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What UVA Basketball fans need to know about Virginia Tech

keve aluma virginia tech
Keve Aluma had 14 points and 12 rebounds for Virginia Tech in the Hokies’ 62-51 win at Notre Dame. Photo courtesy Atlantic Coast Conference.

Virginia Tech availed itself well in its first game without star guard Tyrece Radford, winning 62-51 at Notre Dame on Wednesday, holding the Irish to a season-low in points in the process.

Jalen Cone, a 5’10” sophomore, got the start at the two in place of Radford, though it was 6’3” sophomore Hunter Cattoor who had the bigger impact.

Cattoor (8.3 ppg, 49.4% FG, 47.2% 3FG) was 4-of-7 from three-point range, scoring 13 points in 24 minutes off the bench.

Cattoor and Cone (10.3 ppg, 36.7% FG, 35.6% 3FG) couldn’t be any more different at the two than the Radford (11.1 ppg, 6.3 rebs/g, 53.7% FG, 25.0% 3FG), who gets the bulk of his shots at the rim, and is the team’s second-leading rebounder at 6’2”.

He’s also the team’s best defender. According to Synergy Sports, Radford allows opponents 0.698 points per possession – Cone allows 0.797, and Cattoor 0.964.

You’d expect a guy who rebounds and gets shots at the rim the way he does at 6’2” to be a tough out on the defensive end.

You’d probably also expect slight guys who get the bulk of their offense from the perimeter to maybe not be as stout on D.

And then yet, Notre Dame, 51 points, 35.7 percent shooting, 6’10” sharpshooter Nate Laszewski, averaging 15.9 points on 65.0 percent shooting, 55.1 percent from three, on the season, had seven, and only got four shots in 37 minutes.

I like Mike Young

I like this Tech team, and I like what Mike Young has been able to do with the crumbs left behind by Buzz Williams after the Sweet Sixteen run in 2019.

The most important short-term move was convincing 6’9” junior Keve Aluma to follow him from Wofford.

Aluma didn’t necessarily scream steal when he made the move – he averaged 6.9 points and 6.8 rebounds as a sophomore at Wofford in 2018-2019 – but he’s come into his own in his first season in the Power 5.

Aluma is averaging a team-best 13.9 points and 7.4 rebounds per game, on 47.4 percent shooting from the field and 28.1 percent from three.

And Aluma, and undersized but gritty 6’7” four Justyn Mutts (7.8 ppg, 6.3 rebs/g, 48.4% FG, 30.0% 3FG) form one of the better defensive post tandems in the country.

Aluma (DRtg: 93.7) and Mutts (DRtg: 95.5) rank eighth and 11th, respectively, in defensive rating in the ACC, per

Those two, plus 6’9” reserve David N’Guessan (3.0 ppg, 2.7 rebs/g, 64.0% FG, 10.2 mins/g, 95.2 DRtg), are the reasons you saw Laszewski and 6’11” post force Juwan Durham (who had three points on four shots) do basically nothing in South Bend.

It says a lot about what Young can do as a coach that he’s been able to build momentum his first two years with the barely serviceable Wabissa Bede (4.5 ppg, 2.6 assists/g, 35.6% FG, 23.7% 3FG) as his point guard.

And, yeah, that’s harsh, whatever. Credit to him for being able to give Tech 24.1 minutes a night, but he’s overmatched most nights.

He at least gives you effort on defense (DRtg: 97.2, Synergy PPP: 0.828).

6’4” sophomore Nahiem Alleyne (10.8 ppg, 39.3% FG, 38.2% 3FG) is a feast-or-famine guy. Lately, he’s been feasting – 15 points on 7-of-14 shooting in the win at Notre Dame, 20 on 5-of-10 shooting from three in the loss at Syracuse last week.

Those came after a three-game stretch in which he scored a cumulative 12 points on 3-of-20 shooting in the wins over Notre Dame, Duke and Wake.

Alleyne has eight games in double digits, seven in single – and a goose egg in the first win over Notre Dame, two weeks ago.

What to watch for

  • Keep an eye on Cattoor and Alleyne on spot ups: Synergy has Cattoor shooting 50.0 percent (17-of-34) and scoring 1.474 PPP, and Alleyne shooting 45.6 percent (26-of-57) and scoring 1.117 PPP.
  • Cone is solid in transition: 11-of-19 (57.9%), scoring 1.4 PPP.
  • They’ll go to Aluma and Mutts in the post a decent amount: 10 percent of their possessions. Neither is particularly exceptional – Aluma is 20-of-46 (43.5%), 0.847 PPP, Mutts 11-of-23 (47.8%), 0.71 PPP), the difference between the two that Aluma gets to the line 5.3 times per game, to Mutts’ 2.1.
  • The damage with the bigs in the post is more on lane cuts: Aluma is 21-of-35 (60.0%), 1.14, N’Guessan 11-of-14 (78.6%), 1.421 PPP, Mutts 6-of-10 (60.0%), 1.118 PPP.
  • Pick and roll: Bede, as ball-handler, is 11-of-22 (50.0%), 0.923 PPP, and Cone, surprisingly, for a guy who floats the perimeter a lot, is excellent, in limited usage (6-of-10, 60.0%, 1.692 PPP), though he uses the P&R to shoot threes, taking advantage of defenders getting caught up trying to run under screens. The numbers on how they do on the roll part of the pick-and-roll tell you not to worry about the roll guy. Aluma is 10-of-27 (37.0%), 0.839 PPP, and Mutts is 2-of-9 (22.2%), 0.267 PPP.

At a glance

  • Offense: Virginia Tech 110.1 (57), Virginia 116.4 (10)
  • Defense: Virginia Tech 93.3 (32), Virginia 90.7 (16)
  • Tempo: Virginia Tech 66.7 (287), Virginia 60.2 (357)

Efficiency data from


#8 Virginia (11-2, 7-0 ACC) at #19 Virginia Tech (12-3, 6-2 ACC)
6 p.m., ACC Network

  • ESPN BPI: Virginia +5.3, 72.1% win probability
  • BartTorvik: Virginia 62-59, 68% win probability
  • Virginia 63-60, 61% win probability

Story by Chris Graham

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