Date: Tuesday, January 27
The Hokies host Pitt on Tuesday night, and they are looking to get in the win column for the first time in the year 2015.
Pitt is 13-7 and 3-4 in the ACC. The Panthers aren’t quite as good as they usually are, and this isn’t likely to be an NCAA Tournament team. They went 0-2 this past week, but the losses were to Duke and Louisville. They are also just 1-5 on the road this year, with their lone win coming by one point in overtime against Boston College. The Hokies have a chance to pull the upset.
Pitt’s projected starting lineup looks like this:
G James Robinson (6-3, 198, Jr.): 10.1 ppg, 3.6 rpg, team-high 95 assists, team-high 23 steals. Robinson is a very experienced guard who has started 88 of 89 career games at Pitt. He isn’t a particularly good shooter (37.7% from the field and 26.4% from the outside), but he’s excellent at the free throw line (84.4%) and he knows how to run this Pitt offense.
G Cameron Wright (6-5, 205, r-Sr.): 8.8 ppg, 3.3 rpg, Wright isn’t flashy, nor is he a good shooter. However, he has a very high IQ, both on and off the court. He was last year’s ACC Scholar Athlete of the Year. He stared 36 games last year for the Panthers.
G/F Chris Jones (6-6, 213, r-So.): 9.1 ppg, 3 rpg. Jones has made 25 three-pointers (35.7%) this year, which is tops on a team that doesn’t rely on the three-pointer to score points.
F Jamel Artis (6-7, 220, So.): 10.9 ppg, 5.2 rpg. Artis is Pitt’s undersized power forward. He is averaging 18 points over his last four games. Artis is an effective three-point shooter at 37.2%, and he is deadly from the free-throw line at 85%.
F Michael Young (6-9, 235, So.): 13.6 ppg, 7.7 rpg. Young has scored in double figures in 11 of his last 12 games. He’s a 71% free throw shooter, and he has blocked 17 shots on the year.
This Pitt team doesn’t feature the size on the inside of most Pitt teams, and that has hurt them. Though Artis and Young are playing well, the Panthers don’t have any other post threats on their roster, and they don’t shoot it particularly well from the outside (32.4%, eighth in the ACC).
Pitt is a team that relies on scoring from inside the arc and getting to the free throw line. In fact, they are the polar opposite of the Hokies in three-point shooting and free throw shooting.
3Pt: VT 131-of-341 for 38.4%, Pitt 90-of-278 for 32.4%
FT: VT 209-of-347 for 60.2%), Pitt 284-of-396 for 71.7%
It’s mystifying that a team (VT) that can shoot nearly 40% from the outside can barely hit 60% of their shots from the free throw line. Adam Smith is a 43.3% three-point shooter, but only a 69.2% free throw shooter.
Meanwhile, the Panthers might not be anything special from the outside, but they convert a very high percentage of their free throw attempts, which helps their points per possession. The Hokies need to deny the ball and keep Pitt on the perimeter.
Here are the advanced stats:
Offensive efficiency: VT #169, Pitt #71
Defensive efficiency: VT #199, Pitt #195
Rebounding rate: VT #328, Pitt #133
Turnovers per possession: VT #170, Pitt #19
Opp. Turnovers per possession: VT #101, Pitt #216
This game, like all of Tech’s games it seems, should come down to possessions. The Hokies nearly beat UVA, and they would have, had they not been crushed in scoring opportunities. The Hoos had 12 offensive rebounds to just one for the Hokies (+11 for UVA), and they were also +1 in turnover margin. That gave UVA a total of 12 more chances to score. They wound up taking seven more shots than the Hokies (49-42) and five more free throws (12-7).
In two other close or relatively close ACC games, it was the same story:
Syracuse: +4 in offense rebounds, +3 in turnovers, a total of seven more chances to score for Syracuse. The Orange won by two points and outshot Tech 59-56 from the field and 28-17 from the line.
UNC: +12 in offensive rebounds, -3 in turnovers, a totally of nine more chances to score for UNC. The Heels won by 15 and outshot VT 59-53 from the field and 17-11 from the line.
Overall in conference play, the Hokies have been outshot 343-331 from the field and 120-86 from the line.
This is the ACC, where there is not much margin for error for even the best teams in the league. The Hokies have to find a way to do a little better on the boards, and they have to be better in the turnover game. If they can give themselves more scoring opportunities than the opposition, they’ll have a much better chance to win.