Heartbreak struck again against Florida State. After a special season, an ACC Championship run would have been exciting, but pick your heads up. Virginia Tech enters the NCAA tournament as a 4-seed, heavily favored in round one and likely comfortably favored in a round two matchup. Justin Robinson is back, the team is rested, and there is a straightforward path to a Sweet 16 matchup against Duke. But that all starts with the round one opponent, Saint Louis, and without a win against them a Sweet 16 trip is at least a year away. By the (Advanced) Numbers takes a look at what to expect when the Hokies and Billikens dance.
The Massey Composite computer rankings collect rankings on every team across many computer rankings systems available.
Strictly based on computer rankings, Saint Louis has no business even being in the tournament — few computers rate the team among the best 68 in the country. But part of the fun of March Madness is that teams like Saint Louis can play their way in and maybe do something unexpected, so we don't really want computers deciding things. Especially that one computer that thinks Saint Louis should be ranked.
Overall statistics are provided by the KenPom rating system and provide a breakdown for total team efficiency as well as offensive- and defensive-specific numbers.
Despite the lopsided matchup, don't expect the Hokies to just roll over the Billikens. The team does feature a good defense, so while the game shouldn't be close it also shouldn't be particularly high scoring.
Offensive personality ratings are defined as follows:
- Pace: The number of possessions the team has averaged per 40 minutes of clock time.
- Total Rebound %: The percentage of possible rebounds — offensive and defensive — that the team gained.
- Assist %: The percentage of made shots that were assisted.
If the good defenses aren't convincing enough that this game will be low scoring, the slow pace of play by both teams should be. That said, the Hokies really slowed down when Justin Robinson was injured but Five is back. What looms is whether or not Buzz Williams sticks with the style or speeds things back up.
Shooting offense is compared using these statistics:
- eFG %: Effective field goal percentage is a regular field goal percentage statistic but adjusted for the number of points the shot is worth.
- 3 Pt %: Rather than the percentage of 3-pt shots made, this statistic is the percentage of shots taken that are 3-pt shots.
- FTA per FGA: A reflection of a tendency to get fouled while shooting, this is the number of free throw attempts gained per field goal attempt taken.
Saint Louis has one of the lowest effective field goal percentages in the country going against the Hokies with one of the highest. The Billikens take predominantly 2-point shots, and get a fairly high number of free throws relative to total shots.
The defensive personality statistics are defined as:
- Steal %: The percentage of opponent possessions that end with a steal.
- Block %: The percentage of opponent possessions that end with a block.
- Opponent Offensive Rebound %: The percentage of possible offensive rebounds gained by the opponent (so 100% - defensive rebound %).
Not much stands out on the Saint Louis' defense personality, other than the team does block a decently high percentage of shots.
The shooting defense metrics are the same as the shooting offense metrics, but based on opponents' performance.
This is where the matchup gets really interesting for me, and I get convinced the Hokies will easily dispatch the Billikens. The Virginia Tech defense forces teams into taking a high percentage of shots as 3-pointers, and does not give teams many free throws. Recall that is the opposite of the style Saint Louis plays on offense, so I'm looking for that offense to really struggle unless they make an unusually high percentage of three-pointers. And when has that ever happened against the Hokies?
To reiterate, I don't think this will be a complete blowout because I think the Hokies' points will be limited. But the Virginia Tech defense should really make the Billikens struggle on offense, and I just don't see this one being very close. Oh, and the team will be high-energy with rest, and the return of Robinson.
Virginia Tech 66, Saint Louis 44