HOKIES HOOPS CENTRAL: Valparaiso (4-5) at Virginia Tech (6-3) 12PM CW Network
At Virginia Tech (6-3)
December 9th, 2023
12 p.m. ET
Virginia Tech Sports Network
Virginia Tech Sports Network
Play-by-Play: Zach Mackey
Analyst: Mike Burnop
Current Spread: Hokies -20.5
Beacon of Hope?
The Hokies continue their homestand with Valparaiso coming to Cassell Coliseum. The Valparaiso Beacons squad comes in 4-5 and second to last in the Missouri Valley Conference. This will be the first meeting between the Hokies and Valparaiso.
The Beacons are coached by Roger Powell, who is in his first season at Valparaiso. Valparaiso is his first head coaching job with assistant stops at Valparaiso, Vanderbilt and Gonzaga. The Beacons opened their season with a win over Trinity Christian, then a loss to IUPUI. They beat Green Bay before losing their only other game against a P5 opponent, Illinois. They beat Western Illinois and Southern before coming into today on a three game losing streak to Drake, Belmont and Central Michigan.
Valparaiso only returns four players from last season after the coaching change. Senior forward Jerome Palm, Senior guard/forward Connor Barrett, Junior guard Darius DeAveiro and Sophomore Joe Vick return while Coach Powell also brought in five transfers and five freshmen, only one of which was in the original signing class.
The Beacons have four players averaging more than 26 mpg but ten average at least 10 mpg. Valparaiso has one freshman forward that has yet to play due to a knee injury but no other contributors. The starting five are Palm and DeAviero, alongside transfers Stafford and Edwards with Freshman forward Cooper Schwieger. Powell relies heavily on his starting five, who account for 69% of the teams minutes.
Valparaiso under Powell is using primarily a 2-3 Zone base defense with a focus on collapsing inside. The defense seems to be a fallback due to the limited time most of the players and staff have had to get up to speed.
Offensively, the Beacons rely on a screen heavy motion basketball. Powell wants a fast-paced offense to try to maximize the possible possessions. The starting guard Isaiah Stafford is the primary ball handler as well as scorer. The team averages about 22 perimeter shots per game with five shooters shooting 35% or better.
19 JR G 6-2 175
18.8 Pts, 4.8 Reb, 2.4 Ast
0 SO G 6-6 195
8.6 Pts, 6.1 Reb, 0.7 Ast
7 FR G 6-1 165
7.0 Pts, 2.0 Reb, 1.3 Ast
4 FR G 6-2 180
5.8 Pts, 1.4 Reb, 0.9 Ast
6 JR G 6-0 165
5.3 Pts, 2.3 Reb, 5.0 Ast
13 FR F 6-9 210
11.8 Pts, 5.4 Reb, 0.7 Ast
5 SO F 6-8 220
5.8 Pts, 4.7 Reb, 0.6 Ast
1 SR F 6-10 215
5.8 Pts, 5.0 Reb, 0.3 Ast
What to expect from Valparaiso?
The Beacons will look to Stafford to initiate almost every play, either by shot or pass.
Valparaiso is still trying to find their footing with all the new players and even running a two-three zone are consistently allowing opponents open looks, especially inside. Opponents only are averaging 29% from outside but watching the Illinois highlights it was not really perimeter pressure as the Illini just missing shots.
The forwards are pretty weak inside and the Beacons have lost the rebounding battle in seven of nine games. Opposing forwards are able to consistently get inside position on both ends.
Expect to see two to three forwards on the floor most of the game. Although this will be the most regular forward minutes of any Hokies opponent so far, it likely works against the Beacons. As stated earlier, starters average 69% of all minutes so foul trouble could have a significant impact on the Beacons game plan.
The only area of strength is offensively they seem to work well in transition and excel at creating turnovers to get into transition possessions.
The Hokies opened ACC play with a third consecutive win over Louisville. Expect that Kidd will return to form against the Beacons with a double-double due to the significant weakness Valparaiso seems to have in defending the paint.
The Hokies got the best game from MJ Collins this season, who had 20 points and was 3 for 3 from outside. The team as a whole still struggled from the perimeter, as the team outside Collins shot 2 for 17.
Kidd and Cattoor joined Collins in double digits. The Hokies won the game by getting to the line and hitting the freebies, finishing 22-27 with Cattoor and Collins combining to go 12 for 12.
The Hokies need to focus on protecting the ball and getting it inside to the forwards. The forwards should combine for a forty-point night. Prevent the Beacons from getting transition opportunities.
Originally, I thought it would be critical to force the Beacons to go to someone other than Stafford for their offense. They rely so heavily on Stafford but it really seems that he will get his points regardless, so limiting the other key contributors seems to be more important in the games Valpo has lost so far.
Hokies should have the edge in this contest and fans have to hope they remain focused for a lesser talented opponent as the crowd might be a bit lean supporting them as the games get closer to the holidays.