Three Things to Watch for Virginia Tech Against Navy

Three Things to Watch for Virginia Tech Against Navy
Photo Credit: Dave Knachel/Virginia Tech Athletics
Tim Thomas

Tim Thomas | @TimThomasTLP

TLP: Editor
Nov 12, 2021

After a dominant 34-point opening win against where everything seemed in rhythm, the Virginia Tech Hokies are in Annapolis to take part in the Veterans Classic. While this game was somewhat overlooked entering the season, it's suddenly become one of the bigger games of the weekend after Navy pulled off a massive upset at #25 Virginia on Tuesday night to open their season.

So can the Hokies cruise to victory or will Navy be able to put up a stern challenge that has this one coming down right to the end? Here are our three things to watch for the Hokies against the Midshipmen.

1. Perimeter Defense Set For a Test

Arguably the biggest reason why Navy was able to beat Virginia was their three-point shooting as they made 11 of their 21 three-point attempts on their way to beating UVA 66-58.

With that in mind, Tech's perimeter defense will absolutely face a stern test tonight with the Midshipmen likely to lean on their three-point shooting again in their pursuit of another upset that could even send them into the top 25 next week. This comes as the Hokies don't have Wabissa Bede out there to be a defensive ace or the scrappy Tyrece Radford but Storm Murphy, Nahiem Alleyne, and Hunter Cattoor all profile as quality defenders.

The Hokies' perimeter defense did fairly well holding Maine to 4-22 shooting from three in the season opener. Yes, Maine barely shot over 30% from three-point range last season so it wasn't like Tech had a stern test but holding them under 20% from three given even that paltry three-point shooting percentage last season is still a good sign.

Virginia Tech's perimeter defense will be critical for keeping Navy at arm's length and preventing this from being a nail-bitting finish. If they struggle tonight against Navy, it may be an early warning sign on a potential weakness for the Hokies and a way that opponents might be able to attack Tech.

2. Can Storm Murphy Find His Shooting Rhythm

Storm Murphy had a solid debut in many regards for the Hokies from no turnovers to a couple assists, dazzling dribbles to create separation and a buzzer beater 3 before halftime. However, the Wofford transfer struggled to find his shooting form in the season opener as he was 2-7 from the field including 1-4 from behind the arc on his way to having only 5 points in his Hokie debut.

Of course, there can sometimes be pressure associated with making a debut that can throw a player off in some cases. Tonight presents a chance to shake that poor shooting night off and find his scoring rhythm against a Navy team that should provide a solid test and open the door for some confidence building against quality opposition with bigger non-conference tests looming.

There's no doubt that Murphy has the shooting talent as his Wofford career has shown, but Tech will need him in rhythm as a shooter to create even more space for Nahiem Alleyne, who played quite well against Maine, and Hunter Cattoor.

After a cold shooting performance in his Hokie debut, don't be surprised to see a much better shooting performance from Murphy in Annapolis.

3. Growth of Young Backups

Depth was definitely a question for this Virginia Tech entering the season given the youth and unproven nature of the group behind the Hokies' starting 5. However, some of Tech's backups played quite well and showed growth that wasn't tied to the lower-tier nature of the opponent including David N'Guessan, Darius Maddox, and John Ojiako who all provided high-level minutes for the Hokies.

For those who are skeptical of their growth because it was Maine, tonight's game against Navy should provide a better picture about how these players have grown especially guys like N'Guessan and Maddox. The only reason why Ojiako is excluded is because we saw promise when he first arrived and based on his opening game performance, it seems more like injuries derailed him last season than a lack of development.

There was plenty of hype around N'Guessan from his teammates and Mike Young, and he delivered with a perfect 7-7 shooting from the field for 15 points. Meanwhile, Darius Maddox looked quite composed as the top backup guard with 9 points on 4-7 shooting doing so not always in catch-and-shoot but creating some opportunities off the dribble which is a huge plus for his development.

There's no doubt that Tech will need N'Guessan and Maddox tonight with those two along with Ojiako likely to be the main three backups not only for tonight but also for much of the season with freshman PG Sean Pedulla being the other backup likely set for a regular role of some sort. Tonight's game should give us another data point to see how much Tech's featured backup trio have grown over the past year.