What the Billikens are facing in Virginia Tech
This article was originally published at the Unewsonline.com on March 21st 2019
The Virginia Tech Hokies are one of the nation’s most efficient offences in the NCAA. Using an up-tempo, run and gun style, perimeter-oriented offence, the Hokies best compare to a “Golden State Warriors” lite. While the Hokies lack the interior presence that Draymond Green and Demarcus Cousin provide, they are lethal on the fast break and will punish those who give shooter space.
The Hokies come from the highly touted Atlantic Coast Conference, having notable wins over the likes of overall No. 1 seed in Duke. Virginia Tech finished fifth in the ACC with a 12-6 conference record and 24-8 overall. Coming into the tournament as No. 16 in the AP poll and No. 15 in the coaches poll, Virginia Tech represents one of the best teams the Billikens have faced this season.
Last Time Out
The Billikens beat the Hokies last season in their third game of the season in Madison Square Garden to the tune of 77-71. Virginia Tech returns four starters from last season and a total of seven players.
Buzz Williams leads the Hokies—in his five seasons as head coach in Blacksburg he has a crewed an overall record of 98-68. This will be his eighth time leading a team to the NCAA tournament, his third in three years with the Hokies after five consecutive appearances as Head Coach at Marquette. The Hokies have yet to advance out of the first round in Williams tenure as head coach.
The Hokies are in many ways the polar opposite to the Bills. Beyond their style of play, Virginia Tech plays with a much deeper bench, going with nine guys regularly they will be able to comfortably roll fresh bodies of the bench to match SLU.
Nickeil Alexander-Walker leads the Hokies offensively and has in many ways been the backbone of the VT offence. The 6-foot-5 guard from Toronto, Ontario, Canada launches the offence, averaging just over 16 points per game—the sophomore is a vital piece of the lethal VT offence.
The Hokies will also be getting senior Guard Justin Robinson back in time for their first-round game. Robinson missed the last twelve due to a left-foot injury. His absence was felt in the ACC tournament where 41 percent three-point shooting and outstanding playmaking ability forced the Hokies to an early exit. Robinson’s value as a passer and senior presence cannot be overstated, with 551 assists, he is the all-time leader at Virginia Tech.
The Hokies are rounded out with a tandem of Kerry Blackshear and Ahmed Hill. Blackshear was named to the ACC First Team this year, and Hill is one of the most efficient shooters in the country shooting 44 percent as a guard. Both players are versatile defenders who can run and space the floor.
How they beat you
If the Billikens get into a track meet with the Hokies, they will be in trouble. Virginia Tech prefers to get out in transition, to create open looks from three-point territory and will take advantage of teams not being able to keep up with their breakneck pace. They focus on shooting threes and finding easy looks, and they rarely take shots in the mid-range. Their defence similarly takes away the three-point shot, with five starters who are versatile on defence and can switch at will and protect the perimeter they make it extremely hard to shoot effectively.
How SLU beats them
SLU is lucky in a sense in that their offence doesn’t particularly rely on hitting three-pointers at a consistent rate. The Billikens much prefer to get baskets from superior inside play and outstanding offensive rebounding. Fortunately, Virginia Tech is very weak at defending in the interior. Hasahn French, DJ Foreman and Jordan Goodwin will be vital in establishing a strong presence in the paint and punishing the Hokies for going small.
On defence, the Bills will look to slow the game down and force the action to the half-court. The Billikens’ defence has been their calling card all season and was on full display in the A10 tournament. When the Billikens were able to defend in the half-court, they were able to limit open looks of all kinds and stop runs. With the streakiness of the Billikens offence, who can oftentimes be feast or famine, limiting runs on the other end of the floor will be vital.
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