Virginia Tech Hosts #12 UVA in Important Matchup

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Buzz Williams Virginia Tech
Buzz Williams and the Hokies are looking for an important win. (Ivan Morozov)

Date: February 12
Time: 6:30pm
TV: ESPNU

Virginia Tech (16-7, 5-6) gets another shot at #12 UVA (18-5, 8-3) tonight, this time in Cassell Coliseum at 6:30 on ESPNU.  It is Virginia Tech’s third Sunday night game in the last four weeks.  They won the first two, at home against Boston College and on the road against Clemson.

The Hoos blasted the Hokies 71-48 in Charlottesville back on February 1.  Since then, UVA has lost to Syracuse 66-62 on the road, and blew out #4 Louisville 71-55 at home.  Tony Bennett’s team is a legit contender for the ACC Championship, and they’ll be looking to keep the ball rolling against the Hokies tonight in Blacksburg.

Since we previewed this game just 11 days ago, I’m not going to repeat the same type of preview for tonight’s game.  Instead, I’ll throw some numbers at you about this game, and about Tech’s season as a whole.

Rough Stretch Against Great Defensive Teams

The Hokies are playing their third straight game against a very good defensive team.  Check out these defensive efficiency numbers…

UVA: #3
Miami: #42
UVA: #3

According to Ken Pomeroy, it goes like this…

UVA: #3
Miami: #35
UVA: #3

No matter which efficiency ratings you use, it’s clear that Tech is in the middle of a tough stretch.  Miami isn’t quite at UVA’s level, but they are still borderline Top 10-percentile nationally.  The Hokies scored 48 points against UVA in the first meeting, and 66 at Miami on Wednesday.

Getting Back to Playing Hard

On last Monday’s Tech Talk Live, Buzz Williams said that he thought he had been trying to press too many buttons from an X’s and O’s standpoint rather than just trying to get his team to play hard and compete.  The result was that they were thinking too much, rather than playing hard at all times.  After the first game with Virginia, he changed his strategy.

The Hokies had been getting killed on the boards, and they had been getting lit up from three-point range.  After Buzz’s strategy shift, those problems were not there against Miami.  Tech and the ‘Canes (an excellent rebounding team) were even on the boards and 32, and Miami shot just 7-of-21 (33.3%) from three-point range, which is below their season average.

Tech still lost that Miami game by six points, but the effort was much better.  They rebounded well, they got their hands on loose balls, and they competed.  The end result was a close loss on the road, which is to be expected for most teams who play Miami on the road.  As an example, UNC was handled by 15 points at Miami.

Home vs. Road Against UVA

Virginia Tech’s home games and road games against UVA have been much different over the last two seasons.  Here were the numbers from two seasons ago…

Home: 50-47 L
Road: 69-57 L

Tech nearly beat the Hoos at home despite finishing 2-14 in the ACC.  They lost by double digits on the road.  Here are the 2015-16 numbers…

Home: 70-68 W
Road: 67-49 L

The Hokies were handled easily in Charlottesvilel, but they upset a top five UVA team in Blacksburg.

This year we saw Tech beaten badly in John Paul Jones Arena again.  Will we see another close game in Cassell Coliseum?  With perhaps an upset win for the Hokies?  We’ll find out tonight.

Needing Another Top 50 Win

Right now, Virginia Tech is #47 in RPI, and they have just one victory over a Top 50 team.  That was Duke, who #16.  The Hokies need to get another quality win before the season is over, and UVA ranks #13 in the RPI.  Tonight’s game is potentially huge from a resume perspective.

Virginia Tech has beaten several other teams that are currently hovering around the Top 50…

#56 Clemson
#59 Ole Miss
#75 Michigan

It’s unlikely that Michigan or Ole Miss will finish in the Top 50, though Michigan does play a tough schedule towards the end and if they can pick up a couple of victories, a Top 50 finish is possible.  However, the Wolverines just have the look of an NIT team this year.  Ole Miss plays in the SEC, so if anything their RPI is likely to fall.  Clemson’s two-point loss to Duke yesterday likely kept them out of the top 50.  Keep your fingers crossed that they can close strong.

The Hokies also have games remaining with the following teams…

at #4 Louisville
vs. #31 Wake Forest
vs. #50 Miami
at #51 Pitt

There will be more opportunities for Top 50 wins, but those opportunities are shrinking.

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