Photo Credit: Dave Knachel/Virginia Tech Athletics
After opening the season with a major ACC victory at Clemson, Virginia Tech returns to Cassell Coliseum for their home opener against Coppin State. Here are three things to watch in Mike Young’s first game in Cassell Coliseum as the coach of the Hokies.
1. Crashing the Boards
In their season opener against Clemson, the Hokies outrebounded the Tigers 44-36 including 9-8 on the offensive glass in their 67-60 victory. Meanwhile, Coppin State was outrebounded 51-38 in their opener at home against Rider, a game they lost 91-84. If things shape out like the stats predict on the boards, the Hokies should be pulling down rebounds all evening.
Junior guard Wabissa Bede led Tech in rebounds at Clemson with eight, while junior P.J. Horne grabbed seven and sophomore Isaiah Wilkins recorded six. This shows that the guards crashing the boards will going to be a huge key for Mike Young in his first season in Blacksburg.
Though he will have a much more significant role this season, Bede averaged 2.5 rebounds in 25.3 minutes per game last season. With eight in his first game with Young, it's an indication of the greater emhapsis Mike Young has for his guards crashing the boards.
Twenty-three of the Eagles’ 38 rebounds came from Dimencio Vaughn, a 6’5” junior, and Frederick Scott, a 6’8” junior. Vaughn plays the three for the Eagles while Scott plays the four. Assuming the Hokies come out with the same starting lineup as last game, Isaiah Wilkins and Landers Nolley should match up against those two.
The only worry about either of those matchups on the boards for the Hokies is keeping Wilkins out of foul trouble.
He fouled out against the Tigers on Tuesday despite playing only 21 minutes. The Hokies will need Wilkins to be responsible while still playing physical against a quality rebounder in Vaughn.
2. Tech Slowing Down Coppin State
In Coppin State’s first game this season against Rider, the two teams each had 89 possessions through 40 minutes, which gives them both the highest “raw tempo” rating on KenPom.com. Though a small sample size, the Eagles finished 60th in adjusted tempo in 2019, while Rider finished at No. 8, so that shows the teams were playing at a pretty high speed the other night.
The Hokies played fast at times against Clemson, but the tempo was all over the place. They’ll want to play fast at times against the Eagles as well, but overall, they’ll want to slow down the pace a bit so they have control over the game and do not feel rushed in their offensive sets.
Tech’s strength and skill on defense should be a tough matchup for Coppin State. Tech’s transition defense was fantastic against Clemson statistically, only allowing two points on the fast break to the Tigers. That’s not the only place the Eagles will attack the Hokies, but slowing down this quick team in transition should be a point of emphasis for Tech.
3. Hokies Will Share the Wealth
In Tech’s first game, Nolley took over the offense, attempting 23 shots and making 12 of them, finishing with 30 points. Not that Nolley couldn’t do the same thing in this game, but I think he’ll look to get his teammates in the mix in this one.
Nolley finished with zero assists against the Tigers. Not that padding the stat sheet is needed, but usually the team looks a lot better when your best player is dishing out a few assists a game.
Tech didn’t mind Nolley taking all of the shots at Clemson because he was the best offensive option. The Hokies’ offense will run through Nolley all season, but in these non-conference games, Tech will be able to try out different sets and put the ball in different players’ hands.
For that exact reason, I think Tech spreads the ball around and finds the open shooters, and I bet they’ll knock down those open shots in Cassell.
The Hokies should win the home opener pretty handily on Friday in a sold-out arena.
Tech will get up on the score sheet early after outrebounding the Eagles and finding their open shooters on offense. The Eagles will struggle against Tech’s transition defense, which will open the game up more and let the Hokies run away with it.