Virginia Tech (17-7, 6-5) vs. No. 2 Virginia (23-1, 12-0)
Time: 6:15 p.m.
Virginia Tech was defeated by then-No. 8 Virginia 78-52 in Cassell Coliseum back on Jan. 3, as the Hokies got off to a tough 0-2 start in ACC play. Tech has gone 6-3 in the ACC since that date, and meanwhile the Hoos have done nothing but get better. They enter tonight’s matchup ranked No. 2 in the polls, and a victory over their in-state rival would see them climb to No. 1, thanks to Villanova’s midweek loss to St. John’s.
All Tech fans were disappointed in the result of the first meeting. A loss was no surprise, but the Hokies had beaten UVA in Cassell Coliseum in each of the past two seasons, and a 26-point home loss to UVA is not something that the fanbase takes lightly. Nobody realized quite how good UVA was at the time, but Tech is expected to perform better on Saturday night, even if the game is on the road.
Let’s take a quick look at Virginia’s efficiency ratings and their shooting numbers on both ends of the court.
Offensive Efficiency: No. 49
Effective Field Goal %: No. 76
Defensive Efficiency: No. 2
Effective Field Goal % Defense: No. 3
The only team in the country who can make a valid argument for being better than UVA defensively is Cincinnati. The Bearcats rank No. 1 in the country in defensive efficiency and effective field goal percentage defense. However, UVA ranks No. 2 and No. 3 respectively in those two rankings while facing an ACC schedule, and that’s no easy task.
Not only are the Hoos a perfect 12-0 in the ACC, but many of their victories have not been particularly close. Eight of those 12 wins have come by double-digits, and the Hokies can take solace in the fact that they haven’t been the only team to be embarrassed by UVA. They also beat No. 16 Clemson 61-36 in a game that was non-competitive, and they easily handled Syracuse 59-44 in the Carrier Dome two games ago.
Only three teams have posed a real threat to Tony Bennett’s team. They narrowly defeated Boston College 59-58 in their first ACC game of the season, they beat Duke 65-63 in Durham, and Florida State led for much of this past Wednesday’s game before Virginia rallied to beat the Seminoles 59-54.
The key for Virginia Tech in this game is to not get frustrated by Virginia’s pace. The Hoos average 62.9 possessions per game, which ranks No. 351 out of 351 Division I teams. The Hokies average 74.2 possessions per game, which ranks No. 65 nationally. Tech is much more comfortable in an up and down game, but it’s very unlikely that they’ll be able to play such a game against the Hoos.
Virginia does not need much depth while playing at such a pace. They only played eight players in their most recent win over Florida State, and only seven in their victory at the Carrier Dome. Here is their projected starting lineup…
G Devon Hall (6-foot-5, 211 pounds, r-Sr.): Averaging 12.3 points per game and 4.1 rebounds per game. Hall leads the ACC in assist-to-turnover ration at 3.26.
G Kyle Guy (6-foot-2, 175 pounds, So.): Averaging 15.5 ppg and 2.3 rpg. Guy is a merciless three-point shooter who can knock down shots from the outside even when well-defended.
G Ty Jerome (6-foot-5, 200 pounds, So.): Averaging 9.8 ppg and 3.7 assists per game. Jerome leads the team with 88 assists.
F Isaiah Wilkins (6-foot-7, 227 pounds, Sr.): Averaging 6.0 ppg and 6.6 rpg. Wilkins doesn’t put up flashy numbers, but he’s a standout defender on a team that plays standout defense.
C Jack Salt (6-foot-10, 254 pounds, r-Jr.): Averaging 3.4 ppg and 3.9 rpg. The New Zealand native plays 20.4 minutes per game.
Perimeter defense has been a big issue for the Hokies this year, and they’ll have to dig in deep to stop UVA’s three-point attack. Check out the following three-point numbers…
Kyle Guy: 66-of-163 (40.5 percent)
Devon Hall: 41-of-90 (45.6 percent)
Ty Jerome: 41-of-98 (41.8 percent)
Those three guys are deadly from the outside, and as a team UVA went 12-of-25 (48 percent) from three-point range against Virginia Tech in the first meeting.
Virginia Tech will have to play extremely well to have a chance to beat UVA on the road. ESPN’s College Gameday is in town, and the Cavaliers know that if they beat the Hokies they’ll rise to No. 1 in the rankings and inch ever so closer to the No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA Tournament. However, an upset win would give Tech a big boost in the computer rankings and give them a much better shot of meeting their goal of making their second consecutive NCAA Tournament.