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Big Monday in Cassell

Virginia Tech Hokies

Virginia partakes in its second road Big Monday date, this time against a Hokie team that's historically given the Wahoos fits at least once a season. VT is trying to do it this time with star PG Justin Robinson out injured, but funny things can happen in the Barn regardless. Can UVA finally go a season without a VT trip up?

Game Details:

Date/Time:Monday, February 18th, 7:00 pm ET
Location:Cassell Coliseum, Blacksburg, VA
TV:ESPN

 

What 'They' Say

Vegas:Virginia -4, O/U 121.5, equates to ~63-59 UVA win
TAPE:Ranks VT #14, predicts a 62-59 UVA win, 63% confidence
KenPom:Ranks VT #12, predicts a 62-60 UVA win, 59% confidence

 

Depth Chart:

Starters
PG#3 Wabissa Bede, 6'1" 195, SO
24 mpg,. 3.3 ppg, 2.4 apg, 42% 3P%
SG#4 Nickeil Alexander-Walker, 6'5" 205, SO
33 mpg, 16.9 ppg, 3.8 apg, 42% 3P%
SF#13 Ahmed Hill, 6'5" 210, SR
35 mpg, 12.9 ppg, 3.6 rpg, 44% FG%
PF#42 Ty Outlaw, 6'6" 220, SR
28 mpg, 8.5 ppg, 5.2 rpg, 47% FG%
C#24 Kerry Blackshear Jr., 6'10" 250, JR
28 mpg, 14.0 ppg, 6.7 rpg, 52% FG%
Key Reserves
G#10 Jonathan Kabongo, 6'4" 195, FR
6 mpg, 1.8ppg, 0.3 apg, 33% 3P%
G/F#1 Isaiah Wilkins, 6'3" 230, FR
14 mpg, 4.8 ppg, 2.3 rpg, 48% FG%
F#14 P.J. Horne, 6'5" 230, SO
16 mpg, 4.4 ppg, 2.8 rpg, 65% FG%

 

The ABC's of Virginia Tech:

A) Without Justin Robinson, they're aiming to grind things out. The senior PG hurt his foot (rumor is a minor break, nothing official) on the road at Miami, and since then have been trying to slow things down and win grinders, similar to UVA's strategy in 2015 when Justin Anderson got injured. They're averaging around 60 possessions a game over the five game stretch, a very Bennett-ish pace, going 3-2 in the process. Most notably, they won a game over NCSU with a dreadful final score of 47-24 (not a typo). This game will likely be another grinder, though it's possible this is the first time in Bennett's ACC tenure his team is the one that wants to play faster.

B) They're built around their 3-ball offense. The Hokies lead the ACC in effective FG%, shooting well from all over the floor. But the balance in impact tips toward their 3 ball, where they shoot the league's 3rd best percentage (39.2%), the 2nd highest 3PA/FGA ratio (46.5% of their shots are from deep), meaning they lead the league in the portion of their points coming from 3's. However they're not always on fire. In their loss to UVA, they went 7 of 21. GT held them to 19% in a near upset in January, and Clemson held them to 26% two weeks ago. But in the end, their offense is the 4th best in the ACC and the 3-point shooting is primarily why.

C) The back half of their lineup is full of question marks. Wabissa Bede. PJ Horne. Isaiah Wilkins. Jon Kabongo. These are not players that VT was counting on as of 6 months ago, not when stars and veterans like Chris Clarke, Landers Nolley, Khadim Sy, and Justin Robinson were projected to the Top 8 of the rotation. These four, even pressed into more regular action, are barely averaging 10 combined points a game in conference play. Credit to them, they're playing hard, but ultimately it's a big drop-off after their original projected starters, and UVA should ensure they don't make any surprise contributions in this one. Kabongo found himself open for a pair of made 3's against Pitt on Saturday, so if nothing else you know these guys can make open shots.

 

Their Season To Date

Virginia Tech is 20-5 on the season, 9-4 in the ACC. Their best wins are over Purdue and Washington (neutral) and NC State (away). Their losses are to Penn State, UVA, UNC, Louisville, and Clemson. Most recently they won at Putt 70-64.

 

Keys to getting the win:

1) Exploit the post. VT will pack in the paint, either with a man defense or a zone, and dare us to shoot over it. But this isn't Syracuse's long zone, the Hokies are very undersized, and with five Wahoos taller than every Hokie other than Blackshear, Virginia should utilize the length and athleticism of Huff, Diakite, Salt, Key, and Hunter to dictate the game inside the paint, scoring at the rim, controlling the boards, and altering or blocking shots on defense.

2) Ball security. Virginia Tech has forced double-digit TOs in every ACC game this year... except at JPJ. TOs and Steals are the only two defensive categories where VT has been strong in ACC play this year (2nd and 5th, respectively). UVA has been hit-or-miss with live ball TOs, and, VT has occasionally found success grabbing steals, topping out with 11 steals against Miami a few weeks ago. Virginia's guard play has to continue to be strong and locked in to deny VT's defense the lone bright spot and opportunity for confidence.

3) Keep them cold from 3. Outside of the Duke craziness, every ACC opponent has shot 33% or worse from 3 against UVA, even the strong-shooting UNC managed only 9/30 (30%). Virginia should continue to push the pack line out to the perimeter to deny good clean looks for a Hokie team that isn't as big a threat to dribble-drive attack as years past. Make VT beat us with the 2, as nothing will get the VT crowd into it more than a hot-shooting night.

 

 

Predictions:

If UVA had been playing better lately, I'd probably feel pretty good about this one. But going back to our road game at NC State, UVA's not looked as dominant as it did in early January. There are excuses to be made, of course. An injured Jerome in Raleigh, a missing Jerome vs Miami, Duke getting impossibly hot from 3, and UNC being a tough team to play in their place. But that UNC team was missing key pieces (6th man Little went down early, Cam Johnson turned his ankle in the 2nd half), and there's no excuse to go to the wire against a bad ND team.

That's not to say that UVA can't break out of its slump against a short-handed VT. Even full strength VT got blown out by the two elite teams it played, UVA and UNC, and Louisville was able to grab an 8 point win in Cassell with Robinson out. If UVA is able to snap out of its funk, the win is there for the taking, even if it's not a 20-point blowout.

I think UVA is able to stifle the VT offense the same way State, Louisville, and Clemson were able to do in recent weeks. And I think UVA is focused enough to do enough damage against the VT defense, even in the poorly lit Barn.

Hoos Win 68-56