Date: Thursday, January 22
Notes: Justin Bibbs (concussion) and Joey van Zegeren (suspension) are expected to miss this game.
Even though the Hokies are finally back home, things aren’t getting any easier. #8 Notre Dame comes to town for a 7pm tipoff tonight, and the Irish are one of the best teams in the country.
After facing then-#6 Louisville and #15 North Carolina in back-to-back road games, Tech now gets #8 Notre Dame and #2 UVA in back-to-back home games. The front end of VT’s ACC schedule couldn’t possibly be much harder.
The Irish are 17-2 and 5-1 in the ACC. Their only losses have come 75-74 to Providence (who is 14-5) and 62-56 to undefeated UVA. They are undefeated on the road, and they will bring a very experienced and talented group of starters to Cassell Coliseum.
Here’s a glance at Notre Dame’s projected starters.
G Demetrius Jackson (6-1, 198, So.): 13.6 ppg, 3.4 rpg, 3.3 apg. Jackson is a 41.7% three-point shooter, and he leads the team with 39 steals.
G Jerian Grant (6-5, 204, Sr.): 16.7 ppg, 2.8 rpg, 6.4 apg. Though he’s not a point guard, Grant still leads the ACC in assists. He is Notre Dame’s top scorer, and they are a much better team with him in the lineup. They struggled last season following his suspension.
G Steve Vasturia (6-5, 211, So.): 8.7 ppg, 3.4 rpg, 1.8 apg. Vasturia is a 38.8% shooter from three-point range.
G/F Pat Connaughton (6-5, 218, Sr.): 13.8 ppg, 8.3 rpg, 1.6 apg. Connaughton is one of the toughest and most experienced players in the ACC. Despite his lack of height, he averages 8.3 rebounds per game, and he is also a very good scorer. He shoots 43.6% from three-point range, and is arguably the most underrated player in the ACC.
F Zach Auguste (6-10, 242, Jr.): 13.7 ppg, 6.2 rpg. Auguste is Notre Dame’s only true post threat, though he is a good one. He is shooting 64.7% from the field.
Like the Hokies, Notre Dame employs a four-guard lineup. Like the Hokies, Notre Dame shoots the ball well. However, as good as Tech has been shooting it, the Irish are even better.
FG%: VT 46.3%, Notre Dame 52.8%
3Pt%: VT 39.9%, Notre Dame 40.1%
Those numbers are very impressive.
The one thing the Irish lack is depth. Four of their five starters play 30+ minutes per game, and three of the five play 33+ minutes per game. Of all the backups, only VJ Beachum (6-8, 200, So.) plays more than 9.9 minutes per game. However, that lack of depth hasn’t seemed to hurt the Irish so far. They are rolling, and they will compete for a very high seed in the NCAA Tournament.
Let’s get a further comparison of those teams by using advanced stats:
Offensive Efficiency: VT #135, ND #1
Defensive Efficiency: VT #185, ND #78
Rebounding Rate: VT #319, ND #100
Turnovers per possession: VT #168, ND #2
Opponent TOs per possession: VT #74, ND #265
The Irish are #1 in the country in offensive efficiency, and that gets back to turnovers, where they are #2 on the offensive end. When you don’t turn the ball over and you shoot over 50% from the field, you are going to score a lot of points.
Notre Dame’s defense is also 100 spots higher than Virginia Tech, and their rebounding is 219 spots higher. The Hokies need to have a hot shooting night, and they need to find a way to win the turnover battle.