Virginia Tech will step out of ACC play tonight to take on the BYU Cougars in Blacksburg. BYU is a good team, a well-coached team, and they are making a run towards the NCAA Tournament, which is where you can find them every March.
Year after year, BYU wins a lot of basketball games. Dave Rose has been their head coach since the 2005-06 season, and he has won at least 20 games in each season. Last year was his best. The Cougars were a #3 seed in the NCAA Tournament behind lottery pick Jimmer Fredette, who won every major National Player of the Year award a year ago.
Rose’s overall record at BYU is 176-50 (77.9%). He has advanced to the NCAA Tournament five times and the NIT once in his six seasons as head coach. He’s done as good a job as almost any coach in the country in that span.
So far this year, the Cougars are 17-5, so they are well on their way to another 20-win season. However, their resume isn’t quite as strong this year, with no top 50 wins. Their losses came to #154 Utah State (69-62), #32 Wisconsin (73-56), #3 Baylor (86-83), #35 Saint Mary’s (98-82) and #109 Loyola Marymount (82-68). This is a good team, but they don’t appear to be quite as good as usual. That said, they are an excellent offensive team that averages exactly 80 points per game.
|Finney-Smith in ACC Play|
Matt Carlino took the long road to BYU. He originally committed to Indiana as a high school sophomore, but eventually signed with UCLA. He left the UCLA program midway through his freshman season and transferred to BYU, where he became eligible after the first semester. He has started 11 games already, and he’s well on his way to having a great career for the Cougars.
Carlino is shooting 41.9% from three-point range, and he has 54 assists and 31 turnovers as a r-freshman. He is already one of the top players on the team, despite his age.
BYU likes to shoot the three-pointer. Seven players have attempted at least 31 outside jumpers this season, and an eighth player has taken 27. Brock Zylstra is 40-of-93 (43%) from three-point range this season. That’s his specialty shot, and Tech needs to make him beat their defense off the dribble rather than taking deep jumpers.
Dorian Finney-Smith will have his hands full with Charles Abouo, BYU’s third guard. Pound for pound he is the best rebounder on his team, and he can score inside and outside. He also leads the Cougars with 69 assists on the season.
The Hokies will be facing one of the best frontcourts they’ll see all season. Noah Hartsock and Brandon Davies are talented players. Hartsock has range out to the three-point line, and his mid-range shots are especially deadly. He is shooting 58.3% from the field this season. Along with Brandon Davies, who is a good scorer and rebounder, the BYU frontcourt is a difficult matchup for the Hokies.
When Tech faced UVA, they focused their defensive gameplan on Mike Scott. There wasn’t another post player to worry about, and they could help off of Jontel Evans, because he’s not a good shooter. Things will be different against BYU, as the Cougars have two good post players (not just one like UVA), and all of their guards and wings can shoot the outside jumper. The Hokies will have to play BYU straight up. They need to stop penetration, defend the post early, they can’t get caught up in screens, and they have to keep BYU (particularly Brandon Davies) off the offensive glass.
It will be important for the Hokies to play well in transition and find ways to get some easy buckets. In their past three losses, they have allowed 86 points (Baylor), 98 points (Saint Mary’s) and 82 points (Loyola Marymount). Unfortunately, Virginia Tech has been offensively limited this season.
57.6 points per game in ACC play
37.2% from the field in ACC play
46 assists and 60 turnovers in ACC play
-8.6 rebounding margin in ACC play
When you consider those numbers, it’s not surprising that Virginia Tech is off to a 1-4 start in conference play. It’s tough to win when you don’t score points, even if you are playing good defense.
On paper, you probably have to give BYU the advantage in this game. However, this is a road game for the Cougars. It’s not a simple trip to fly from Utah to Roanoke, and then bus to Blacksburg. As far as road games go, this is about as far as a team can travel in college basketball. Tech’s homecourt advantage should balance things out, and I think we’ll see a good game that could potentially go either way.