After taking care of business in a closer-than-expected win over Boston College, the Virginia Tech Hokies back on the road for the first of two rivalry games with Virginia with this first one coming at John Paul Jones Arena tonight. The rivals spilt their two games last season with both protecting their home court with the Cavaliers looking to get the early advantage in the rivalry while the Hokies look to pull an upset that would significantly strengthen their resume.
Virginia’s defense has been as good as ever with the Cavaliers leading the nation in scoring defense by almost 4 points, allowing only 53.7 points per game, while also only giving up more than 70 points twice this season. On top of that, Virginia has done a tremendous job protecting the basketball this season as they average the second least turnovers per game with 9.7 and only Michigan being ahead of them.
Virginia Tech’s offensive strength has been in their effectiveness at taking advantage of transition opportunities, but those opportunities likely will be less common against Virginia, making it critical for VT to get a bucket or get to the line when those opportunities do come up while also needing to consistently get high-quality shots.
Virginia averages around a rebound less per game than the Hokies and has only a slight size advantage over the Hokies in the frontcourt but the lower rebound numbers are due in part to how Virginia plays at a much slower tempo. Virginia Tech also averages 12.1 more points per game than Virginia (81.2 to 69.1), but the numbers show how Virginia’s slower tempo offense is slightly more efficient shooting 49.6% from the field and 40% from beyond the arc compared 49.1% from the field and 39.3% from beyond the arc.
The numbers aren’t significantly different but show how Virginia Tech doesn’t really have a scoring advantage even though they are averaging 12 more points per game due mainly to how Virginia Tech’s offense operates at a much faster rate while Virginia tries to limit the number of possessions on both ends of the floor especially with their strong defense.
The big matchup comes with the point guard showdown in the backcourt between the Hokies’ duo of Seth Allen and Justin Robinson, and UVA’s duo of London Perrantes and Ty Jerome. Allen and Perrantes are the veteran stars while Robinson has continued to build on a strong freshman campaign and Jerome is starting to breakout some after getting healthy and leading UVA with 15 points against Villanova.
Robinson will likely be the primary defender on Perrantes while Allen will likely guard Jerome though that could change depending on how much Jerome actually plays in this game after his Villanova breakthrough. Virginia has a multitude of scorers that can cause problems, but Perrantes is the main standout and it will be critical for the Hokies to try and prevent him from going off.
Virginia Tech will need to shoot the ball well from beyond the arc in this matchup and the Boston College game seemed to be a slump buster for guys like Ahmed Hill and Justin Bibbs while Seth Allen is shooting at the highest levels of his career. The Hokies will need those 3 plus Justin Robinson and Ty Outlaw to make some big shots on the exterior in this game.
Zach LeDay hasn’t been as productive on the glass this season averaging 6.7 rebounds per game but him and Chris Clarke have the potential to have a big game on the boards against a smaller UVA frontcourt. LeDay has also had no more than 5 rebounds in each of his past 4 games but has still scored at least 16 points in 3 of his last 4 games and could be a big difference maker in this matchup tonight.
Virginia is the better team, and the Hokies will need to be very efficient offensively to pull off the upset on the road against a very good defensive team. Expect this to be a relatively close game but UVA has a multitude of guys who can get the points they need, and Virginia Tech just hasn’t been that grat on defense lately. Virginia Tech will make it interesting and have a solid three-point shooting game but it won’t be enough to pull off the upset on the road in Charlottesville against an improving Virginia team.