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Posted at 12:50 PM ET, 01/24/2011

Comparing the defenses of Virginia Tech and Georgia Tech

By Mark Giannotto

Even as its season looked to be imploding under the weight of several season-ending injuries that left the roster decimated, the Virginia Tech men's basketball team has continued to rattle off victories -- nine in the past 10 games to be exact.

And while certainly the leadership of senior Malcolm Delaney and the emergence of sophomore Erick Green have been major factors, it's been a wholesale improvement on the defensive end that has paved the way for this team's winning ways.

I'll have much more on this in tomorrow's paper, when I discuss the impact of Coach Seth Greenberg's decision to play a 2-3 zone more often this year, but take a look at these numbers. Not only is Virginia Tech currently playing defense at a significantly higher level than this group of seniors have ever shown, it's statistically the best defensive unit Greenberg has fielded since arriving in Blacksburg in 2003.

These figures are broken down into points per game allowed and opponents' shooting percentage:

2003-04: 67.7 ppg (136th in the country); 45.8 percent
2004-05: 68.7 ppg (168th); 44.4 percent
2005-06: 65.2 ppg (90th); 43.2 percent
2006-07: 64.1 ppg (64th); 41.8 percent
2007-08: 64.7 ppg (77th); 40.7 percent
2008-09: 70.7 ppg (252nd); 42.1 percent
2009-10: 65.1 ppg (83rd); 39.9 percent
2010-11: 59.7 ppg (15th); 39.4 percent

“I’d like to say we’ve spent hours upon hours on defensive transition and other things, but since our limited numbers we haven’t spent any time breaking down defensive transition or things of that nature," Greenberg said. "We’re just trying to keep the ball in front of us, contest shots, and limit teams to one shot as much as we can."

Tuesday night's road game at Georgia Tech provides an illuminating example of just how important the improved defense has become towards the Hokies fortunes the rest of this season. The Yellow Jackets average 70.9 points per game, just 0.8 fewer than the Hokies. But they give up more than 67 points per contest almost eight points more than Virginia Tech.

Is it any wonder then as to why the Hokies have a 13-5 record and a shot at the NCAA tournament with a depleted roster that has been decimated by injuries and Georgia Tech enters Tuesday with a 9-9 record?

In particular, Georgia Tech's three-point defense has been atrocious thus far. It entered Saturday's loss to Virginia allowing opponents to close to 39 percent of their shots from three-point range, ranking them 312th in the nation in that category. And that was before the Cavaliers hit 10 of 15 of their three-pointers.

In previous losses, the Yellow Jackets have allowed Nortwestern to go 10 for 12 from long range, Clemson to shoot 11 of 14, while Boston College hit nine three-pointers.

“I’ve never seen anything like it. It’s 25 years I’ve been around this game and I don’t think I’ve seen a team run into so many hot shooting teams," Georgia Tech Coach Paul Hewitt said Monday during the ACC teleconference. "With that being said, can we do a better job of contesting shots? Yeah. ... Some of it is bad luck; some of it is we have to make them put it on the floor when they hit those hot streaks.”

Georgia Tech, though, has been an odd team this year. It handily defeated North Carolina and Wake Forest last week before losing to Virginia on the road. It also has some ugly blemishes against Kennesaw State and Siena away from home. But the Yellow Jackets are 7-2 at Alexander Memorial Coliseum this season, so I'd expect to see one of their better efforts Tuesday night.

By Mark Giannotto  | January 24, 2011; 12:50 PM ET
 
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