Hokies Face a Tough Matchup with #17 West Virginia

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Buzz Williams
Down yet another key wing, Buzz Williams must figure out a way to beat West Virginia’s press.

Date: Wednesday, December 30
Time: Noon
TV: ESPNU

Virginia Tech (8-4) faces and extremely difficult challenge on Wednesday afternoon when #17 West Virginia visits Cassell Coliseum for a sold out game. The Mountaineers are 10-1 on the season, and they crushed the Hokies 82-51 in Morgantown a year ago.

The only way to beat West Virginia is to handle their fullcourt press and their traps. The Hokies won’t play a team this year that puts more pressure on the ball than the Mountaineers. Unfortunately, this will be a tough matchup for the home team. Two stats sum it up…

Turnovers per possession: VT is #187 out of 351 teams
Opp. Turnovers per possession: WVU is #1 out of 351 teams

No team in the entire country does a better job of forcing turnovers than West Virginia. Meanwhile, Virginia Tech is middle of the pack in turnovers despite playing the 341st (out of 351 teams) toughest schedule in the country over their first eight games.  The Hokies don’t have many guys (if any) who are very strong with the ball, and that makes WVU a very bad matchup.

Last season, Virginia Tech went up to Morgantown with a very young basketball team, and they were annihilated by West Virginia’s fullcourt pressure defense. Take a look at the assist-to-turnover ratio for some of Tech’s key players in that game…

Devin Wilson: 0 assists, 3 turnovers
Justin Bibbs: 4 assists, 8 turnovers
Adam Smith: 1 assist, 6 turnovers
Jalen Hudson: 0 assists, 3 turnovers

Malik Mueller (1 assists, 1 TO), Will Johnson (1 assist, 0 TOs) and Ahmed Hill (2 assists, 2 TOs) handled things pretty well, but none of those guys will be suiting up for the Hokies tomorrow. Three guys who really struggled – Wilson, Bibbs and Hudson – will all be starting, and they’ll all have to play a lot better than they did against the Mountaineers last season.

Check out West Virginia’s leaders in steals…

Jevon Carter: 25
Tarik Phillip: 22
Daxter Miles, Jr.: 22
Esa Ahmad: 15
Jaysean Paige: 15
Jonathan Holton: 13

Chris Clarke and Jalen Hudson lead Virginia Tech with 12 steals, while nobody else has more than nine. This is obviously a contrast in styles. How the Hokies handle West Virginia’s pressure will determine whether or not they have a chance to win this basketball game.

The other thing Tech must do is keep West Virginia off the offensive glass. The Hokies are an impressive #21 nationally in offensive rebound rate (37.1%). However, the Mountaineers are #1 (47.4%). They are rebounding nearly half of their own missed shots, and creating a ton of second chance opportunities.

However, like Virginia Tech, West Virginia has not faced a tough schedule. Ken Pomeroy ranks their schedule #315 out of 351. The best team they faced was UVA, who handled them by 16 points after WVU got off to a hot start. Also, this will be West Virginia’s first true road game of the season. They played James Madison and Marshall in Charleston, WV, Richmond and San Diego State in Las Vegas, and UVA in New York. They have not played a game on another team’s home court.

Keep an eye on two things during this game: second chance points, and points off turnovers. If the Hokies can keep it close in those two statistics, they’ll have a chance to pull the upset.

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