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Virginia Tech vs Louisville Preview and Prediction

Sean Pedulla 1 VT CSU 2022 ES
Photo Credit: Erin Smith
Will Locklin | @locklin_will
Writer/Basketball Analyst

After two bad losses to quality opponents, Virginia Tech heads home to Blacksburg in search of their first conference win of the season against Louisville.

The Hokies boosted their NCAA Tournament resume and optimism about the season as a whole when they made it to the championship of the ESPN Events Invitational, beating Boise State 82-75 and Iowa State 71-62.

However, the Hokies soon met their match as Florida Atlantic, a Final Four team from a year ago, dispatched Tech 84-50 in the title game. From there, Tech stayed in the South and headed towards the plains of Auburn, Alabama. The Hokies and Tigers faced off in an ACC/SEC Challenge and it was one in which Auburn handled business on their home floor, beating the Hokies down 74-57.

It’s been a rough last couple games for Tech, but with the next few games in Cassell Coliseum, there’s a strong chance they bounce back and string together a win streak before ACC play fully dawns. Tech begins conference play with arguably the worst team in the ACC this season, the Louisville Cardinals.

Louisville was one of the bottom feeders of the power conferences last year, and this season there’s really not much difference. Currently, the Cardinals are 4-3 with wins over UMBC, Coppin State (Hokies beat them by 45 points while Louisville beat them by 20), New Mexico State in OT, and Bellarmine.

Louisville lost to Chattanooga by 10 points at home, a ranked Texas team by one point, and Indiana by eight points. While Louisville has looked bad against worse opponents, they’ve played up to their competition in those losses to fellow power conference teams in Texas and Indiana. Perhaps that’s a sign the Cardinals will bring more than expected to the table Sunday afternoon against the Hokies.

Last year, the Hokies beat the Cardinals on the road in the KFC Yum Center 71-54 in a late February battle. For Louisville, Mike James led them in scoring with 14 points. Sean Pedulla and Hunter Cattoor both reached double figures in scoring with 10 and 11 points respectively. Leading the way for Tech was Grant Basile and Justyn Mutts, two players who Tech doesn’t have at their disposal for this year's matchup.

In KenPom ratings, Louisville is ranked 165th, worst in the ACC while Virginia Tech is ranked 100 spots higher at 65th. Players to watch out for on the Cards are their two leading scorers, Illinois transfer Skyy Clark at 17 points per game and USC transfer Tre White at 14 PPG. JJ Traynor and Mike James are two returning starters from a season ago and are still averaging double figures.

Ty-Laur Johnson leads the Cardinals in assists at 3.7 but can’t seem to get the right tights he wants before the game, or at least that's what Kenny Payne said after the Cardinals' win over Bellarmine. Overall, Louisville has some solid players and can’t be overlooked by Virginia Tech.

The first key to the game is for Sean Pedulla to play well. The Hokies' PG has had two bad performances of late including a 0-9 and seven turnover affair against Auburn. Look for Tech’s lead ball handler to get back on track against a favorable guard matchup in this one.

The second key to the game is for Tech to dominate down low. The Cardinals don’t have a lot of size so Lynn Kidd and Mylyjael Poteat should get their own on the glass and in the paint as scorers. Additionally, an emphasis should be put on Tech to the hoop a ton instead of settling for jumpers.

Furthermore, Tech must right the wrongs of their last couple games. The Hokies have been cold from three and turning the ball over at a high rate. Hunter Cattoor and Tyler Nickel have to find their shot again from outside in order for the Hokies to boast a 40% three point percentage for this contest. Additionally, ball control from Pedulla, Cattoor, and other guards and wings is paramount against Louisville.

Prediction: Virginia Tech 76, Louisville 62

I believe Virginia Tech will get exactly what they need Sunday afternoon. A bounce back win in the form of a double-digit victory over a team they’d clearly beat on a neutral site as well. The Hokies will play better at home as that’s in their nature, and Tech will start ACC play 1-0 and take a step closer to stringing together some non-conference wins moving forward.

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