Photo Credit: Virginia Tech Athletics
After coming up just short against Louisville, #19 Virginia Tech returns home to face a struggling Notre Dame team with the Hokies needing to avoid a bad loss in this one. Here's our three things to watch for the Hokies against the Fighting Irish.
1. Containing Nate Laszewski
You may have never heard of Nate Laszewski but though he's on a struggling ND team, he's well on his way currently to being an All-ACC player averaging 17.2 points and 8.2 rebounds per game. More impressively, Laszewski is shooting 65.8% from the field including an insane 59% from three-point range on 39 attempts so far this season.
Laszewski is a very versatile, do it all player who will give the Hokies lots of challenges. Tech will have to find a versatile number of ways to try to contain him but it has to start with Justyn Mutts and Keve Aluma on the defensive end.
Mutts may be the focal defender on Laszewski as Mutts has proven to be the more versatile perimeter defender which will be key against Laszewski. Mutts and Aluma are also quality shot blockers which will make them both capable post defenders.
Notre Dame needs a big game from Laszewski but if the Hokies can contain him, it should be a long afternoon for the Fighting Irish.
2. Attack The Paint
We can talk about Tech's three-point shooting as being critical all we want but the most important part of this offense is their ability to win the battle in the paint whether it's feeding Keve Aluma or letting Tyrece Radford attack the glass.
While Tech's second half struggles from three were problematic against Louisville, their failure to control the paint was even more costly against a Louisville team that dominated that area of the game.
Notre Dame isn't Louisville in terms of the volume of their front court but if the Hokies want to take care of business comfortably against the Fighting Irish, it starts by controlling the paint scoring. If they can dominate the paint, it not only should help open up the three-point shot and help Tech cruise to victory.
3. Push The Tempo
Notre Dame is a team that really only goes seven deep while the Hokies have at least 9 guys playing regular with the potential to even work in freshman guards Joe Bamisile and Darius Maddox to go even deeper on their team. While Notre Dame has had more rest, there is no doubt that the Hokies should look to wear down the Fighting Irish.
Tech also has the guys to push the tempo especially with Tyrece Radford and Jalen Cone who both can get down the floor quickly while Wabissa Bede also brings the veteran savvy to get this team in transition. Creating those transition opportunities for guys like Radford even off non-turnovers could prove valuable to trying to wear down Notre Dame and make it easier for Tech to control this game.
Tech hasn't necessarily been a team to push the tempo overall, but they definitely should in spurts given Notre Dame's lack of depth. Additionally, stealing a few transition chances via Tyrece Radford could prove beneficial in either blowing this game open or keeping it manageable at worst.