What UVA Basketball fans need to know about Virginia Tech

virginia tech sportsVirginia and Virginia Tech, getting ready for the back end of their 2020 home-and-home, are mirror images of each other.

Which isn’t good news for the Virginia Tech side.

While Virginia (19-7, 11-5 ACC) has won seven of its last eight, Tech (15-12, 6-10 ACC) has lost seven of its last eight.

This is a Hokies team that was, not that long ago, 4-2 in the ACC, 13-5 overall, with a win over preseason #1 Michigan State, and a season-high KenPom.com rating at 50.

It kinda reminds me of Tony Bennett’s first season in Charlottesville, in which CTB coached his first group of ‘Hoos to a 14-6 start, before reality set in – the reality being, there just wasn’t much in the way of talent, outside of future NBA’er Mike Scott.

That Virginia team would lose 10 of its last 11 on its way to a 15-16 finish, which, honestly, is where it should have been all along, given what Bennett had inherited.

First-year Tech coach Mike Young had even less to work with than Bennett did back in 2009-2010, basically a couple of half-deflated basketballs, some athletic tape and 6’7” redshirt freshman Landers Nolley (16.7 ppg, 6.1 rebs/g, 38.2% FG, 33.0% 3FG), who has been scuffling a bit of late because it’s obvious that he’s the only guy in the rotation that you have to worry about.

Nolley, in the recent extended skid, is averaging 13.8 points per game on 32.8 percent shooting, including just 20 percent (10-of-50) from three – after averaging 18.0 points per game on 40.6 percent shooting from the floor and 37.6 percent from deep prior to this stretch.

That prior stretch had him scoring 18 on 7-of-16 shooting in the Hokies’ 65-39 loss at Virginia back on Jan. 4.

His teammates’ line in that one: 21 points, 6-of-32 from the floor, 1-of-17 from three.

Who’s there to help Nolley?

Tyrece Radford (10.4 ppg, 6.3 rebs/g, 61.0% FG) is the only other Hokie averaging double digits in scoring, and it’s telling to how Young has had to shuffle things around this year that the 6’1” freshman is logging the bulk of his minutes at the three.

To repeat, the kid is 6’1”, but he leads Tech, by a wide margin, in shot attempts at the rim (134), and shoots an impressive 70.1 percent at the rim.

Oddly, for a guy attacking the paint as much as Radford does, he only has 73 free-throw attempts, which is to say, maybe Young needs to bring in Justin Robinson to teach him how to flail his arms wildly to get more calls.

The rest of Young’s small-ball group:

  • 6’3” freshman Nahiem Alleyne (9.4 ppg, 39.8% FG, 37.7% 3FG)
  • 5’10” freshman Jalen Cone (8.0 ppg, 43.8% FG, 51.0% 3FG)
  • 6’0” junior Wabissa Bede (5.4 ppg, 5.7 assists/g, 35.7% FG, 22.8% 3FG)
  • 6’6” junior J. Horne (7.1 ppg, 4.3 rebs/g, 45.7% FG, 33.3% 3FG)
  • 6’3” freshman Hunter Cattoor (6.2 ppg, 40.6% FG, 38.6% 3FG)
  • 6’4” sophomore Isaiah Wilkins (4.6 ppg, 34.6% FG, 29.6% 3FG)

How Virginia matches up

Bennett went small in the win in Charlottesville, going with a four-guard lineup around 6’9” senior Mamadi Diakite (13.4 ppg, 6.7 rebs/g, 47.3% FG, 35.4% 3FG).

7’1” junior Jay Huff (8.1 ppg, 6.2 rebs/g, 57.2% FG, 34.9% 3FG) only got 12 minutes in that one, and had two points and two rebounds.

Young has been using 6’10” freshman John Ojiako (3.0 ppg in 10.8 mins/g) a bit more of late – Ojiako is averaging 19 minutes per game over the Hokies’ last three, and he’s been productive (5.3 ppg, 6.3 rebs/g, 63.6% FG).

Expect to see Bennett counter Ojiako when he’s on the floor with Huff, but I’d also expect to see Bennett start a four-guard lineup, with Young likely to go with 6’7” Nolley at the five and 6’6” Horne at the four.

5’9” sophomore point guard Kihei Clark (10.8 ppg, 6.0 assists/g, 37.7% FG, 34.9% 3FG) was the key guy in the win over the Hokies in Charlottesville. Bennett used Clark in a lot of high-ball-screen action, and he responded with an 18-point, six-assist night.

6’8” senior Braxton Key (10.0 ppg, 7.2 rebs/g, 43.6% FG, 21.1% 3FG) was also big in the first matchup, scoring 18 on 8-of-12 shooting and pulling down a game-high 10 rebounds.

Tomas Woldetensae (7.3 ppg, 38.4% FG, 38.8% 3FG), notably, only got 11 minutes off the bench in the first meeting. The 6’5” junior has gone for double-digits in four of his last five, averaging 14.8 points per game on 50.0 percent shooting from the floor and 46.5 percent shooting from deep.


Virginia at Virginia Tech, 7 p.m.
Virginia 55-54, 50% win probability
ESPN BPI: Virginia +0.7, 53.1% win probability

Story by Chris Graham

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