After three straight games on the road, the Wahoos are back on friendly grounds this week. Virginia will host their rival Virginia Tech Hokies on Wednesday night. Tipoff is scheduled for 9:00 PM Eastern at John Paul Jones Arena, televised on ESPN2.
Virginia Tech’s Season So Far
The Hokies under Head Coach Mike Young enter with a 8-6 overall record, winless in ACC play at 0-3. It’s a team that at this point has fallen short of high expectations. Their best win on paper was an early season road victory at Navy. At the same time, they’re certainly better than the record. They’ve had some close losses, and even led Duke at halftime in Durham.
Coming off of a weekend bye and a home loss to NC State last Tuesday, the Hokies are sure to be focused and well prepared. Not to mention desperate for their first conference win. For UVA, it’s a chance to earn a quality win on the resume. Despite the mediocre record, Tech still ranks well at #37 in the NET.
Virginia Tech’s Personnel
Virginia Tech returns three starters from last year’s third-place team. Headlined by senior forward Keve Aluma (15.2 PPG). He’s a matchup problem, capable of scoring in a variety of ways. Joining him in the frontcourt is senior Justyn Mutts (9.9 PPG). Their best defender, he’ll draw the assignment of Virginia’s Jayden Gardner.
Point guard Storm Murphy (8.6 PPG) began his career playing for Mike Young at Wofford, and has now rejoined him as a super senior. Junior Hunter Cattoor (10.1 PPG) is predominantly a three-point specialist, hitting 44% on the season. Filling out the lineup is junior Nahiem Alleyne (10.0 PPG), a 38% career three-point shooter who’s been in a slump recently.
Coach Young has settled on an eight-man rotation. Sophomore guard Darius Maddux (5.6 PPG).has established himself this season. Sophomore forward David N’Guessan (4.2 PPG) provides athleticism off the bench. And freshman point guard Sean Pedulla (3.1 PPG) has earned an increased role of late.
Virginia Tech’s Strengths and Weaknesses
The math nerds still love Tech because they’ve won big and lost small. Our favorite Hokie KenPom shows them as a balanced team with the 39th rated offense and 29th rated defense.
Once again, the Hoos are facing a team that’s lethal from behind the arc. Tech has connected on 38.8% of it’s three-point attempts, good for 20th in the nation. It’s the third straight opponent for UVA that ranks in the top 20 in that category, and fifth straight in the top 35. If nothing else, they should be used to the challenge.
All of their guards shoot well, but they aren’t great creators. They’ll often run offense through their big men, Aluma and Mutts. They’re both hard to defend in space and surprisingly good facilitators. Surrounded by shooters, it puts opponents in a predicament of picking their poison.
While they’ve been good by the numbers defensively, it’s in large part due to limiting opponents to 26.9% from three, the ninth lowest in the country. They’ve actually been vulnerable inside, Especially of late, allowing a league-worst 60% on two-point attempts in ACC play. Playing a small frontline as they do, there’s not much rim protection. UVA should be able to get in the paint and cause problems.
Tale of the Arc
Virginia Tech is a perfect 8-0 when they’ve shot 35% or better from three-point range. When they don’t hit that mark, they’ve lost every time. If there’s a stat to watch, that’s the one. Sometimes the game isn’t complicated.
The Wahoos have allowed a league-worst 40% from three in ACC play. As mentioned above, that has a lot to do with who they’ve played.
In their only meeting last season, Hokie forward Keve Aluma erupted for 29 points in a win over the Hoos. He’s very crafty and quicker than you expect. Playing as a small-ball center, it’s a really tough matchup. And while he’s only a 30% career three-point shooter, he’s streaky. When that falls, as it did last year when he hit a couple, it opens up everything else.
Kadin Shedrick will draw the assignment to start. With his mobility, he might be better equipped to deal with Aluma than Jay Huff was last year. It’ll be important for him to play with discipline to avoid foul trouble.
Virginia senior point guard Kihei Clark has had some of the best games of his career against the Hokies. He averaged 14 points and 6 assists in two Wahoo wins as a sophomore, including the memorable game-winner in Blacksburg.
Playing more without the ball this season, Kihei has become Virginia’s top three-point shooter. He may not be the first option on this year’s team, but he’s the guy that has stepped up in big moments with the game on the line. In what should be a low-possession tight game that comes down to the final moments, Virginia will likely need him to be clutch again.
Don’t forget to tune in for the pregame show at 8:30 PM Wednesday night on the Locker Room Access Facebook page. Mark Jerome and the guys will get you ready for tipoff.
(Featured Image: Scott Taetsch USA Today Sports)