Photo Credit: Dave Knachel/Virginia Tech Athletics
Tonight, the Hokies will take on a BYU team that has had an up-and-down 4-3 start that includes a victory over UCLA in the first round in Maui and a win at Houston. The Cougars have proven to be a quality team that may have a floor of the NIT and should provide another good measuring stick test for Virginia Tech.
Here's our three things to watch and pick for tonight's game between the Hokies and Cougars.
1. How Will Virginia Tech Respond?
For the first time this season, Virginia Tech suffered a defeat at the hands of Dayton. Now, the Hokies will look to respond and improve upon the energy that Wabissa Bede and Hunter Cattoor both admitted wasn't the same yesterday as it was on Monday.
This game will tell us a lot as to how the Hokies respond from a defeat, especially one of the magnitude of yesterday's loss. This is a young team that will likely need veteran guys like Wabissa Bede and P.J. Horne to step up and take on leadership roles in keeping this team focused on this game and not stuck on yesterday's performance.
Tonight should tell us a lot about the maturity of what is an extremely young Virginia Tech team. If they come out playing with the edge and energy that they had against the Spartans, it'll show that the Hokies have maturity beyond their years that will prove valuable in the roller coaster ride that ACC play can be.
2. Protect The Basketball
Virginia Tech has done an impressive job of protecting the basketball averaging only 10.9 turnovers per game which ranks in the top 30 nationally. Tech has also only had 19 turnovers in their two games in Maui against Michigan State and Dayton, an impressive stat given the caliber of both of those teams.
BYU has done a fairly good job at forcing turnovers averaging 6.1 steals per game with 4 players averaging a steal per game. However, the Cougars haven't been as good at protecting the basketball averaging 13.6 turnovers per game.
Virginia Tech took advantage of their ability to protect the basketball turning their massive turnover advantage into a 20-4 points off turnovers advantage. The Hokies may not match that again against opponents of this caliber, but the Hokies do need to continue to take advantage of turnovers, especially those that create transition opportunities.
If the Hokies can protect the basketball at a high level for a third-straight game in Maui, expect them to take home a third place finish that no one could have imagined outside of the Tech locker room.
3. Battle From Beyond the Arc
The battle on Tech's offensive end should be the most fascinating and pivotal one to watch. The Hokies enter this game ranked tenth in the nation in three-point shooting percentage (42.4%) while BYU enters this game among the top 30 in three-point shooting defense with opponents making only 26.3% of their three-point attempts.
What will make life difficult for BYU is the fact that the Hokies have their top 5 scorers shooting over 40% from three-point range including big man P.J. Horne who is shooting 52.4% from deep while averaging 3 three-point attempts per game. The multitude of options from deep will test the Cougars' perimeter defense immensely and expose any weaknesses BYU may have.
Virginia Tech will need their main shooters like Nahiem Alleyne and Hunter Cattoor to be shooting well to compliment the talented Landers Nolley. If Alleyne and Cattoor can put together a strong outside shooting performance even against BYU's defense, it should create additional space for the Hokies to get their ball screen and rolls, and backdoor cuts going, putting BYU on their heels defensively.
Virginia Tech may not be able to shoot it as well from three-point range as they have all season against BYU, but if they can make 35% or more tonight, they should be in good shape to take down the Cougars and go 2-1 in Maui.
This is an intriguing matchup between a pair of teams looking to pick up a second victory in Maui that neither team's fans may not have been expecting when the draw came out. However, both teams have surprised with the Hokies pulling off a stunning upset of Michigan State and BYU picking up a quality win against UCLA.
One of the biggest differences between these two teams is experience with BYU having 4 seniors and 0 freshmen in their main seven-man rotation while the Hokies are playing 6 freshmen and 0 seniors in their nine-man rotation. That experience gap could be beneficial for BYU preparing for this game tonight while the Hokies still don't know better as Mike Young has said and may not know that they are supposed to wear down when playing three games in three days.
BYU has a multitude of scoring options with seniors Jake Toolson and TJ Haws leading the charge but the Hokies have the best player in Landers Nolley along with the best ball handler in Wabissa Bede. Those two player stepped up against Michigan State and will step up again in this one.
BYU is a solid basketball team that will give the Hokies a good test, but Virginia Tech has the higher level of talent and tonight, that will be on full display as Virginia Tech will make some threes against a good BYU perimeter defense and take down the Cougars for their second win in Maui.