Photo Credit: Dave Knachel/Virginia Tech Athletics
Virginia Tech continued to take care of business against weaker competition with a pair of victories over USC Upstate and Lehigh. In the process, star redshirt freshman Landers Nolley was named the ACC Freshman of the Week after a pair of strong scoring performances against those 2 teams.
Will Virginia Tech keep their undefeated start going against Delaware State? Check out my three things to watch and pick for tonight's game below.
1. Can Landers Nolley Keep This Fast Start Going?
Landers Nolley has been impressive over the first four games of this season averaging 22.8 points, 5.8 rebounds, and 1.5 steals per game while shooting over 50% from the field and three-point range in three of his four games. Nolley has been the focal point on the offensive end and his risen to the occasion so far from his 30-point performance at Clemson to what he did last week averaging 25 points per game.
Tonight should provide Nolley another chance to continue to build confidence against a weaker opponent. However, don't be surprised if Nolley, and other starters' minutes are limited in the second half ahead of the long trip to Maui and having to play 3 games in 3 days next week.
Nolley should have another big game today, but next week should provide his toughest test yet in regards to how dynamic of an offensive player he can be this season. Pass that test and VT fans will have reason to believe that the Hokies could significantly exceed some of the low expectations for year 1 of the Mike Young era, and maybe even make a run at the NIT.
2. Getting Young Players Experience
This game should present another opportunity for Mike Young to get young backups like Jalen Cone and John Ojiako more playing time and experience ahead of their big trip to Maui. VT may not be tested by Delaware State, but this game presents the Hokies with another opportunity to get their younger players valuable experience for long stretches that can help prep them.
Overall, the Hokies have had nine players averaging double-digit minutes per game to start this season in part because the competition has allowed for extended minutes for younger players like Cone, Ojiako, and Hunter Cattoor. Expect the Hokies to continue that type of rotation tonight with those players seeing lots of second half minutes should Nolley, Wabissa Bede, PJ Horne, and others take care of business early on.
Mike Young has embraced having a deep rotation for these early games as he seeks to build some good experience up for his younger players. Expect more of that tonight ahead of the final tune-up before Maui and an opening game against Michigan State.
3. Limiting Turnovers
One thing that Virginia Tech has shown may be an area of concern is with turnovers though the Hokies have been better over the past week after a slow start. Averaging only 11.5 turnovers per game is pretty good for a young team like the Hokies, but building consistency to keep that number down will be important.
This will likely be a priority tonight with VT likely wanting to keep that number in single digits especially against a team that has struggled as much as Delaware State. While that is definitely easier said than done, that should be more than attainable given the competition level.
Tonight's game presents an opportunity for this young VT team to build good habits with how they move the basketball around while also building better offensive chemistry that could be valuable next week. Struggle tonight with turnovers and it could be a sign of struggles to come in Maui next week.
Delaware State has been one of the worst teams in the country ranking 351st out of 353 teams according to KenPom with three of their four losses coming by double-digits to Georgia, Rider, and Manhattan. While a young Virginia Tech team may be looking ahead to their trip to Maui, the talent gap is significant in this matchup and the result should be the same.
Expect this game to present a great opportunity for Virginia Tech to get their four true freshmen lots of playing time in the second half along with other backups as prep for next week. Overall, this should be another comfortable victory as the Hokies finish up their prep for their toughest test to date next week in Maui.