Game Preview: Virginia Tech, on eve of game at UVA, they’re good
It’s a passion for Scott. Everything about Virginia Tech rubs him the wrong way.
It’s a cow school that thinks it plays football and just had a losing season.
Its basketball program, meanwhile, is a joke.
They lost at Penn State, for chrissakes.
Top 10: ha! Buzz Williams can’t coach himself into wearing a decent sweater, much less coaching a team into winning a big game.
Here’s where I come in as the voice of reason.
Virginia Tech 61, UVA 60.
That was the final last February in JPJ, and it was no fluke.
Williams schemed his team into that huge W, going with a pack-it-in zone that had all five Hokie defenders with a foot in the paint, taking Virginia completely out of its motion offense, and forcing the ‘Hoos into hoisting an absurd 38 three-point shots, knocking down only 11 of them.
OK, so Tony Bennett has the game tape, and he and his staff can scheme around that. There was plenty of opportunity to alter the strategy in-game and at the half in the last meeting.
And who’s to say that Buzz doesn’t work a wrinkle or two in himself?
He has the best defensive group that he’s put on the floor at Virginia Tech. The Hokies rank 21st nationally in adjusted defensive efficiency, per KenPom.com, up from 70th in 2017-2018 and 156th two seasons ago.
And the offense is more productive as well, ranking eighth nationally, up from 28th last season.
The linchpin is Justin Robinson, the team’s third-leading scorer, at 13.1 points per game, but the 6’2” senior is the straw that stirs the drink for the Hokies offensively.
He averages 5.8 assists per game, and gets to the free-throw line for a team-best 4.7 attempts per game.
Now, I hate (there’s that word again) the way he plays, flopping around like a fish out of water to draw often-phantom fouls on haphazard dribble-drives and drawing charges on the defensive end, but, he gets the calls, and I can only imagine that coaches are in regular contact with the league office about his antics, and however this can be the case, they have been determined to pass muster.
The guy with the numbers for Tech is 6’5” sophomore Nickeil Alexander-Walker, who leads the Hokies in scoring, at 17.8 points per game, shooting 54.6 percent from the field, and 42.4 percent from three-point range, on 4.2 three-point attempts per game.
Alexander-Walker is also the team’s best-rated defender, with an 84.6 defensive rating, per Sports-Reference.com.
You might remember 6’10” junior Kerry Blackshear, the guy who scored the game-winner in JPJ with six seconds left in OT.
Blackshear is a solid college post player, averaging 14.1 points and 6.2 rebounds per game, shooting 54.2 percent from the floor.
One other Hokie, 6’5” senior Ahmed Hill, averages double-digits in scoring – 12.7 points per game, shooting a cool 44.8 percent from three-point range.
This is a team that can shoot – the Hokies are third nationally in three-point shooting, at 42.3 percent – can defend, and it isn’t scared of the task ahead of it.
A good part of the battle of facing UVA at JPJ – where the ‘Hoos have a 100-10 record since the start of the 2012-2013 season – is thinking you have any kind of chance to win.
This Hokies group knows it can win in JPJ, and that the pressure is on the home team in this one, with last year’s loss hanging over its head, and the big game with Duke on the schedule this weekend also sitting out there.
Which is why I have to say to my buddy Scott: sorry, man, but this one is going to be a game.
Column by Chris Graham