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Virginia Tech vs Virginia: Keys to the Game and Prediction

Lynn Kidd 1 VT CSU 2022 ES
Photo Credit: Erin Smith

After suffering a 96-81 loss at No. 7 North Carolina, Virginia Tech returns home for a rivalry game against Virginia. Tech came up short in their trip to Charlottesville earlier this season, but will look to avenge that loss tonight in what will certainly be a rocking Cassell Coliseum while also looking to climb up the ACC standings. Meanwhile, the Cavaliers are playing some of their best basketball of the season currently as they battle UNC and Duke for the ACC regular season title.

With that said, here are my keys to the game and prediction for the Hokies against the Cavaliers.

1. Protect the Basketball

Turnovers were a major problem for the Hokies in the first matchup between these two teams as they had 15 while UVA only had seven. Virginia had only eight points off turnovers despite 10 of those 15 turnovers being steals for UVA, making a case that the Hokies were fortunate to lose by single digits.

Since the inflection point that surrounded that week, which included 20 turnovers in a victory at NC State, the Hokies have drastically cleaned things up offensively. That included having only six turnovers in their loss to North Carolina and though MJ Collins was quick to downplay that postgame given that UNC doesn't force a ton of turnovers, that turnaround is still impressive.

Now the odds of Tech having only six turnovers are quite low given how good UVA is defensively with their top 10 rank in KenPom's defensive efficiency while forcing 13 turnovers per game. However, the Hokies need to minimize the turnovers in a game where they must the maximize the number of opportunities given the challenge of facing UVA's defense. That only grows in importance when you factor in that UVA ranks last in adjusted tempo per KenPom and allows the eighth fewest shot attempts per game in the country.

Tech will need their guards to be smart in this game and not try to force things to happen but let the game come to them. That's especially true for Sean Pedulla who has to stay composed and pick his spots even if that means keeping the ball a few more times when the options to dish it off to require the ball to go through crowded spaces.

If the Hokies want to win this game, they not only need to be efficient, but can't afford to waste offensive possessions with turnovers. Do that and there's a good chance of a Hokie win in Cassell.

2. Control the Paint

On paper, Virginia Tech should be better than UVA in the frontcourt yet that was not the case when these teams first faced off in Charlottesville.

Jordan Minor dominated Lynn Kidd and Mylyjael Poteat with 16 points and five rebounds while UVA's backup big Blake Buchanan added eight points and three rebounds. Meanwhile, Kidd and Poteat were held to a combined four points and seven rebounds with neither playing being able to get anything going offensively. The post play made a big impact on the 65-57 victory for UVA as they outscored the Hokies 36-20 in the paint.

Tech can't afford to be dominated like that again if the Hokies want to take down UVA while the Cavaliers know that winning the matchup down low will make it much more difficult for VT to get the job done.

The good news is that Kidd and Poteat have both been playing better lately with each being in double figures Saturday against UNC, facing a much better frontcourt duo of Armando Bacot and Jalen Washington than what UVA offers with Minor and Buchanan. However, it's one thing to have the on-paper advantage, but another thing to get the job done.

Tech needs Kidd and Poteat to step up this time and maintain the on-paper advantage that the Hokies have. If they fail to do so, the Hokies will be in some trouble this evening.

3. Take Advantage of Open Threes

UVA is too good of a defensive team to have you believing that you will consistently get the type of open three-point opportunities that you'd like. Going into this game, Tech has to know that when they do get those chances, they have to shoot them with no hesitation and take advantage of them.

Of course, the Hokies have been a little up and down lately from three-point range going 11-23 (47.8%) in their win against Florida State last Tuesday followed by going 7-26 (26.9%) at UNC this past Saturday including 1-12 at the second half. Tech's three-point shooting has generally improved as this season has progressed, but they've still been a little inconsistent at times.

It absolutely helps that the Hokies will be at home for this on a court they are more than used to shooting on. It also helps that Hunter Cattoor is still Hunter Cattoor and his 1-6 shooting performance from three-point range is clearly the exception to the norm.

This has to be about more than just Cattoor though with the Hokies needing Sean Pedulla, Tyler Nickel, and MJ Collins to provide some pop from three-point range. If Tech can collectively shoot 40% or better from three, there's a very good chance that they'll win this game.

Prediction: Virginia Tech 62, Virginia 58

Expect this to be a close, competitive game from start to finish with Virginia being sharp defensively but lackluster offensively. Virginia Tech's three-point shooting was well below-average Saturday, but that will prove to be an outlier rather than a new trend.

Lynn Kidd and Mylyjael Poteat will step up and win the battle in the paint while Hunter Cattoor and Sean Pedulla will bounce back from a 6-23 shooting day with a more typical performance to lead the Hokies to a victory over UVA.

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