It doesn’t get much easier for the Virginia Tech basketball team this weekend. The Hokies travel to Charlottesville on Sunday to face #17 UVA, who is playing very good basketball right now. Tech is looking for their first ACC victory of the season, but unfortunately the Hoos swept both meetings a year ago.
Virginia is 15-2 on the season, with their only losses to TCU (when former Hokie point guard Hank Thorns led the Horned Frogs with 16 points) and Duke. The Hoos lost to the Blue Devils last week in a three-point contest in Cameron Indoor Stadium. In their latest game, they thrashed Georgia Tech 70-38 in Atlanta.
UVA is a very experienced basketball team, starting three seniors and a junior. They’ve also got one of the best frontcourt players in the ACC in r-senior Mike Scott.
Virginia ranks 338th nationally in tempo according to Ken Pomeroy’s ratings. They play at a very slow pace, and their games are generally low scoring. They are averaging 65 points per game on the season, while allowing just 50 points per game. They rank 4th nationally in defensive efficiency in Pomeroy’s ratings, and 77th in offensive efficiency.
As of now, this is a definite NCAA Tournament team. The Hoos handled Michigan earlier in the season, beat LSU, and played Duke as tough as anyone. Tony Bennett’s “pack line” defense has been stifling this season, and it will be an extremely difficult matchup for a team like Virginia Tech who has had trouble scoring this season.
The “pack line” defense is designed to stop penetration and keep the ball out of the lane. It helps defenses who sometimes have trouble against a quick, penetrating point guard, and it can also be used by smaller teams to deny opposing big men the ball in the paint. UVA runs the pack line defense with a very tall front line, featuring Mike Scott and Assane Sene, and that makes them a particularly tough matchup.
The “pack line” is an imaginary line two feet inside the three-point arc. Four defenders are generally inside the “pack line”, with one defender pressuring the ball. For more information on this unique college defense, click here.
Virginia Tech’s success against Tony Bennett’s defense has been mixed. The Hokies swept UVA in 2009-10, beating the Hoos 76-71 in overtime in Charlottesville and knocking them off 61-55 in Blacksburg. It was the other way around last year, when UVA won 57-54 in Blacksburg and 61-54 in Charlottesville. The two losses to the Hoos last season arguably kept the Hokies out of the NCAA Tournament.
Perhaps a bigger concern for Virginia Tech is power forward Mike Scott. Tech matches up poorly this season with any team who has a legit power forward in their lineup. The Hokies are using small forward Jarell Eddie to man this position this season, and it’s tough for him to matchup with guys like Bernard James, John Henson and Mike Scott.
Scott has historically shredded the Hokies in the past. He is averaging 20.7 points and 11.3 rebounds per game against Tech in his last three games against his in-state rivals. A native of Chesapeake, VA and a Hargrave Military Academy alum. He is not listed on Rivals as having been recruited by Virginia Tech.
This is a very difficult matchup for Virginia Tech. The Hoos seem to do everything well, and that’s why they are a successful basketball team. They are very good defensively (#1 in scoring defense, #2 in FG% defense), they can shoot the ball (#4 in FG%) and they can rebound (#3 in rebounding margin). They are also #1 in turnover margin and #3 in assist-to-turnover ratio.
Virginia will bring several valuable players off the bench: Malcolm Brogdon (6-5, 215, Fr.), Akil Mitchell (6-8, 234, So.) and Darion Atkins (6-8, 222, Fr.). Mitchel is a quality rebounder, while Brogdon is a long defender who can knock down the open jumper.
To have an opportunity to win this game, the Hokies must be patient offensively, knock down their open jumpers, and do whatever they have to do to keep the Hoos from getting easy entry passes to Mike Scott.
Tip-off for the UVA game is 6pm on Sunday evening, and it will be televised by ESPNU.