one of the better rebounding teams in the ACC I expect the Terps will exploit this.
Virginia Tech hasn't been a good road team in the last few years and with Comcast being one of the more difficult venues in the ACC, if not the nation, it would require a perfect game by the Hokies to win tomorrow. If they play at the level and intensity they did at Cameron they have a shot of winning, if not it will be a blowout. Maryland will have to give them a hand by turning the ball over about 20 times and Dowdell or Witherspoon will have to get hot from outside. I don't see all those things happening. If Maryland gets out to an early lead the lack of outside shooting or low post alternative to Collins will doom the Hokies.
Also keep in mind that James Gist had 18 points in only 24 minutes against the Hokies last season. If the guards are patient in the half court the Hokies will be unable to stop both Ekene Ibekwe and Gist. Look for one of them to have a monster game. This is a simple matchup really, if Maryland doesn't turn the ball over and controls the glass then they win big. If they don't then they'll let the Hokies stay in the game and perhaps pull out a close victory. Hopefully this group will come out focused and ready to play.