Virginia Tech vs. Virginia
No. 20 Virginia Tech will host No. 3 UVA in Cassell Coliseum for ESPN’s Big Monday. The Hokies will be looking to pick up their fourth Quadrant One win of the season, while the Hoos have the opportunity to further cement their case of being a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament for the second year in a row.
Virginia won the first matchup easily by a score of 81-59 back on January 15 in Charlottesville. This time the Hokies will get the Hoos at home, but they must face them without point guard Justin Robinson. Tech’s offense hasn’t run as well without Robinson on the court, and his absence will certainly be felt against Tony Bennett’s Pack Line defense.
Virginia is one of the most efficient teams in the country on both ends of the court. The Hoos rank No. 2 nationally in the Ken Pomeroy Index, behind only Duke, which happens to be UVA’s only two losses of the season. People generally think defense when thinking about a Tony Bennett team, but the numbers indicate that the Hoos are also one of the best offensive teams in the country.
Off. Efficiency (Pomeroy): No. 5
Eff. FG%: No. 30
TO Rate: No. 10
Off. Rebound%: No. 97
3-Pt.%: No. 6
Virginia Tech’s defensive strategy this season has been to keep the opposition out of the paint at all costs. That strategy has led to a lot of three-point attempts, though the Hokies have still managed to be a good defensive team. However, UVA is the type of team that can crush that strategy in an instant. They are shooting exactly 40% from the outside this season, and are 40.9% in ACC play.
The first meeting between the Hoos and the Hokies was over before it began. UVA was 13-of-24 (54.2%) from three-point range, and they were on fire in the first half, going 10-of-14 (71.4%) over the first 20 minutes of basketball. With Justin Robinson out, Virginia Tech must get off to a better start defensively, otherwise they’ll be out of the game very quickly yet again.
Defensively, UVA is just as dangerous…
Def. Efficiency (Pomeroy): No. 3
Eff. FG%: No. 5
Turnover Rate: No. 211
Opp. Off. Rebound%: No. 46
3-Pt.%: No. 2
The Hoos don’t force a lot of turnovers, but it’s extremely difficult to get a good shot against them. Opponents are shooting just 26.7% from three-point range against UVA. UVA’s defensive prowess even extends to the free throw line apparently, where opponents make just 64.2% of their shots.
Here is Virginia’s starting lineup from their most recent game, a 60-54 home victory over Notre Dame…
G Ty Jerome (6-5, 195, Jr.): 13 ppg, 5.1 apg. Jerome is a 42% shooter from the outside, and he’s crept his way up NBA Draft boards as a potential late first round pick.
G Kihei Clark (5-9, 155, Fr.): 4.3 ppg, 2.2 apg. Clark scored a career-high 12 points against Notre Dame. Though not a great fit for most teams because of his size, Tony Bennett identified Clark as someone who would be a good fit for his system, and it has worked out so far.
G Kyle Guy (6-2, 175, Jr.): 15.1 ppg, 4.3 rpg. Guy leads the team in scoring, and the former McDonald’s All-American is a 43.6% shooter from three-point range.
F DeAndre Hunter (6-7, 225, r-So.): 15 ppg, 5.5 rpg. The future first round draft pick is UVA’s best overall player. He’s a very difficult matchup because of his ability to score inside and outside. Hunter is a 46.3% shooter from the outside.
C Jack Salt (6-10, 250, r-Sr.): 4.5 ppg, 4.6 rpg. Salt isn’t a flashy player, but he’s a veteran in Tony Bennett’s scheme.
Bennett plays an 8-man rotation, with Braxton Key (6-8, 225, Jr.), Jay Huff (7-1, 232, r-So.) and Mamadi Diakite (6-9, 228, r-Jr.) coming off the bench. Tony Bennett doesn’t have great depth, but UVA is No. 353 nationally in adjusted tempo, so it doesn’t matter as much. Bennett would probably like to have a little more depth in the backcourt, but that hasn’t cost them up to this point.
If Virginia Tech pulls the upset on Monday night, they’ll keep pace with three other 4-loss teams in the ACC: Louisville (9-4), Florida State (8-4) and Syracuse (8-4). Those four teams are currently battling it out to determine who will get the No. 4 seed, and the fourth double-bye, in the ACC Tournament.