Coming off a blowout win, Virginia Tech (5-3) visits nearby Radford to take on the Radford Highlanders (5-4). The Hokies lost to Radford at home last season, in a game where the Hokies did not play well defensively. But it’s a new season as the Hokies look to redeem themselves and build off a dominant performance against Arkansas Pine-Bluff.
For Virginia Tech, smothering Radford’s offense isn’t exactly the most difficult task in the world. The Highlanders enter the game averaging just 68.7 PPG, which ranks 227th in the country. Their best output was 82 points against Georgetown, but it took double overtime to get there. Radford doesn’t do a great job sharing the ball well either, averaging 12 APG as a team which ranks 260th in the country. Their shooting percentage is subpar at 45%. Virginia Tech won’t have to shut down the team of Radford, but they will have to deal with an above average backcourt duo of Rashun Davis and Cameron Jones.
Rashun Davis is a good scorer, leading the team with nearly 15 PPG. But he excels at finding open teammates. Although his 5.6 assists a game isn’t an eye-popping number, it’s more a product of Radford’s poor shooting than his ability to facilitate on offense. Davis actually assists on 38% of his teammates field goals while he’s on the floor, which shows Radford’s lack of players who can create for others off the dribble. If Seth Allen, Justin Robinson, and Devin Wilson (depending on how much playing time he gets) can do an effective job pressuring Davis into giving up the ball sooner than he wants to, the Hokies should have no issue shutting down Radford. In addition, Davis is listed at just 5-11, so the Hokies can use their length to possibly disrupt passing lanes and make life even more difficult for the Highlanders’ best player.
Davis’ sidekick, Cameron Jones, is Radford’s main perimeter threat. He loves the three point shot. In fact, 55% of Jones’ field goal attempts come from the beyond the arc. The sharpshooter drains more than 41% of his threes, making him a constant threat on offense, regardless if he has the ball or not. The intensity of how the Hokies close out and contest his shots will be coaching point this week, because Jones could keep Radford in this game if his three point shot falls at a consistent rate, which is possible if he continually gets open looks. As good as Jones is shooting the three pointer, the rest of Radford isn’t. They make just over 31% of their three point field goals, meaning that the Hokies shouldn’t have to worry too much if someone besides Jones has the ball behind the arc.
The rest of Radford’s offense is mediocre at best. Ed Polite Jr. is a talented freshman putting up about 10 PPG, but Chris Clarke shouldn’t have too many issues guarding him. The Hokies would also be wise to foul anybody driving into the paint. If Virginia Tech could rebuild Cassell with the amount of bricks they’ve put up at the charity stripe, the Highlanders could probably rebuild the Empire State Building. Radford only converts 62.2% of their free throw opportunities, which ranks 318th in the nation. Yikes.
Offensively, the Hokies haven’t been flawless this season to say the least. Ball movement has been nonexistent for stretches, which has led to a shortage of open looks, and their shooting percentage hasn’t been great as a result. Although Radford has only been average defensively, it won’t be easy to score on them. Opponents make just 30% of three point shots against the Highlanders. They do a tremendous job crowding shooters and not giving them space. It will be a great test for Justin Bibbs, who has a phenomenal 65.5% conversion rate from downtown.
Since perimeter defense is a strength for Radford, the Hokies will have to get most of their points from the interior (which they’ve been doing). LeDay and company should be able to get "dirty" buckets down low because Radford lacks great athleticism or size (Radford’s tallest player is just 6-8) in the interior. Offensive rebounding and putbacks will once again be a large contributor to the Hokies’ side of the scoreboard. Driving into the paint and getting to the free throw line has been a consistent option for the Hokies all season, as they rank 1st in the country in free throw attempts. However, it would be nice to see someone step up (paging Seth Allen) and kick the ball out once the defense collapses to generate better looks from the perimeter, which is something the Hokies will need to do during conference play.
One thing the Hokies need to cut down on is turnovers. They’ve only turned it over less than 15 times thrice this season, and they rank 270th in the country in fewest turnovers. Part of that is due to having such a young team, but it still needs to be cleaned up. It may not necessarily be the most important aspects of this game, but ACC opponents will feast on that, and the Hokies don’t create enough turnovers on defense to counter their poor turnover percentage.
Overall, Virginia Tech is more talented on both sides of the ball. However, Radford has the ability to sneakily stay in the game and pull off an upset at the end if the Hokies have too many mental errors.
Although the Hokies point production has been there, the offense isn’t humming quite yet. But I think this is the game where they show a little more firepower. I expect the typical big game in terms of points/rebounding from Zach LeDay because of the clear advantage in the interior. I can see Jalen Hudson also having a nice performance off the bench. Ball movement will show an improvement as the offense shows a semblance of drive-and-dish game. And I think Radford’s offense will have a lot of problems against a lengthier Hokies’ defense. Buzz will have his boys ready for this one.
Virginia Tech avenges their loss against Radford last season, winning 76-67.