Date: Tuesday, December 30
The Hokies will face one of their toughest challenges of the season when they travel to Morgantown to take on #15 West Virginia on Tuesday afternoon.
The Mountaineers are 11-1 on the season, with their only loss coming to LSU in a 74-73 nail biter. They have defeated two ACC opponents (NC State 83-69 and BC 70-66), and this looks like a definite NCAA Tournament team.
The Hokies upset WVU 87-82 in Cassell Coliseum last season, and fell to the Mountaineers on a last second shot on the road two years ago. Bob Huggins and Buzz Williams are very familiar with each other from Buzz’s days at Marquette.
Here’s a look at West Virginia’s starting lineup…
G Juwan Staten (6-1, 190, Sr.): 15.9 ppg, 51 assists, 19 steals
G Jaysean Paige (6-2, 200, Jr.): 6.6 ppg, 48.3% three-point shooter
G Daxter Miles, Jr. (6-3, 185, Fr.): 6.5 ppg
F Jonathan Holton (6-7, 220, Jr.): 11.4 ppg, 7.3 rpg, 21 steals, 16 blocks
F Devin Williams (6-9, 255, So.): 10.2 ppg, 6.9 rpg
West Virginia’s starting lineup isn’t that different than Tech’s. The Mountaineers start one true big man, three guards, and one undersized power forward. However, they are more experienced and are a much better rebounding team overall, as we’ll see later. Depth is also not an issue, as 10 players play at least 13 minutes per game.
WVU doesn’t shoot it particularly well, with just a 42.3% clip from the field and 30.1% rate from three-point range. They are also just 66.7% from the free throw line. Contrast that with Tech’s numbers…
Considering Tech’s field goal and three-point percentages, I expect their free throw percentage to rise as the season goes on, though Joey van Zegeren could certainly hold it back as well.
However, West Virginia’s floor percentage (the fraction of a team’s possessions on which they score a point) is 53%, which is good for #19 in the country. They are 19th nationally in free throws attempted per game, and even though they don’t shoot a particularly high percentage, that drives up their total number of possessions that result in points.
In short, West Virginia is a very similar basketball team to what Buzz Williams was used to coaching at Marquette: tough, perhaps a little undersized, and they get to the free throw line a lot.
Here are some more of WVU’s advanced stats…
Offensive efficiency: #37
Defensive efficiency: #14
Rebound rate: #56
Compare that with the Hokies…
Offensive efficiency: #80
Defensive efficiency: #83
Rebound rate: #201
Virginia Tech is perhaps further along than they should be offensively and defensively. Those offensive numbers would be a bit better if they could make free throws, and the defensive numbers would be higher if they could defensive rebound. I like the core of this team for the future, but it’s obvious where the weaknesses are at this specific stage of the developmental process.
Unfortunately, West Virginia just isn’t a particularly good matchup. The Mountaineers are really physical and tough, and Bob Huggins is going to gameplan to stop penetration and limit paint touches. I’m not sure a young Hokie team will respond well to West Virginia’s physical style, not to mention their experience level. WVU has also forced 274 turnovers this season, and that is something Tech will need to avoid.