TV: The ACC Network (Click here for coverage details)
Tonight Virginia Tech will look to complete the rare sweep of in-state rival UVA in men’s basketball. The Hokies defeated the then-#4 Hoos in Blacksburg 70-68 back on January 4. Now UVA is #7 in the country, 19-4 overall, and 8-3 in conference play. They’ll be looking for revenge when they host Tech in Charlottesville.
Tech has swept UVA twice since the Hokies joined the ACC. They first did it back in the 2007-08 season, beating the Hoos in two overtime games. They did it again in 2009, and again one of those wins was in overtime.
Early in ACC play, the Hoos were not playing good defense by Tony Bennett’s standards. That especially held true in road games. As a result, UVA lost three out of four games between January 4 at Virginia Tech and January 17 at Florida State.
However, they haven’t lost since. Virginia is on a 6-game winning streak, and they’ve played their best defense of the season in their last three contests.
at Louisville: 63-47 W
vs. Boston College: 61-47 W
at Pitt: 64-50 W
It’s hard to lose basketball games when you allow 50 points or fewer, and that’s what Bennett’s team has been able to do recently. Despite their early slump, they are still a strong contender in the ACC.
Here’s how the advanced stats look for UVA..
Offensive Efficiency: #10
Defensive Efficiency: #58
Offensive Rebound Rate: #138
Total Rebound Rate: #39
Turnovers per Possession: #21
Opp. Turnovers per Possession: #87
On the whole, UVA’s defense hasn’t been quite as good this year, though it’s been dominant over the last few games. Their offense doesn’t put up a ton of points, but they play at a slower pace, and they are very efficient. They also do a great job of protecting the ball. Their 16 turnovers (to VT’s eight) in their loss in Blacksburg was uncharacteristic, and ultimately the difference in the game.
Offensive Efficiency: #144
Defensive Efficiency: #135
Offensive Rebound Rate: #133
Total Rebound Rate: #189
Turnovers per Possession: #156
Opp. Turnovers per Possession: #156
In an odd twist, Virginia Tech keeps dropping in the efficiency ratings despite showing obvious growth as a team in the course of ACC play. At this point, I think we can throw some of the numbers out the window, as the Hokies seem ready to play almost every game despite what the matchups might indicate.
UVA lists the following probable starting lineup in their game notes…
G London Perrantes (6-2, 192, Jr.): 11.4 ppg, 91 assists, 52.9% 3-Pt.
G Malcolm Brogdon (6-5, 215, r-Sr.): 17.8 ppg, 4.5 rpg (19.8 ppg in ACC play)
G Devon Hall (6-5, 209, r-So.): 4.4 ppg, 4 TOs in last 189 minutes
F Anthony Gill (6-8, 230, r-Sr.): 14.2 ppg, 6.1 rpg, 58.6% from the field
F Isaiah Wilkins (6-7, 230, So.): 4.2 ppg, 3.7 rpg
Unlike most ACC teams, the Hoos won’t have a huge size advantage over the Hokies. Tech outscored UVA 26-22 in the paint in the first meeting, but it was points off turnovers that made the real difference, with the Hokies holding a 26-6 advantage.
Virginia Tech will have to play better defense this time around if they want a chance to pull the upset for the second time. With UVA’s defense cranking it up a notch over the last three games, it’s very unlikely that the Hokies will score 70 points this time around.
Turnovers could again be critical. In Tech’s five ACC wins, they are averaging just eight turnovers per game. They’ve turned the ball over eight times or fewer in four of those five wins. In their six ACC losses, they’ve averaged 14.3 turnovers per game. They’ve turned it over at least 11 times in all six losses. Considering the vast majority of Tech’s games are decided by 1-2 possessions, turnovers are obviously playing a huge role. If the Hokies can limit themselves to 10 or fewer turnovers in tonight’s game, they will give themselves a chance.