HOKIES HOOPS CENTRAL: VIRGINIA TECH HOKIES (11-6, 1-5) AT VIRGINIA (13-3) 7PM ESPNU
Virginia (13-3, 5-2 ACC)
vs. Virginia Tech (11-6, 1-5 ACC)
January 18, 2023
John Paul Jones Arena
7 p.m. ET
Virginia Tech Sports Network
Play-by-Play: Dave O'Brien
Analyst: Jay Bilas
Virginia Tech Sports Network
Play-by-Play: Zach Mackey
Analyst: Mike Burnop
Current Spread: Hokies +5.5
Season at stake
The Hokies take on the Virginia Wahoos with their season the line. The Hokies are now 11-6 and mired in a five game ACC losing streak facing the Top Ten Wahoos. The Hokies are 56-98 against Virginia.
The Wahoos are coached by Tony Bennett, who has been at Virginia since 2009. The Wahoos are 329-120 under Bennett, who is now 398-153 as a Head coach with his only other stop was three seasons at Washington State. The Wahoos have reached the post season ten of his thirteen seasons so far with eight NCAA appearances, one tournament cancelled, one National Championship and another NCAA appearance locked in for this season.
Coach Bennett's Wahoos come in 13-3 and 5-2 in the ACC. Their losses are to Pittsburgh, Miami and Houston. Their top wins are over Illinois, Baylor, UNC and Michigan. All three losses were by three baskets or less. The key to beating this team is on the defensive end. Preventing Virginia from having access inside plays a huge role in limiting what this team does overall. Offensively against them only Michigan shot better than 50% from the floor. Miami and Pitt also had the two most free throw attempts against the Wahoos all season. Houston beat them by getting baskets before UVA was set in their defense.
Ben Vander Plas is the most prominent of Virginia's new additions. He transferred from Ohio. Virginia also added four freshmen this year. Isaac McNeely is the only one of the freshmen playing a consistent role this season.
Defensively, Virginia is one of the best at executing the "Pack Line Defense". It is a high pressure, man to man defense that sags to the middle of the court. It is designed to prevent penetration by driving the basketball. The "pack line" is an imaginary line two feet inside the three-point line that all defenders not guarding the current ball handler are never supposed to be outside of. The defender that is on the ball handler is expected to be up close, hand in face to create turnovers on the outside. One other critical aspect of this defense is that it's designed to deny the baseline. Defenders are taught to position themselves to not allow any baseline penetration, relying on help defense to close an adjusted drive to the center of the lane. At the top of the post, expect to see defenders attempt to position themselves somewhat in front of the opposing offensive player to prevent the easy pass to the top of the lane.
The key weakness of this defense is if a team can find open shooters on the perimeter AND hit those shots, the integrity of this defense begins to fall apart. The best way to attack this defense is not allow it to get set by beating the defense down in transition. After that though, employing a four out – one in offense, initiatially sending shooters to both corners with the ball handler and a second post player or fourth guard at the top of the key evenly spaced to either side, with a post player establishing to the ball handler side of the lane. Then the shooters need to begin constantly rotating around the baseline. This allows the offense to create opportunities either to find an initial open shooter or dribble penetration with the intent to kick out.
Another aspect that can help in attacking this defense are two quick perimeter passes across the top to get the defense moving their feet side to side, and then employing the dribble penetration back across the lane to force defenders to try to reverse their hips. If done quickly you either find open lanes or reaching defenders. Ideally with this roster the dribble penetration is done by Alleyne or Bede. Employing blur screens under a teammate after passing them the ball opens gaps as well at the side, drawing a defender deep into the corner.
Offensively, Bennett has his team running what is called a Blocker Mover Offense on the other end of the court. This is a variation of the Motion Offense, allowing the primary ball handler at the top of the key to attempt to use a screen provided by one of two lane personnel near the top of the key. At the point of the screen, the ball handler decides either to drive the lane, kick out to an open shooter or attempt a down low pass to their second lane player, who usually moves across the basket down at the baseline block to create space for the driving guard. The defensive rotation is what drives the guard's decision-making process as he assesses what is in front of him. The guard essentially has three options coming off the pick or can spin back out to reset for another play. The key for the Hokies will be to limit the times where we allow dribble penetration by Clark or Franklin or allow a clean pass into the lower lane player for an easy layup by Gardner or Shedrick.
Armaan Franklin 4 SR G 6-4 195 11.9 Pts, 4.3 Reb, 1.2 Ast
Kihei Clark 0 SR G 5-9 160 11.0 Pts, 2.8 Reb, 6.0 Ast
Reece Beekman 2 JR G 6-3 174 9.9 Pts, 3.4 Reb, 4.9 Ast
Isaac McKneely 11 FR G 6-4 179 5.9 Pts, 1.9 Reb, 0.8 Ast
Jayden Gardner 1 SR F 6-7 235 10.3 Pts, 4.9 Reb, 0.5 Ast
Kadin Shedrick 21 JR F 6-11 216 8.3 Pts, 4.1 Reb, 0.7 Ast
Ben Vander Plas 5 SR F 6-8 232 7.9 Pts, 4.2 Reb, 1.4 Ast
What to expect from Virginia?
All five starters for the Wahoos come in averaging 8.3 or more points per game. Virginia goes two deep on the bench for significant minutes or contributions. This is a developing roster that is well balanced offensively. Four of their five starters have led the team in scoring at least twice, with Griffin the leader five times.
Opponents are averaging an ACC low 61 points per game in ACC play. Opponents in ACC play are shooting 40% from the floor against the Wahoos, second best in the ACC. Virginia does allows 36% on the perimeter.
The Wahoos are committing 9.3 turnovers per game. Clark and Beekman account for half the turnovers. Virginia though forces 13 turnovers per game and average nearly 14 points per contest off turnovers.
The Wahoos commit 15.4 fouls per game. Opponents have shot 14.6 free throw attempts per game so far in ACC play. Only Shedrick averages more than two fouls per game averaging 2.7 fouls per contest. Foul trouble though has been key in their two ACC losses, forcing Bennett to go further than two deep into his bench while allowing Miami and Pitt to score 15 and 17 respectively at the line.
As a team the Wahoos are shooting 39% from the perimeter in ACC play on 21.7 attempts per game (about 42% of total shots). Franklin, Beekman and McNeely all are shooting better than 40% from the perimeter.
Virginia is about even rebounding on both ends. Their defense is designed to alter shots more than box out so this season opponents are averaging 7.7 offensive rebounds per game. There is not one focus point rebounding as four of the seven players average between four and five rebounds per game in ACC play.
The Wahoos rank fourth nationally in assist to turnover ratio averaging 16 assists on 24 made baskets per game in ACC play, roughly 67% of all shots are assisted. Beekman and Clark combine for 11 of the 16 assists per game.
So many possible innuendos in this tweet.
The Hokies must play under control even if Rice (rumored to have broken a finger) and Cattoor are not able to play. Turnovers will quickly turn a close game against the Wahoos into a rout.
Work the ball into the baseline after drawing the defenders to the free throw line. Basile repeating his performance we saw against Syracuse would be huge for the Hokies.
Tech's perimeter shooting was its second worst of the season against Syracuse at 16% (3-19). The Wahoos are not as strong on perimeter defense as they typically are but the Hokies definitely need to be able to beat the zone and score in the paint.
Virginia does not do well against speed but unfortunately the Hokies are prone to mental mistakes the faster they go. One area the Hokies should look at for options is to extend the defense. Virginia has looked sloppy against full to three quarters press defense. While I don't expect to see this happen it would be refreshing to see if it works early rather than after the game is out of hand.
This is where you ABSOLUTELY HAVE TO HIT YOUR FREE THROWS. Virginia sends people to the line rather than give up the easy basket inside. You must be able to convert those trips to points at the line if you hope to leave Charlottesville with a win.
Highlight of the Syracuse Game
Basile playing like a forward. 11-16 inside the perimeter.
The points of emphasis in this one is to get Virginia into their bench, talent falls off dramatically outside the starting five. Be strong on rebounding on both ends, especially with how stingy Virginia is on opponent shooting. Create those extra chances.
Double digit second chance points. Find points inside the perimeter, either by score or by foul. Extend the defense and force Virginia to earn every foot.
"We've got to play more sound on both ends of the floor. Are we capable? Absolutely, we're capable. We did it through our first 12 games. Time to play better basketball and get back on the right track."🗣️ CMY pic.twitter.com/Pdj3suepIu— Virginia Tech Men's Basketball (@HokiesMBB) January 17, 2023
Nothing this team has done this last month gives me confidence that they can do the little things well enough to break the streak. Galls me to predict a Wahoo win but barring a monumental shift in performance that's where this one is headed. UVA wins 65-58.
This is a one Popcorn Decision. Conflict of writing the above sentence but it is where we are.