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No. 5 Virginia Tech at No. 17 Notre Dame: Keys to the Game and Prediction

Georgia Amoore 1 VT GT 2024 From VT
Photo Credit: Virginia Tech Athletics

The 17th ranked Notre Dame Fighting Irish are hosting the streaking fifth ranked Virginia Tech Hokies, who don’t know how to lose in the month of February. Over the past two seasons, the Hokies are 14-0 in February, with seven of those wins coming against ranked teams, oftentimes on the road. After handing Syracuse, NC State, and Louisville their first home losses of the season, Virginia Tech has a chance to once again prove their dominance in the ACC, and continue making a push for a one seed in the NCAA Tournament.

Notre Dame, however, is no pushover, with a 6-6 record current top 50 NET opponents up to this point, with big road wins over the 10th ranked Uconn Huskies and the Duke Blue Devils. The Fighting Irish are also currently on a three-game win streak with 20 point blowouts against Clemson and Boston College after their win at Cameron Indoor Stadium against Duke.

There will be no shortage of superstar talent, as these two teams boast the two top scorers in the ACC, Hannah Hidalgo and Elizabeth Kitley, and the two assist leaders, Georgia Amoore and Hannah Hidalgo once again.

However, both squads know what they are going to get out of their superstar players, so the X-factors in this game will likely be the supporting casts.

Keys to the Game

Offensive Schemes

Notre Dame and Virginia Tech possess two of the best total offenses in the country, with both teams ranking in the top 30 nationally in offensive rating. However, the way the score is very different.

Notre Dame is fifth in the country in two point field goals made per game, as Hannah Hidalgo's penetration opens up drives to the hoop, pull up mid-range shots, and dump downs to her teammates down low. The Fighting Irish have many capable shooters, but no one who has proven to be a dangerous sniper this season, explaining why they are 211th in the country in threes made per game.

In contrast, Virginia Tech is one of the most dangerous three-point shooting teams in the country, sporting three of the top six volume three-point shooters in the ACC in Georgia Amoore, Matilda Ekh, and Cayla King. The presence of Elizabeth Kitley and the gravity she has on the floor forces opponents to double team her, leaving shooters open all around the perimeter.

For this reason, the Hokies are 12th in the country in three pointers made per game at 9.2, compared to just 5.6 for Notre Dame. Both teams want to play to their strengths, so whatever squad can take the other out of their element is most likely to win this game.

Turnover Battle

These teams also have stark differences in the aggressiveness in which they defend. Notre Dame plays to create turnovers, as they lead the ACC in turnover margin and place second in turnovers forced at an impressive 19.9 per game. Virginia Tech, on the other hand, wants to play with patience and take care of the ball, explaining their conference leading 1.4 assist/turnover ratio.

Georgia Amoore is the player who keeps the Hokies' offense spinning, and she will have her hands full tonight against Hannah Hidalgo, who leads the ACC in steals with an incredible 4.9 takeaways per game. Something has to give, between the ACC’s assist queen and the conference’s best pickpocketer, and whoever wins that battle will have a huge influence on who wins this game.

X-Factor: Matilda Ekh

So far this season, a clear indicator for whether or not Virginia Tech gets a win is the shooting of Matilda Ekh. Ekh has knocked down 42.4% of her three pointers in wins, but in the Hokies' four losses, that percentage has fallen all the way down to 30%.

Elizabeth Kitley and Georgia Amoore will perform regardless of the situation, but when defenses key in on them, it is unbelievably valuable to have shooters sitting in the corner or on the wings that they can kick it out to.

Prediction: No. 5 Virginia Tech 80, No. 17 Notre Dame: 67

Virginia Tech will run away with a victory behind a combined 50 points from their All-American duo of Elizabeth Kitley and Georgia Amoore. Hannah Hidalgo will drop 20 points, but she will be forced into difficult shots around the rim, holding her to about 40% shooting from the field. Overall, Virginia Tech will play their brand of basketball and pick up yet another marquee win on the road in ACC play, and cap off their second-straight undefeated February.

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