No. 4 Seed Virginia Tech vs. No. 13 Seed Saint Louis
NCAA Tournament, San Jose, CA
Date: Friday, March 22, 2019
Time: Approx. 9:57pm
No. 4 seed Virginia Tech (24-8) will take on No. 13 seed Saint Louis (23-12) tonight from the SAP Center in San Jose, CA. The Hokies will be looking to advance in the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2007 when as a No. 5 seed they defeated No. 12 seed Illinois in the opening round in Columbus, OH.
Saint Louis is coached by former Oklahoma State coach Travis Ford, who oddly is 0-3 in his career against Seth Greenberg and James Johnson, but 1-0 against Buzz Williams. Saint Louis upset the Hokies 77-71 in Madison Square Garden on Nov. 16, 2017, and though Tech rallied to make the NCAA Tournament, Buzz Williams wasn’t happy with the way his team performed that night.
“I thought we were very much fraudulent in what we want to be about, as a team and as a program,” Williams said on the radio following that game.
Saint Louis consistently got the ball in the paint against the Hokies, and scored 77 points despite shooting just 4-of-18 (22.2%) from three-point range. They did a lot of damage around the basket.
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This year will be a different matchup. Virginia Tech has been outstanding at preventing the opposition from getting the ball around the basket this season, and they’ve outscored nearly every opponent they’ve faced in the paint. As they’ve done against every other team they’ve faced this year, Tech will look to force the Billikens into taking contested three-pointers, and that’s a strategy that will likely work.
Take a look Saint Louis’s offensive numbers this year…
Offensive Efficiency (Pomeroy): No. 202
Effective FG%: No. 322
Offensive Rebound Rate: No. 13
3-Pt. %: No. 327
2-Pt. %: No. 285
FT %: No. 352
Turnover rate: No. 214
Not very many teams shoot the ball worse than Saint Louis, who (for example) hit just 59.8% of their free throw attempts. This is a physically tough team that plays strong defense and rebounds well offensively, but their skill level on the offensive end is extremely limited.
They’ve been able to make up for it on the defensive end…
Defensive Efficiency (Pomeroy): No. 46
Effective FG%: No. 26
Opp. Offensive Rebound Rate: No. 51
3-Pt. %: No. 32
2-Pt. %: No. 48
Turnover rate: No. 117
Points probably won’t be easy to come by for Virginia Tech, though they’ve shown in recent weeks that they are comfortable playing a slower tempo game.
This is a Saint Louis team that was 19-12 overall, 10-8 in the Atlantic 10 and the No. 6 seed in the A-10 Tournament. They got on a hot run and won that tournament to earn the automatic bid to the Big Dance. Their 4-game run in the tournament was impressive. At the same time, they also lost four consecutive games to Duquesne, Davidson, Richmond and Rhode Island at one point. Any team you face in the NCAA Tournament is dangerous, but there’s a reason the Hokies are 10.5 point favorites.
Here’s a look at the projected starting lineup for the Billikens…
G Jordan Goodwin (6-3, 210, So.): 10.6 ppg, 7.5 rpg, 123 assists. Goodwin is a physical player and a top notch rebounder as a guard. However, he’s not particularly skilled, shooting just 26.9% from the outside and 51.4% from the free throw line.
G Javon Bess (6-6, 220, Sr.): 15.3 ppg, 6.7 rpg. Bess is his team’s top scorer. He is a transfer from Michigan State. He’s not the most efficient offensive player at times, as he shoots just under 40% from the field and 33.2% from the outside.
F DJ Foreman (6-8, 240, Sr.): 5.9 ppg, 4.3 rpg. Foreman is the only Saint Louis starter who plays fewer than 30 minutes per game.
F Hasahn French (6-7, 235, So.): 9.3 ppg, 8.4 rpg. French is a undersized guy in the paint. The Hokies shouldn’t be afraid to foul him, as he’s just a 34.6% free throw shooter. He hasn’t attempted a three-pointer all season.
Like the Hokies, the Billikens aren’t blessed with a tremendous amount of depth, which made their Atlantic 10 Tournament run all the more unlikely. They played only seven players in the Atlantic-10 Championship Game against St. Bonaventure.
The key for Virginia Tech for this game is to continue to do what they’ve been doing all year defensively, which is keep the ball out of the paint, and to match the intensity level of Saint Louis. The Billikens are a gritty team that wins because of toughness and strong defense. The Hokies are the much more skilled team, and if they match the toughness of Saint Louis, then this is a game they should win, especially if Justin Robinson is able to play effectively.
If the Hokies do win, they’ll face either No. 5 seed Mississippi State or No. 12 seed Liberty on Sunday.