Date/Time: Feb. 24, 2018 / 1 p.m.
Site: Blacksburg, Virginia (Carilion Clinic Court at Cassell Coliseum)
Radio: Virginia Tech IMG Sports Network
Talent: Jon Laaser & Mike Burnop
Talent: Brad Nessler & Jim Spanarkle
Live Stats: HokieSports.com
Game Notes: Virginia Tech
SIRI 134 (Internet 955)
DOUBLE BYE ON THE LINE
Buzzketball and Louisville have been on much different trajectories since their last meeting. The difference 11 games makes is that Louisville finds itself looking up the standings at the Hokies and the Hokies come in with the Double Bye for the ACC Tournament on the line every game for the remainder of the season. The Cardinal have gone 5-6 in the last 11 games while the Hokies have gone 8-3 during that stretch. Five of those six losses have come in the last seven games for the Cardinals, who still has a bit of a cloud hanging over it with the scandal in college basketball ending Rick Pitino's tenure as coach of the Cardinals.
This is a home game, sure to be a sellout of Cassell, the Hokies have all the momentum so hopefully they capitalize on that to pick up a crucial victory. The Hokies need to be ready right out the gate to execute their offense effectively. The Hokies have to be on target from the perimeter or this could be long afternoon. This will be the forty first meeting between the Hokies and Cardinals. Louisville leads the all-time series 32-8.
The Cardinals are coached by David Padgett, who has been at Louisville since 2011 as an assistant coach and was designated the Interim Head Coach when Louisville decided to fire Rick Pitino for his alleged role in pay for play with a Louisville recruit. If Padgett was at most other schools his first season would be seen as a rousing success, and considering what has gone on in their program this year it still is an incredible job to have led a program in turmoil to an 18-10 overall record and sitting 8-7 in the ACC. Unfortunately for Padgett, Louisville's fan base doesn't see themselves as most other schools and they were spoiled with Pitino consistently winning so they haven't been as supportive of where they stand this season.
This first season started well at 12-4, but the last 11 games have been difficult, as most of their losses are to higher ranked opponents but still have put the Cardinals in a position they are not used to since joining the ACC, which is looking up at almost half the conference ahead of them in the standings. The Cardinals stumbled out of the blocks early on against other top conference opponents but then got on track, their losses coming against Purdue, Seton Hall, Kentucky and Clemson. The Cardinals have wins over Florida State, Memphis, Indiana, and George Mason.
Since the last meeting with the Hokies, the Cardinal have lost to Miami in OT, Virginia, Florida State, Syracuse, North Carolina and Duke. The Cardinal victories came over Notre Dame in 2OT, Boston College, Wake Forest, Georgia Tech and Pitt.
Defensively, Louisville uses the Matchup Press Defense which is a high pressure, man to man defense that looks to trap teams at key points on the court. It is designed to prevent penetration stopping the ball handler that is having to deal with two defenders in difficult locations to pass or shoot. The defender that is on the ball handler is expected to be up close, hand in face to create turnovers or force drives to the corners rather than the lane.
The difficulty in running this defense is having defenders identify the points they break off their man to man coverage to assist with trapping the ball handler. The Cardinals have struggled most of the season to do this correctly leaving open shooters all over the floor against them. So far in ACC play, Louisville is allowing opponents to shoot 47% inside the perimeter and 34% outside.
Offensively, the Cardinals run a 2-1-2 zone offense. In this offense, picture an X centered on the free throw line. The primary post player will be found at the center of the X, with two guards to the perimeter and two forwards to the baseline. Having a post player that can pass cleanly and effectively is crucial to the success of this offense.
The Cardinal have two bigs that manage over 1 assist per game. That said, they have struggled to hit open shots, especially in the last five games as well as being dominated on the boards. In two of their recent losses, there was a double digit rebound disparity.
What does that mean for the Hokies?
The Hokies are getting an experienced opponent, one that brings to bear two seniors and two juniors in the starting five. The entire starting five average at least 25 minutes per game each so outside of Raymond Spalding, they manage their team fouls very well. You cannot count on getting to the line consistently against this defense. They allow opponents around 16 free throws per contest and only commit 17 fouls per game this season. The Hokies did manage to go 18 of 22 from the line in the last game.
Kerry Blackshear has to stay out of foul trouble and limit the impact of Deng Adel, who put Blackshear on the bench early and often in the last game which allowed him to have a stat line of 27 points, 11 rebounds, 3 assists and a block. He was a one man wrecking crew.
Force Louisville out to guard the perimeter is critical to allow Robinson the space he needs to create inside without allowing the Cardinals defense to collapse on him. Robinson led the team in scoring in the last matchup and will be a critical component again today.
This goes much the same in the other direction, the Hokies need to play defense like they have in recent weeks, especially around the perimeter considering the Cardinals went 13-23 from beyond the arc in the last game. Giving up 39 points outside and allowing Adel to run rampant inside is not a recipe for success.
The Hokies need to make an honest effort to limit points off turnovers and second chance points. The last time the Hokies and Cardinals clashed Louisville managed 20 points off turnovers and 15 more on second chances, so over a third of their total scoring in the 94-86 loss for the Hokies. One area the Hokies have dramatically improved upon as the season has progressed is limiting turnovers and playing significantly improved defense, so that version of the Hokies needs to show up today.
Quentin Snyder, (#4) 6'2, 180 Lbs Senior Guard comes in averaging 11.9 PPG, 2.8 RPG, and 4 APG. He is shooting 40% from outside and at the free throw line, shooting 89%. Snyder is the primary ball handler for the Cardinals. He is the one we have to be concerned about driving the ball and making a great pass to an open look. He is also the only guard in the top five scorers for the Cardinals so if he happens to get in foul trouble, the next man up is way down the depth chart.
Ryan McMahon, (#30), 6', 165 Lbs Sophomore is averaging 6.5 PPG, 1.3 RPG, and 1.7 APG. He shoots 39% from outside and is likely the Cardinals biggest threat to heat up from long range as one opponent always seems to do against the Hokies. He hits 83% of his free throws. He missed time at the beginning of the season but has been fairly productive in the ACC slate.
Deng Adel, (#22), 6'7, 200 Lbs Junior Forward is the Cardinals leading scorer, averaging 15.4 PPG, 5.1 RPG, and 2.8 APG. Adel is usually one of the baseline forwards that is shooting 53% inside, 35% from outside on four attempts per game and 82% from the free throw line. As mentioned above, Adel had a season high 27 points against the Hokies last time. He also recently missed two games with an ankle injury so something to watch for if he tweaks it at all in this game.
Raymond Spalding, (#13), 6'10, 210 Lbs Junior is averaging 11.9 PPG, 9 RPG, 1.3 APG, 1.5 SPG, and 1.7 BPG and while not the leading scorer he is arguably the Cardinals most important player this season. His ability to control the boards has allowed others to expand their shooting zone and spread the court making it much more difficult to defend or attack the Cardinals. He shoots 56% inside and 64% from the line. In the last game, Spalding had six points, five rebounds, one assist and FOUR blocks but was limited to 16 minutes because of foul trouble.
V.J. King, (#0), 6'6, 190 Lbs, is averaging 9.1 PPG, 3.3 RPG, and 1 APG. He is shooting 43% inside and 32% outside on three attempts per game. He only hits 70% of his free throws. Last time out King had a big game, scoring 16 points while playing more than usual with Spalding having to sit out.
Anas Mahmoud, (#14), 7', 200 Lbs Senior is another big that has blossomed for the Cardinals this year after putting up paltry numbers his first three seasons. He is averaging 7.7 PPG, 5.5 RPG, and 1.1 APG. He has hit 57% of his shots this season but only makes free throws 46% of the time.
What to expect from Louisville?
Usually success for the Cardinals is creating turnovers and turning them into points to spread their lead while also wearing down their opponents. The Cardinals are forcing over 14 turnovers a game averaging 16 points a contest off turnovers. This season the Cardinal have adapted to a larger, slightly slower lineup and dominate the paint.
Rebounding is also a huge key to how Louisville separates itself from its opponents. They have had success this season when they outrebound an opponent by double digit margins. The rebounds allow them quick put back points or to kick the ball out to Snyder to begin again at the top of the key. All of that said, the Cardinals have struggled recently in several losses to rebound well. Not sure if it has been size or positioning that has been the problem.
The Cardinals went 13 for 23 against the Hokies last time out from beyond the perimeter so I fully expect them to at least have this in their initial game plan coming into Cassell. How well the Hokies defend will determine if it stays a major factor.
Tech needs to be ready to go fast in this game. The defense and offense of Louisville play into the hands of what Tech likes to do best so they should be able to turn this game if they are consistently making their shots, especially from outside.
Keep control of the basketball and score. The Hokies committed 19 turnovers last time out, turning into 20 points for Louisville while losing by 8. Those lost possessions do not even factor what they didn't score because of them. 19 turnoves likely represented a 35-40 point swing if the Hokies even scored on half of those possessions.
Stay out of foul trouble. As mentioned above Blackshear was in trouble early and often and ended up with four overall but he was joined by Bibbs and Robinson as well having issues with fouls. The Hokies can ill afford to have all three of those players on the bench, especially with how quiet Hill has been in the second half of the ACC schedule.
Highlight of the Clemson Game
• Third top-15 victory of the season• 19-0 advantage in bench points• Third straight season with at least 20 wins🦃 65 - 58 🐯📰 » https://t.co/HjqJR9Kvcx pic.twitter.com/AQ0uz6yL8u— VT Men's Basketball (@HokiesMBB) February 22, 2018
Team Defense, any time you hold a team like Clemson to 58 points then you have a formula for success almost any time you take the floor.
The Hokies need to take care of the ball and be effective on the offensive end.
The Cardinals will look to take the ball inside and use their size to their advantage. The Hokies need to limit the rebounding differential as best possible to limit second chances for the Cardinals.
Hokies win 68-57 because all the pieces kind of come together while avoiding the let down game that the Hokies have somewhat been know for recently. The only way I see the Cardinals leaving Cassell with a win is if the Hokies do not avoid foul trouble.