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The Matchup: Virginia Tech vs Wake Forest

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The Hokies and the Demon Deacons meet for the first time this season, after the Hokies were able to knock them off in the ACC tournament last year. The Cassell will be a welcome sight for Virginia Tech after Duke demolished them in North Carolina over the weekend.

Michael Shroyer-USA TODAY Sports

After a lackluster performance at Duke, the Hokies look to rebound against a much easier opponent in Wake Forest. Virginia Tech returns home to take on a Demon Deacons side that has posted a 10-5 record, and is 1-2 in ACC play. If the Hokies win on Wednesday night, their 3-1 ACC start will match their best start in conference play since 2010.

Offensively, Wake Forest averages about the same amount of PPG as Virginia Tech. Their leading scorer, Devin Thomas, plays the same big man role of the Hokies’ leading scorer Zach LeDay. But while LeDay thrives on effort plays and offensive rebounds, Thomas’ game is reliant on the post game. He gets his 17 PPG on high efficiency shots, which is why he shoots 58.4% from the field. At 6-9, he loves spin moves out of the post, but also isn’t allergic to driving the ball to the rim, and shows nice touch for a big man. Wake Forest will most likely try to get him going early, and make Zach LeDay play defense in order to wear him out early. LeDay will have to fight Thomas for rebounds as well. Thomas averages more than 10 boards a game, and has the strength to be a bully down low. The Hokies got into early foul trouble, which ruined the gameplan for Buzz against Duke due to the Blue Devils’ aggressiveness. Expect a similar strategy from Wake Forest, but the Hokies should hold up much better against a less talented team.

As a team, Wake Forest has shot 44% from the field this season, which is about average in the country. It’s pretty much because outside of Devin Thomas, there isn’t too much firepower on the Demon Deacons’ roster. They do shoot about 20 three pointers a game, however. A good amount of those attempts will go to Bryant Crawford, who has been great this season, shooting 41.5% from deep. However, when he’s not in catch-and-shoot mode, he tends to be reckless with the basketball. Crawford has turned the ball over 3.5 times a game this season, so pressure defense on him should lead to open-court opportunities, which the Hokies have been excellent at exploiting. Another three-point shooter the Demon Deacons will try to involve is Konstantinos Mitoglou. At 6-10, he’s paired in the frontcourt with Thomas, but has good range and shoots the ball at a 39% clip from beyond the arc. His height gives him an advantage over smaller guards on the perimeter, but a mobile player with height like Kerry Blackshear Jr. shouldn’t have too much trouble defending him.

While Wake Forest won’t have too many reliable options on offense, Virginia Tech will. The Demon Deacons are near the bottom in scoring defense, allowing close to 78 PPG. To their defense, they have played the second hardest schedule in the country, but it’s hard to win when you can’t get stops on the defensive end. In recent games, Buzz has told his players to go into attack mode. They should have success doing so against Wake Forest, as teams make 50% of their 2-point opportunities. Virginia Tech has had most of their offensive success in transition off of turnovers, and Wake Forest has turned the ball over plenty. There should be a lot of plays that gets the Cassell crowd going in this one.

Seth Allen, Jalen Hudson, and Justin Robinson should be able to penetrate Wake Forest’s defense and get into the paint. But so far this season, the Hokies haven’t been composed in that position. Opponents have blocked the Hokies 80 times this season, which is in the top 10 in the country. Unfortunately for the Hokies, Wake Forest has above average shot blockers in Devin Thomas and John Collins. It would be great to see some off ball movements and vision from Virginia Tech to avoid blocks and run-out opportunities for their opponents.

Teams that have beat Wake Forest have not turned the ball over as well. The Duke game wasn’t good for the Hokies in that department, turning it over 14 times. Every opponent that has scored at least 80 against the Demon Deacons has turned it over 8 times or less. If Allen and Robinson can control their turnovers like they did against UVA, I don’t see any problems for the Hokies offense in this one. The good news is Wake Forest doesn’t do a great job forcing turnovers, so it won’t be too difficult.

Prediction:

Buzz is the type of coach that understands his players’ emotions. He understands the Duke loss disappointed every player on his team. He also understands that he still has a hungry group of guys that know they haven’t proved anything. I don’t think the Duke loss will have a carryover effect (especially because the UVA game didn’t either) for the Hokies. But for the love of God, can the Hokies shoot better than 10% from three-point range?

I think the Hokies get back to their relentless defensive ways at home, where they’ve been very good so far. But Wake Forest has the ability to hang around if you let them and snatch a win if you aren’t concentrating. That being said…

Hokies leave the Demon Deacons in their Wake, 80-74.