Opponent: Virginia Tech
Date: Sunday, January 25
Time: 1:00 ET
Channel: ACC Network (FIOS 506, Charlottesville Comcast 211, Cox 1020)
For the third game in a row, the Hoos face a team that comes in winless in the ACC. Boston College and Georgia Tech were both unable to get their first win conference win against the Hoos, although BC did give the Hoos fits for a while. This time, the Hoos head to Blacksburg to face the Hokies, who are 0-6 in the ACC (8-10 overall). Their only ACC game that was close was a 68-66 loss to Syracuse. Most recently, they got stomped by ND, 85-60, in Blacksburg (that game was going on while the Hoos were crushing the Jackets).
It goes without saying that the Hokies would love to put an end to Virginia's winning streak. Anything can happen in a conference road game, especially between two rivals. That said, at least on paper, it seems unlikely that the Hokies would give the Hoos much of a problem. Playing under new head coach Buzz Williams, the Hokies are ranked 194th in the nation by KenPom. They are 183rd in offense and 211th in defense. They are also 208th in RPI and 165th in ESPN's BPI. Teams that Virginia has faced this year who are ranked higher than the Hokies include James Madison (79-51 in Harrisonburg), Norfolk St (67-39) and Rutgers (45-26 in Brooklyn). Again, on paper, this looks like a bad mismatch.
Despite their low ratings, there are things that the Hokies do well. For example, they shoot the 3 very well. They are 28th in country in shooting the 3, at just over 39%. The Hoos, of course, are 16th in the country, at just under 40%. They also force turnovers, which is really about the only way they can get stops. On the season, the Hokies are taking 1/3 of their shots from downtown. However, during ACC play, that jumps to nearly 44% of their shots. This is likely due to their lack of size.
The Hokies lone big man is 7-foot freshman Satchel Pierce, who is averaging just 14 minutes per game. (In ACC play, he is averaging 21 minutes and has started twice.) Their other big man coming into the season was junior Joey van Zegeren, who has been suspended and has announced that he is leaving the program. I assume Pierce will start this game, due to our size up front. He is a decent shot blocker and solid on the glass, but he averages nearly 8 fouls per 40 minutes (against Syracuse he fouled out in just 16 minutes). Only one other Hokie over 6'5" gets regular minutes, and that is JUOC transfer Shane Henry, who is 6'8" but just 190 pounds. Despite his lack of bulk, Henry is a solid interior presence who blocks shots and leads the team in rebound rate. He averages just 11 minutes per game (up to 15 during ACC play with 3 starts) and he is also well over 5 fouls per 40 minutes.
Not surprisingly for such a small team, the Hokies are not a good rebounding team. They are one of the worst defensive rebounding teams in the nation, allowing opponents to grab almost 40% of their own misses. This is also one of Virginia's strengths, as the Hoos grab about 36% of their offensive rebounds (40th in the nation). This should be a big advantage for the Hoos.
As mentioned, the Hokies shoot the 3 very well. (Interestingly, the Hokies are one of the top 3 point shooting teams in the country...and one of the worst FT shooting teams in the country.) Their top marksman is freshman Justin Bibbs, who has missed the last 3 games with a concussion. No word if he'll be back for this game, but I would be surprised if he didn't play.
Junior Adam Smith actually leads the team in 3PA and 3PM, and has taken exactly half of his shots from downtown. Smith, a transfer from UNC Wilmington is a deadeye shooter and will start at the 2. Smith is just 6'1" 170, so whoever guards him (maybe London Perrantes) will have a distinct size advantage over him. If Bibbs is back, he's a bigger matchup problem because he's 6'5" 220 pounds and a lights out shooter.
The reason Perrantes will likely be guarding the Hokies' SG is the presence of junior PG Devin Wilson. Smith gave the Hoos fits in this matchup last year, scoring 13 points and handing out 5 assists. He's quick and can get into the lane with ease. This is the type of player who has hurt the Pack Line Defense in the past. Expect him to see a lot of Malcolm Brogdon (and possibly some Marial Shayok). I also wouldn't be surprised to see Justin Anderson guarding Wilson if Brogdon has any trouble.
The Hokie's other perimeter players are freshmen Ahmed Hill and Malik Mueller. Hill, a GA native is the biggest of all the wing players, and a solid all-around player. He doesn't do anything particularly well, but he can knock down the 3 and .
The Hokies are one of the youngest teams in the nation, with 5 freshmen getting regular minutes (this includes Gibbs, who we may not see). There is a lot of talent, and Buzz Williams is a good coach. The Hokies could be dangerous next year, with Devin Wilson a senior and the freshmen all a year bigger and stronger (plus Buzz Williams has lined up a solid recruiting class for next year). This year, however, they likely don't have the talent or depth to bother the Hoos.
With a 5 day break before the much anticipated Duke matchup, the Hoos hopefully aren't looking ahead. We all know Tony Bennett isn't going to let his team overlook any opponent. But we've seen the Hoos come out flat a few times this year, and the last thing we want to do is let the Hokie crowd get into the game. Against such a young team, a quick start might be all the Hoos need to put the game away. KenPom predicts a 70-51 win.