Virginia Tech will host their rival UVA in what will perhaps be the Hokies’ most pivotal game of the season. A win would mean the Hokies would elevate their conference record to 6-6, back on track to make the NCAA tournament, all while getting a quality win and knocking off their in-state rivals for the second straight year. However, a loss would drop the Hokies to 5-7 in the ACC, and increase the amount of pressure to get results over the course of the final few games.
Obviously, the Hokies have to do better than the last time they faced this team. The Cavaliers raced out to a 10-0 start and the Hokies’ first basket came after the first media timeout. When you play a team like Virginia that limits your opportunities, you cannot afford to trail by double digits and expect to win the game. Therefore, a good start will be imperative if the Hokies want to have success.
What went right?
What went wrong?
When you lose by 23, there are a number of things you can point to for the reasons you lost.
The offensive ineptitude led to a measly 48 points, the first time since 2014-15 the Hokies failed to score 50. Not surprisingly, that game was also against the ‘Hoos. The Hokies only shot 15% (3-20) from downtown, but they generated decent looks. They were just unable to knock them down.
The other disturbing part of the game was the rebounding disparity. Virginia outrebounded the Hokies 35-21 and nearly every possession, the Cavaliers were able to get second and third opportunities to score the basketball. The Hokies are at home so they should be better on the glass and they have to be. Allowing Virginia to accumulate offensive rebounds is like death by suffocation. It simply drains their opponents of energy because of their ability to use the entire shot clock and move the basketball. LeDay needs to have 8+ rebounds if the Hokies want to win this game.
Defensively, the Hokies allowed the ‘Hoos to score 1.14 points per possession. They were outworked in the paint and allowed too much dribble penetration as a result of shoddy on-ball defense. Against Miami, the Hokies looked much better in this regard. At home on a Sunday night, on primetime television, the Hokies’ energy levels should be better which should directly improve the defense.
What needs to happen?
The Hokies need better perimeter shooting in addition to winning the turnover battle to compensate for their inferiority on the glass. In the Hokies last win over Virginia, they were lights out, shooting the three ball at a 52.9% clip and won the turnover battle 16-8, which is unheard of when playing Virginia.
The Hokies could really use the return of Ahmed Hill’s confident shooting. Here’s a depressing stat for you: against Syracuse, the redshirt sophomore drained three triples. Since then (a span of seven games), Hill has made just three treys total. Buzz Williams is probably hoping Hill has just been saving it for this game specifically, because the Hokies are going to need him to perform at the level he was during the first portion of the season.
It is going to be deafening in the Cassell on Sunday night, and the Hokies are going to need to match the crowd’s energy with their own. The Hokies showed some fight at the end of the Miami game that hopefully showed how well they can perform if they knock down their open looks (and the other team misses some easy dunks). But I just cannot see the Hokies overcoming their rebounding deficiency with generating turnovers and their perimeter shooting to win this one. Virginia takes the season sweep, and the Hokies’ chances to go dancing are in real jeopardy come Monday morning.