Hokies Host Northwestern in Big Ten/ACC Challenge

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Former Hokie Joey van Zegeren will play for Northwestern tonight.
Former Hokie Joey van Zegeren will play for Northwestern tonight.

Virginia Tech will face the Northwestern Wildcats in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge on Tuesday night. The challenge is currently in a 1-1 tie, with Minnesota beating Clemson, and Wake Forest knocking off Rutgers. The Hokies hope to do their part for their conference tonight.

Northwestern is coached by Chris Collins, a long time assistant at Duke. Collins went 14-19 in his first season, and 15-17 last year. He is off to a 5-1 start in 2015-16, and appears to have the best team of his tenure. Still, the Wildcats were picked to finish near the bottom of the Big Ten, just as the Hokies were predicted to finish near the bottom of the ACC.

Here’s what Northwestern has done so far this season…

UMass-Lowell: 79-57 W
Fairfield: 79-72 W
Columbia: 83-80 W
UNC: 80-69 L
Missouri: 67-62 W
New Orleans: 90-63 W

As of yesterday, Northwestern is ranked #54 in the RPI with a strength of schedule of #112. Virginia Tech is #193, with a strength of schedule of #237. However, it’s still early (Arkansas-Little Rock is #1 in the RPI, per RealTimeRPI.com), and RPI doesn’t mean very much right now.

Here’s a look at their starting lineup…

G Bryant McIntosh (6-3, 185, So.): 17.3 ppg, 52% three-point range, 37 assists
G Tre Demps (6-3, 202, r-Sr.): 16 ppg, 22 assists
F Sanjay Lumpkin (6-6, 220, r-Jr.): 3.8 ppg, 5.2 rpg
F Aaron Falzon (6-8, 213, Fr.): 8.7 ppg, 3.2 rpg
C Alex Olah (7-0, 275, Sr.): 10.3 ppg, 7 rpb

The Wildcats also have some experienced and productive players coming off their bench…

Scottie Lindsey (6-5, 205, So.): 9.2 ppg, 45.8% three-point range
Gavin Skelly (6-8, 225, So.): 5.5 ppg, 5 rpg

They also have former Virginia Tech center Joey van Zegeren providing depth in the post. Though he doesn’t play nearly as much at Northwestern as he did in Blacksburg (13.2 mpg this year), he still provides valuable size. He’s averaging 3.8 ppg and 3.7 rpg through the first six games of the season. He’s blocked five shots, which is second on the team.

Both teams have played six games, so let’s get a quick statistical comparison, first with Northwestern…

Offensive Efficiency: #49
Defensive Efficiency: #144
Effective FG%: #31
Offensive Reb. %: #196
Defensive Reb. %: #122
Total Reb. Rate: #135
Turnovers per Offensive Play: #116

The Wildcats are a solid offensive team. However, they appear to be mediocre defensively, as well as on the boards. Let’s see where the Hokies rank…

Offensive Efficiency: #95
Defensive Efficiency: #109
Effective FG%: #153
Offensive Reb. %: #12
Defensive Reb. %: #104
Total Reb. Rate: #22
Turnovers per Offensive Play: #215

The Hokies aren’t as efficient offensively as Northwestern, and they turn the ball over more, but they are a much better rebounding team. Offensive rebounding will be critical in this game. Chris Collins will stress to his team that they have to block out Zach LeDay (10 rpg) and Chris Clarke (8.2 rpg).

Keeping Virginia Tech off the free throw line will be key for Northwestern. Check out these free throw stats for the Hokies this year, and keep in mind that they are national stats, not just ACC stats…

Free throws attempted per game: #1
Free throws made per game: #4
Free throws attempted per field goal attempted: #1
Free throws made per 100 possessions: #3
Free throws attempted per offensive play: #1

If the Hokies could shoot a better than 63.8% from the line, then they obviously could do a lot of damage from the charity stripe.

On the whole, tonight’s game seems to be a pretty even matchup.

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