Photo Credit: Liam Sment
#19 Virginia Tech is playing a true road game for the first time this season as they head to face a quality Louisville team looking for a big win to catapult themselves into the top 25 while the Hokies are looking to stay at the top of the ACC.
Here's our three things to watch for the Hokies against the Cardinals.
1. Wabissa Bede vs. Carlik Jones
The matchup between Wabissa Bede and Carlik Jones should be tons of fun to watch as Jones has already become one of the best offensive guards in the ACC while Bede is among the best defenders in America. That should make for an intense matchup with the winner of it on the Louisville offensive end likely playing a significant role in the outcome.
Jones can do it all as a point guard and has for Louisville this season after transferring from Radford averaging 16.4 points, 6.6 rebounds, and 5.1 assists plus only 2.4 turnovers per game. Additionally, Jones is shooting 40% from three-point range and just over 40% from the field as a whole plus 79.5% from the free-throw line.
Meanwhile, Bede has been well-renowned for his defensive abilities and has been a defensive specialist for Tech throughout his career. There is no doubt that Bede will be the primary guy against Carlik Jones and Tech will need Bede to have a big game to try and contain Louisville's offensive catalyst.
Keep an eye on this matchup at point guard that could prove decisive between the Hokies and Cardinals.
2. Feed The Paint
Virginia Tech has a strong frontcourt once again this season led by Keve Aluma who has been one of the biggest surprises in America this season averaging 16 points, 6.7 rebounds, and 1.2 blocks per game while shooting 54.3% from the field including 39.1% from three. Tech also has veteran depth and length to go with Aluma with Justyn Mutts being a valuable, scrappy power forward plus Cordell Pemsl and David N'Guessan providing quality minutes off the bench.
When Tech has been at their best this season, it's revolved around establishing themselves in the paint through Aluma and Mutts at times plus Tyrece Radford, who's averaging 10.8 points per game, getting to the rim regularly to open up the outside. Louisville does have plenty of size but the Hokies have the best big man in Aluma and have to establish their offense through him to have the best chance of opening things up and getting the victory.
Louisville has plenty of quality bigs led by Samuel Williamson who is averaging 10 points and 6.2 rebounds per game, but the Hokies have the best big man in Aluma and should try to give him plenty of paint touches early and often to create space for their three-point shooters. Additionally, Tech will need their slashers like Tyrece Radford and even Wabissa Bede getting to the rim to force Louisville to overcompensate.
If Tech can win the battle in the paint, they'll have a great chance at getting a big road victory to stay at the top of the ACC.
3. Can Tech Get Their Three-Point Shooting
While Tech's offense should be built around their strong frontcourt of Keve Aluma and Justyn Mutts, they have to get their three-point shooting to be more consistent given the advantage that they should have from deep.
Of course, the Hokies are shooting under 36% from three to date this season, but definitely have more upside in that area compared to Louisville who only has Jones and second-leading scorer David Johnson shooting 40%+ from three among those with 10+ three-point attempts this season.
It starts with Jalen Cone who is clearly being used as a 20+ minute scoring spark plug for the Hokies off the bench. Cone is good of a three-point shooter as any in the ACC, but Tech needs him to find his stride a little more shooting only 37% from three so far this season.
Nahiem Alleyne and Hunter Cattoor are both shooting over 40% from three this season and have shown plenty of growth on the wing from their freshman seasons. Tech has to make sure that they are creating open opportunities for those guys and letting the hot hand among those 2 and Cone get plenty of space. Alleyne in particular is a guy to watch as a very good shot creator which could be quite valuable if Tech fails to get their interior game going.