Home Preview: Virginia has tough road test at Virginia Tech on Big Monday

Preview: Virginia has tough road test at Virginia Tech on Big Monday

Chris Graham
uva jordan minor virginia tech
Jordan Minor. Photo: Mike Ingalls/AFP

Virginia Tech fans only really get up for three home basketball games. Virginia is one of those three.

Cassell Coliseum, most nights, is a building that could be a tough place for visiting teams, but isn’t, but when the in-state ACC rivals are in town, it lives up to its promise.

“It’s a quick turnaround, and you know, it’s hard to play in that environment,” said senior point guard Reece Beekman, who is 0-3 at the Cassell, the losses coming to an average of 10 points per.

And this is with UVA winning ACC regular-season titles in two of Beekman’s three years, so, yeah.

Cassell, which opened in 1962, is a bandbox, seating just 8,925, but all 8,925 – when the place is full, anyway – seem to be hanging over the court, particularly on the end nearest the visiting-team bench, where the opponents have to play offense in the second half.

The Hokies, in the here and now, are well on the outside looking in with respect to the NCAA Tournament bubble, sitting at 14-11 overall, 6-8 in the ACC, heading into the Big Monday matchup (7 p.m. ET, ESPN).

Even so, this is a sneaky-good Tech team, with a veteran core that was around for the magical 2022 ACC Tournament championship run.


Seems a good time to break down the Virginia Tech rotation for the second game in the home-and-home – Virginia won the first game, 65-57, in JPJ back on Jan. 17.

The backcourt guys are the focal points of the defensive game plan – 6’1” junior Sean Pedulla (15.5 ppg, 4.5 assists/g, 39.9% FG, 35.2% 3FG) and 6’3” grad senior Hunter Cattoor (14.3 ppg, 47.7% FG, 42.7% 3FG).

Pedulla had 18 points and five assists in the loss in Charlottesville, but was just 6-of-16 from the floor, and had seven turnovers.

Cattoor had a quiet 12 points on 5-of-10 shooting in the loss.

6’10” senior Lynn Kidd (12.9 ppg, 6.6 rebs/g, 64.3% FG) was rendered a non-factor in the loss to UVA last month: he had two points on 1-of-3 shooting and two rebounds in 16 minutes that weren’t limited due to foul trouble, just ineffectiveness.

6’7” sophomore Tyler Nickel (9.2 ppg, 46.4% FG, 43.0% 3FG), a UNC transfer, had eight points on 2-of-8 shooting in 24 minutes off the bench in the first game.

6’9” senior Robbie Beran (5.8 ppg, 45.6% FG, 32.2% 3FG) had a nice outing in the first matchup – 10 points on 4-of-7 shooting, 2-of-4 from three, and six rebounds.

6’4” sophomore MJ Collins (6.3 ppg, 31.7% FG, 24.6% 3FG) hit an early three, and that was it – he had three points, two assists, a rebound and a steal to show for his 34 minutes.

Because Kidd was benched due to his ineffectiveness, 6’9” senior Mylyjael Poteat (6.2 ppg, 14.3 mins/g) got 24 minutes off the bench, but had just two points on 1-of-3 shooting, though he did snare five rebounds.

How Virginia plays this one

Tech has lost four of five overall, and is a meh 3-2 in its last five home games, the wins over Boston College, Georgia Tech and Florida State, the losses to Miami and Duke.

The big issue has been on the defensive end. Tech ranks just 101st nationally in defensive efficiency in KenPom, and in the recent rough stretch, the Hokies are surrendering an average of 80.8 points per game, and a ghastly 1.199 points per possession.

The focus for Tony Bennett and his staff, obviously, is on figuring out what can be done to make it harder for Pedulla and Cattoor to do what they do.

Beekman (14.2 ppg, 6.0 assists/g, 45.9% FG, 31.2% 3FG) will draw the assignment of Pedulla, and those two, who have battled a lot over the years, certainly know each other well.

Another key matchup defensively will be 6’8” grad senior center Jordan Minor (4.1 ppg, 2.9 rebs/g) on Kidd. It was Minor who made Kidd a non-factor first time out.

If Minor is able to body up to Kidd again, that renders Tech into being pretty much entirely a jumpshooting team, and it’s hard to win a lot of games against the Virginia Pack Line shooting a lot of jumpers.

6’4” sophomore guard Isaac McKneely (12.4 ppg, 42.6% FG, 46.6% 3FG) needs to at least hold his own with Cattoor at the two-guard spot, and if McKneely can make Cattoor work extra hard on the defensive end, so much the better.

McKneely had a quiet eight points, on 3-of-8 shooting, in the win in Charlottesville last month.

Chris Graham

Chris Graham

Chris Graham is the founder and editor of Augusta Free Press. A 1994 alum of the University of Virginia, Chris is the author and co-author of seven books, including Poverty of Imagination, a memoir published in 2019, and Team of Destiny: Inside Virginia Basketball’s Run to the 2019 National Championship, and The Worst Wrestling Pay-Per-View Ever, published in 2018. For his commentaries on news, sports and politics, go to his YouTube page, or subscribe to his Street Knowledge podcast. Email Chris at [email protected].