Virginia Tech Hopes for Upset at Louisville

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Buzz Williams and the Hokies have to pick up some Top 50 wins. (Ivan Morozov)

Virginia Tech vs. Louisville
Time: 4pm
TV: ESPN2

Virginia Tech will try to make it three ACC wins in a row at the KFC Yum! Center on Saturday afternoon, where they’ll face the Louisville Cardinals.  The Hokies (13-4, 2-2) defeated a pair of bad teams – Pitt and Wake Forest – and now they’ll try their hand against better competition.

Louisville is a very talented team, but they are still having a better season than some might have projected.  The coaching staff was purged of Rick Pitino and two of his assistants following their latest scandal, and David Padgett was promoted to head coach.  He went outside the program to bring in Greg Paulus and Trent Johnson as assistants, and then elevated RJ Evans from a lower staff role.

You might expect that much coaching turnover just before the season began to have a negative affect on the Cardinals.  Perhaps it has to a certain extent, but this still looks like an NCAA Tournament team.  They are 12-4 overall, and 2-1 in league play.  They are coming off a 73-69 victory at No. 23 Florida State.  That was a huge win for Louisville, as the Seminoles had won 28 straight home games.  The Hokies will have their hands full on Saturday.

G Quentin Snider (6-2, 175, Sr.): 12.2 ppg, team high 66 assists.  Snider is a veteran player who is a Louisville native. 

G VJ King (6-6, 199, So.): 8.9 ppg, 3.9 rpg.  King is a big guard who is taller than Virginia Tech’s backup center.

F Deng Adel (6-7, 200, Jr.): 15.1 ppg, 4.3 rpg.  Adel is Louisville’s top player.  He’s a big wing who is a threat from the inside and outside.

F Ray Spalding (6-10, 225, Jr.): 11.1 ppg, 9.3 rpg.  Another Louisville native, Spalding will give a small Virginia Tech team all sorts of trouble inside if Kerry Blackshear gets in foul trouble. 

C Anas Mahmoud (7-0, 215, Sr.): 8.1 ppg, 6.3 rpg.  Mahmoud has started 12 of Louisville’s 16 games, and he leads the team with 59 blocked shots.  He’s one of the best rim protectors the Hokies will see all season.  In fact, he has more blocked shots this season than Virginia Tech’s entire team (49).  

The Cardinals also have plenty of depth, with nine players having appeared in 14 or more games this season.  All nine played in their recent victory at Florida State.

Let’s take a closer look at Louisville statistically…

Offensive Efficiency: No. 94
Effective Field Goal %: No. 167
Total Rebound %: No. 108
Turnovers per Possession: No. 62
Defensive Efficiency: No. 23
Opp. Effective FG%: No. 7
Opp. Turnovers per Possession: No. 134

Defense is obviously Louisville’s strength.  They have a lot of long bodies that make it very difficult for opponents.  The Hokies are No. 2 nationally in effective field goal percentage, and No. 13 in offensive efficiency.  If the Wake Forest game was an indication that they are going to start shooting the ball well again, Virginia Tech vs. Louisville is a very interesting matchup from an offense vs. defense perspective.

This game shouldn’t be as high scoring as last season’s 94-90 shootout in the KFC Yum! Center that went Louisville’s way.  The Hokies were 17-of-26 (65.4%) from three-point range that day, and their 17 three-pointers broke the school record.  Seth Allen had 25 points, and Zach LeDay finished with 18, but it wasn’t enough.   An offensive explosion like that is unlikely for either team in this game, though we aren’t likely to see a game in the low 60s either.

Louisville comes into this game at No. 24 in the RPI.  They are the first of a series of very difficult opponents for the Hokies.  Up next are back-to-back home games against Florida State (No. 50) and North Carolina (No. 8), and then a road trip to Notre Dame (No. 41).  The Hokies don’t have a top 50 win to put on their resume as of yet, but they’ll have plenty of opportunities over the next two weeks.

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