Pick – Analysis
It’s been a long time since a Virginia-Virginia Tech Game had this much relevance in college basketball. Both are undefeated in ACC play and rank in the top 10 of the AP Poll. Virginia has been more impressive and hasn’t lost a Game all season and it’ll be hard to go against them at home.
As for Tech, things haven’t been as easy coming off an ugly 52-49 win at Georgia Tech last week. While the Hokies get a few extra days of rest, that may not matter in the end since they’ve played two true road Games this season, one was the win at GT and the other a loss at Penn State. As for Virginia, it had a tough non-Conference stretch at the end of November, but has now won its last six Games by at least 13 points. The most recent wins have been complete domination on the road at Boston College and Clemson.
The problem for most teams is that while Virginia is known for its defensive prowess, its offense also ranks near the top of the charts in terms of adjusted efficiency, shooting the ball extremely well. The Tech defense is the biggest question in this matchup and so far it has been solid. The problem is that it ranks well in forcing turnovers on almost 25% of possessions, yet that’s one thing Virginia doesn’t have an issue with. If the Cavaliers don’t turn the ball over, that’ll mean trouble for the Hokies who are good in other defensive areas, but maybe not good enough on the road.
Oddly enough, these teams split meetings last year with both teams winning on the road. Tech won in overtime at Virginia in the second meeting, but the Hoos dominated at VT in a 78-52 win. To repeat that road win, the Hokies need to shoot well as they went 50 percent from inside the arc and 11-of-29 from three. The good news is that Tech still has a lot of those shooters with Nickeil Alexander-Walker (17.8 ppg, 4.1 rpg, 3.6 apg), Ahmed Hill (12.7 ppg), Ty OUtlaw and Isaiah Wilkins all better than 40 percent from deep. If they can hit a few shots early, that’d be huge in getting confidence on the road. But if the Hokies repeat their 5-of-27 effort from deep against GT, it could be a long Game. The other hope is to get Kerry Blackshear (14.1 ppg, 6.2 rpg) going down low because if he draws the double team from Jack Salt and company, that’ll open up outside looks. Senior point guard Justin Robinson (13.1 ppg, 5.8 apg) isn’t as good of shooter, but he’s seen this defense plenty of times and knows how to beat it.
On the other end, the Hoos have rarely been stopped only because they have a variety of options. Kyle Guy (15.3 ppg) is shooting 46 percent from three while Ty Jerome (13.1 ppg, 4.1 rpg, 4.4 apg) is the guy to contain since he runs the show most often. VT has guys that can match up like Alexander-Walker, Hill and OUtlaw, but they all need to play great defensive Games. Of course, De’Andre Hunter (14.0 ppg, 5.3 rpg) and Braxton Key are slightly bigger and guys that need to be stopped on the offensive glass, though neither are afraid to shoot from deep.
Given Virginia Tech’s road struggles in its two true road Games, it’ll be hard to back them against a Virginia team that has shown no signs of slowing down. The Hokies won in this spot last year, but that was with excellent shooting from outside and for them to stay competitive, they’d need that again.
Predicted Score- Virginia 64 Virginia Tech 51