Virginia Tech was a trendy pick to be a sleeper possible ACC champ at the beginning of the season. The Hokies’ 0-3 start in conference play has tamped that down, but this is still a dangerous team.
If nothing else, the 86-49 win over a good St. Bonaventure team last month gives you a sense of the potential.
The only surprise loss was the 78-73 setback to NC State last week in Blacksburg, and the backstory there was a two-week COVID pause that had them rusty coming out.
Rust shouldn’t be an issue with the rival next on the schedule.
Virginia Tech rotation
The Hokies run through 6’9” senior Keve Aluma (15.2 ppg, 6.4 rebounds/g, 50.9% FG, 23.5% 3FG), whose numbers from three are down from last year (35.1% in 2020-2021), but he is doing a lot more in the mid-range (shooting 56.4 percent on two-point jumpers, up from 43.7 percent a year ago).
Around Aluma in the paint, coach Mike Young has a bevy of perimeter shooters. The Hokies are shooting 38.8 percent from three, 20th nationally, led by 6’3” junior Hunter Cattoor (10.1 ppg, 44.0% FG, 44.6% 3FG, on a team-high 5.3 attempts from three per game).
Darius Maddox, a 6’5” sophomore, shoots 50 percent from three off the bench (5.6 ppg, 15.5 minutes/g).
Also need to watch out for 6’0” senior Storm Murphy from three (8.6 ppg, 46.9% FG, 39.3% 3FG).
Nahiem Alleyne, a 6’4” junior, scores 10.0 points per night, but his shooting is down from last year (31.9 percent from the field, vs. 39.2 percent a year ago; 32.4 percent from three, down from 40.8 percent).
Justyn Mutts, a 6’7”, 230-pound senior, is a beast in the post (9.9 ppg, 7.5 rebounds/g, 51.3% FG, 61.2% on shots at the rim).
Depth in the post comes from 6’9” sophomore David N’Guessan (4.2 ppg, 3.1 rebounds/g, 14.0 minutes/g) and 6’10” junior John Ojiako (3.5 ppg, 2.8 rebounds/g, 8.1 minutes/g).
One other guy gets rotation minutes – 6’1” freshman Sean Pedulla (3.1 ppg, 9.6 minutes/g).
Kadin Shedrick (6.3 ppg, 5.3 rebounds/g, 56.9% FG) gets Aluma, a tough matchup, given Aluma’s versatility.
Shedrick needs to avoid early foul trouble – he averages 5.0 fouls per 40 minutes – because backup center Francisco Caffaro (3.2 ppg, 2.9 rebounds/g, 14.7 minutes/g) will get exploited like crazy by Aluma on pick-and-rolls, pick-and-pops and backdoor cuts (Aluma averages an eye-popping 1.514 points per possession on lane cuts, per Synergy Sports data).
Virginia runs its offense through 6’7” power forward Jayden Gardner (15.0 ppg, 7.5 rebounds/g, 57.4% FG), but the guy likely to guard him most of the night, Mutts, is a tough low-post defender (allowing .791 PPP, per Synergy Sports).
Aluma rates as a “poor” defender, allowing 1.158 points per possession, so you might see Tony Bennett try to get looks for Shedrick in the post early.
Same for Alleyne, who according to Synergy gives up .979 points per possession. Alleyne is likely to get Armaan Franklin (12.0 ppg, 41.5% FG, 22.2% 3FG).
Bennett will want Franklin to attack Alleyne off the dribble to get into mid-range and some rim looks (Franklin is shooting 58.0 percent on two-point jumpers and 63.6 percent at the rim, according to Hoop-Math.com).
In the backcourt, my guess is Young will go with Cattoor, his best perimeter defender (.704 PPP) on Virginia point guard Kihei Clark (9.9 ppg, 4.1 assists/g, 41.9% FG, 42.6% 3FG), which could open things up for Reece Beekman (7.3 ppg, 4.4 assists/g, 40.9% FG, 25.0% 3FG) against Murphy, an average defender (.935 PPP).
Beekman, over his last four, is averaging 10.8 points and 3.8 assists per game on 60.0 percent shooting from the floor and 44.4 percent shooting from three.
Story by Chris Graham