HOKIES HOOPS CENTRAL: #20 VIRGINIA TECH HOKIES (11-3, 5-2) AT NOTRE DAME FIGHTING IRISH (5-8, 2-5) 7PM RSN
Date/Time: Jan 27 2021 7 PM
Opponent: Notre Dame
Site: Purcell Pavilion
RSN, Evan Lepler (play-by-play) and Brian Oliver (analyst)
Virginia Tech Sports Network. Jon Laaser (play-by-play) and Mike Burnop (analyst)
The Hokies are coming off arguably their worst loss of the season in losing to Syracuse 78-60 loss to again go on the road to take on the Notre Dame Fighting Irish for a second time this season. The Hokies are 5-9 against Notre Dame going into their 15th meeting. This is a second time the Hokies face Notre Dame coming off a loss.
They also will unfortunately be without guard Tyrece Radford after he was suspended this week. Last time against the Irish he had nine points and eight critical rebounds in helping the Hokies beat Notre Dame 77-63. The silver lining is that we should get to see more of what Darius Maddox and Joe Bamisile have to offer.
The Fighting Irish are coached by Mike Brey, in his twenty-first year at the helm of Notre Dame. In twenty years, his team has won 20+ games fifteen times. He has led them to the NCAA Tournament twelve times, with two elite eight appearances. Notre Dame has been to the post season in all but two seasons under Brey. He is 442-242 at Notre Dame and 541-293 overall with a prior five seasons at Delaware.
Coach Brey's Fighting Irish are still having their worst start to a season in almost a decade even with the two game winning streak. They come in 5-8 and 2-5 in the ACC with wins over Detroit, Bellarmine and Kentucky out of conference and Boston College and Miami in ACC play. Their eight losses are against Michigan State, Ohio State, Duke, Purdue, UNC, Virginia Tech and UVA twice. The Hokies will look to give them their seventh loss to a ranked team this season.
Defensively, the Fighting Irish are a very situationally based defensive team. This means against Tech we may see man to man and probably some high perimeter zone with defensive players switching off over or under screens to prevent quick penetration by the Hokies guards. With the struggle that Aluma and Cone have been experiencing, expect Mike Brey to focus his defenders on Alleyne and N'Guessan. This doesn't mean they will not double team Aluma in the post to prevent him easy access. Coach Young is going to continue to have Cone shoot the ball regardless of his struggles. The Hokies can survive either Cone or Aluma struggling again but not both.
Offensively, Notre Dame runs a four out, one in motion offense. They have spread the load, no longer just relying on Nate Laszewski alone, rather counting on Hubbs and Goodwin much more in their recent wins. The biggest change though is in the stats of Juwan Durham who is averaging more than a point and rebound more than the last time these teams met.
The Irish are shooting 24.2 three-point attempts per game, hitting 9.3 of them. This means the Irish find almost 30 points a game from behind the perimeter. The Hokies will have to be able to close out on the perimeter to keep the Irish from hitting their usual 38% from outside. That said, they still manage 44 more points per game between the line and inside the arc. 12 of those points come from the line where they are shooting 78% on the season.
In the prior meeting, the key contributor for the Fighting Irish was Nate Laszewski who scored 17 points, greatly assisted by going 11-12 from the free throw line, but he did foul out of the contest for the first time in his career as the Hokies frustrated them him on the defensive end. Goodwin, Ryan and Hubb combined to score 31 points and pulled down 11 rebounds. The other 6 players combined for 15 points. This game will be much of the same.
Fighting Irish Backcourt
Prentiss Hubb (# 3, JR, G, 6-3, 175 lbs)
14.1 Pts, 3.1 Reb, 5.3 Ast
Shoots 39% from the floor, 33% from the perimeter and 82% from the line. Hubb controls the offense, directing traffic while looking for his own shot. Attempts the most shots of anyone on the Notre Dame roster at 12.8 attempts per contest. Considering his shooting percentages, this still works in favor of the Hokies.
Dane Goodwin (# 23, JR, G, 6-6, 200 lbs)
12.8 Pts, 4.8 Reb, 1.6 Ast
Shoots 48% from the floor, 42% from the perimeter and 86% from the line. Goodwin is their best pure shooter on the floor so not allowing him to get in a rhythm is a major defensive concern.
"I swear its this big"
Cormac Ryan (#5, SO, G, 6-5, 195 lbs)
9.1 Pts, 4.1 Reb, 3.0 Ast
Shoots 32% from the floor, 30% from the perimeter and 90% from the line. This is not the player to foul. Gentle pressure defensively and he shoots terribly, but send him to the line and he will hit almost every time.
Trey Wertz (#2, JR, G, 6-5, 195 lbs)
9.8 Pts, 2.5 Reb, 2.8 Ast
Shoots 39% from the floor, 44% from the perimeter and 83% from the line. He shoots better from the perimeter than he does inside so forcing him to dribble and not have clean open looks is critical.
Nikola Djogo (#13, SR, G, 6-8, 230 lbs)
4.0 Pts, 2.4 Reb, 1.1 Ast
Shoots 50% from the floor, 42% from the perimeter and is 8-8 from the line. Has been more involved in the Fighting Irish game plan since the Hokies faced them last but is still not a significant contributor.
Fighting Irish Frontcourt
Nate Laszewski (#14, JR, F, 6-10, 227 lbs)
16.6 Pts, 7.8 Reb, 0.5 Ast
Shoots 65% from the floor, 55% from the perimeter and 70% from the line.
Juwan Durham (#11, SR, F, 6-11, 231 lbs)
8.8 Pts, 5.2 Reb, 1.5 Ast, 1.9 Blk
Shoots 54% from the floor, doesnt from the perimeter and 68% from the line.
What to expect from Notre Dame?
|Starters||P. Hubb||T. Wertz||C. Ryan||D. Goodwin||N. Laszewski|
|Rotation||N. Djogo||J. Durham|
|Lim PT||E. Morgan||T. Sanders, Jr.||M. Zona|
|Lim PT||R. Carmody|
Most of this is just a refresher, having faced the Irish so recently. This one is a road game but without fans, the environment is more neutral.
The Fighting Irish come in with six players averaging 8.1 or more points per game but the Fighting Irish only go one or two deep on the bench for significant minutes or contributions. Much like Louisville, this is by design to have the offense completely focused around getting Laszewski, Hubb or Goodwin the basketball. Those three players take over 60% of the Fighting Irish shots. This has been a consistent theme all season so its not likely to change in this game.
One of the key reasons for Notre Dame's recent success is a big improvement in their assist ratio. Trey Wertz has emerged in the passing game and Notre Dame is credited with assists on over two thirds of their baskets in their two ACC wins. 40 of 59 baskets assisted.
Prentiss Hubb has also taken a step forward, missing a second double-double by a single rebound against Miami. He scored 40 points off the bench much like Jalen Cone, going a combined 8 for 14 from outside.
Opponents are averaging an 73.2 points per game which is the primary indicator of how much this team has struggled defensively. Opponents are shooting 45% from the floor against the Fighting Irish but the Irish have improved somewhat on the perimeter, now allowing only 36% from the perimeter. Notre Dame successfully controlled the pace of play in their wins over Boston College and Miami.
The Fighting Irish commit only 11.5 fouls per game, the fewest fouls per game nationally. Opponents have only shot 10.3 free throw attempts in ACC play. The Hokies have attempted 22 attempts per ACC game, the most in the ACC so far so something will have to give in this game.
As a team the Fighting Irish are shooting 38% from the perimeter on 24 attempts per game. Laszeswki is shooting an incredible 55% from the perimeter this year mainly because opponents sag off him, not expecting him to pass or dribble in. Teammates Goodwin, Wertz and Djogo each are shooting better than 40% from the perimeter. All five starters attempt at least 3.3 shots from the perimeter per game.
Notre Dame struggles tremendously rebounding and are at almost a 6 rebounds per game disadvantage in seven ACC contests. They have four players averaging more then four rebounds per game and their overall rebounding numbers have greatly improved since the Hokies saw them last. In that game, the Hokies outrebounded the Irish 41-24. The Hokies grabbed 16 offensive rebounds and turned those second chances into 15 points.
Hubb and Ryan are the primary distributors, averaging 7.9 assists between them. The Irish average 14 assists on 22 made baskets per game, roughly 60% of all shots are assisted.
The Hokies mentally need to wash the previous two games out of their minds and try to start fresh in this one. The Hokies outscored Notre Dame 34-20 in the paint last time and that was before the emergence of N'Guessan as a legitimate scoring option in the paint. Four Hokies finished in double figures with a fifth scoring 9 points.
The Hokies will have the new challenge of replacing the minutes, points and rebounds of Radford in this game. Hopefully this will be a chance for Joe Bamisile to emerge from the bench and provide the scoring pop we saw earlier in the season. This could be his ACC debut, not having played since the Longwood game, where he had 11 points and 2 rebounds.
The Hokies will have their hands full with Laszewski and Hubb, who utilize an inside-out combination that the Hokies haven't dealt with much this season. Aluma was able to guard Laszewski alone in the first game which allowed the defense to focus more on secondary scorers. The only way Notre Dame beats you this season is when those secondary scorers really get involved. Laszewski also has the ability to dribble in from the perimeter and stretch the defense by stepping out to shoot so hopefully they do find a way to limit him on the perimeter. He averages 4.2 attempts from the perimeter per game.
The Hokies need to weigh the advantage they have in the lane against Notre Dame against shooting outside. Cone and Cattoor combined to shoot 7 of 15 from outside last time against the Irish, while the rest of the team was 0 for 8. It may make more sense to focus the ball inside until the Irish show they can stop it.
While Notre Dame plays stiff defense, they do not create many turnovers at only 8.3 per contest. The Hokies should look to take it inside on Laszewski as he is the lesser defender in the post. It also was effective in getting hi out of the game in key stretches. Durham is the more formidable lane presence defensively, leading his team with 1.8 blocks per game. Durham is the most likely to get in foul trouble though, averaging over 3 per game, although the Hokies managed to foul out Laszewski for the only time so far in 78 career games.
YOU HAVE TO HIT YOUR FREE THROWS. Especially with how few the Irish allow. This is going to be a continued point of emphasis for the Hokies. The Hokies managed 12 of 16 shooting, drawing the most fouls of all but one Notre Dame opponent this season.
Highlight of the Syracuse Game
Naheim Alleyne in the first half
Not much changes in the keys to the game, defensive intensity, especially hands in passing lanes is a huge factor. Disrupting Notre Dames improved assist ratio and creating double digit turnovers played a role in the Hokies taking 16 more shots than Notre Dame in the first contest.
The Hokies have to find the open shooter (read Cone) when Notre Dame sags off the perimeter. Not defending the outside seems to be a calculated risk that Mike Brey is choosing to make this year based on the team he has available and how difficult their schedule has been both in terms of opponents and Covid protocols.
Aluma and Mutts grabbing critical offensive rebounds could be the tipping point in this contest. Notre Dame allows more than ten 10 offensive rebounds per game and this was a critical component of the last game. Converting second chance opportunities into points likely provides the greatest margin of difference. These could lead directly to several three pointers.
Hokies debut some new talent in Bamisile, N'Guessan continues to deliver double digit scoring and Aluma gets his head right. Hokies win in much closer fashion this time 74-69. Game is decided at the line late.
Confidence Factor: Three Popcorns, Too much uncertainty between recent performances by Cone and Aluma combined with having to replace their GRIT guy.