Virginia Tech had its worst home loss since the Alabama State game in 2014 as the Hokies were blown out by Virginia. The 26-point loss was the biggest loss for VT against UVA since the 1950s, an astonishing stat that shows how disappointing of a performance this was for VT.
The loss was humbling for a team that has been off the past few games and discouraging for a fan base whose hopes that this team can make the NCAA Tournament have already started to significantly wane.
Instead of giving you a recap that you probably already read elsewhere if you wanted to read one, we're going to take a look at three of the biggest things that went wrong for the Hokies against UVA and what VT may need to do to fix it.
1. Turnovers, Turnovers, Turnovers
Turnovers were once again a major problem for the Hokies with 16 on the night including 4 turnovers from point guard Justin Robinson. The Hokies' turnover problem has given them issues that have countered their rebounding improvement, leading to continued double-digit differences in total shots taken. Combine this with VT's shooting efficiency taking a steep hit and you have a big reason why VT has gone from winning/being competitive to getting dominated in their first two ACC games.
Justin Robinson hasn't been the only reason for the Hokies' turnovers problems, but VT's senior point guard has also been more turnover-prone recently in ways that we haven't seen all year. At times, Robinson would have a turnover or two from trying to make a creative pass in games that were well out of reach. Recently, Robinson has just had some sloppy, bad turnovers that have slowed down the Hokies' offense. If Robinson can find his rhythm again, the Hokies' offense should start to pick up the pace.
Virginia Tech's offensive sloppiness has been a problem since the Presbyterian game, but another issue was UVA's ability to force easy steals in ways that we haven't seen at all this season. Now the good news is that UVA defense is one of the best in the nation in getting steals, but that's still not a good enough excuse for failures to handle double teams well. Going forward, the Hokies need to more alert consistently in some of the little things with this game being a good wakeup call for that.
Turnovers are the biggest tangible issue for the Hokies and one that is holding them back from being a serious NCAA Tournament contender. If VT can get this fixed, they can start to right the ship and make a stronger run at a NCAA Tournament appearance. If not, VT is very likely to be NIT bound.
2. Poor Shot Selection
When Virginia Tech's offense was firing on all cylinders, it was in part due to their ability to manipulate defenses into giving them lots of open opportunities whether that be in the lane or outside beyond the arc due to their elite ball movement. Even against decent teams like Washington and Kentucky to an extent, the Hokies were able to create those chances because they were able to move the ball well.
The poor shot selection against UVA was due in large part to the Hokies' lack of ball movement that led to some unusual isolation-like offenses which usually end in a missed shot. One of the best ways this is shown is by the fact that the Hokies have only had 6 assists. This has been a downward trend of late for the Hokies since they returned from their extended Christmas rest as VT only had 10 assists against Syracuse and 12 against North Carolina A&T.
VT's offense wasn't successful earlier in the season because they could make contested jumpers in isolation that only few players can make even in the NBA. The Hokies' offense was one of the most dynamic in America because they made that extra pass and found the best shot that was available. The Hokies used to always make the extra pass which at times was to a fault and frustrated fans. These past few games have shown us that it's much better for the Hokies' offense to be making that extra pass, even when it isn't necessary n then for them to not even make the first pass.
While there does need to be some balance, you'd much rather have your team be overcommitted to the extra pass than stuck in isolation offenses that only consistently work for NBA teams though even many of those teams would likely be better if their ball movement was better.
VT's shot selection has been a problem of late, but this has been an issue of poor ball movement that can be easily fixed if Virginia Tech can get back to their ultra passing mentality that we saw briefly in the closing minutes against Syracuse.
3. Poor Positioning and Over Compensation With Help Defense
Virginia Tech's defense might have held Syracuse and Virginia to under 80 points, but both teams were efficient with the Orange shooting 48.9% from the field and the Cavaliers shooting 49.2% from the field. Those are relatively efficient sense in any situation and a concern for a VT defense that can't afford to have teams be as efficient against them as those two teams were.
Now some of this is out of the Hokies' control as UVA made some big shots with the shot clock winding down near zero. Those were some of the most frustrating moments with UVA making a few shots and VT having a couple late defensive breakdowns.
However, the bigger issue is a little more complicated. This one comes down to the fact that the Hokies can get a little jumpy into forcing a double team or playing help defense which leads to the other defenders shifting around in man-to-man. This happened multiple times with the best example coming when VT pressed UVA on one play and VT's press shifted forward after a double team. That double team was broken and UVA ended up getting an easy dunk from Jack Salt.
VT's defensive aggressiveness is good, but is one of those things that needs some more balance to prevent some of the easy or open buckets that UVA was able to get. Defensively, VT must improve their positioning in some help defense situations to prevent there from being a wide open shot from beyond the arc due to a player overcommitting to covering another player who's been left behind closer to the ball. There's also some situations that are out of VT's defensive control and deserve respect especially with UVA being able to move the ball well at times.
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