Virginia Tech Hokies vs. Virginia Cavaliers Pick
Virginia Tech Hokies (14-1 SU, 9-5 ATS) vs. Virginia Cavaliers (15-0 SU, 12-3 ATS)
When: Tuesday, January 15, 2019 – 8 PM ET
Where: John Paul Jones Arena, Charlottesville, Va.
TV: ACC Network
By: Dan Jamison, College Bask
Spread: Virginia-8.5 (Bovada Sportsbook)
Last Time Out: Virginia Tech defeated Georgia Tech 52-49; Virginia routed Clemson 63-43.
Scouting the Hokies:
To say that Virginia Tech’s shooting against Georgia Tech was poor would be a massive understatement, but the important thing was that the Hokies survived to set up a showdown with their in-state rival. However, it has to be asked as to whether Virginia Tech is really ready for Virginia. While the Hokies have an excellent record and are one play away from being 15-0 themselves, their resume is pretty flimsy when fully examined. To date, Virginia Tech doesn’t have a single win over a certain NCAA team, as its best wins are Purdue, which is likely to make it but not certain, and Washington, which is likely on the wrong side of the bubble. Virginia Tech has to be ready from the opening tip for its biggest challenge of the season — by a mile — if it’s going to stay in the game.
Scouting the Cavaliers:
If you think Virginia is all about defense, then you haven’t watched Virginia play in 2019. Defense remains the calling card for Tony Bennett’s men, but the Wahoos have added a strong, efficient offense to their arsenal this year, which is why Virginia’s offense ranks sixth in the nation despite playing at the slowest pace of any Division I team. Kyle Guy has scored in double digits in nine straight games, and there’s no sign of Virginia sacrificing its defensive play as its fortunes have improved on the offensive end. In short, even though the Cavaliers still play a slow pace, they’ve become much more effective this season, which is why they’ve won each of their past six games by double digits.
Rebounding. Neither of these teams are particularly great at rebounding, preferring instead to force teams into mistakes with the ball and draw out the shot clock rather than crash the glass a la North Carolina. But Virginia and Virginia Tech won’t be able to do that in this game, because both teams consistently make smart decisions with the basketball and won’t be pressured into making mistakes. Instead, both teams will have to get the ball out of the other’s hands by grabbing the rebound on the first miss and limiting the opponent to just one look per possession.
Virginia Tech will Cover if:
The Hokies can get free on the arc and bury a few early shots. Last week’s game against Georgia Tech notwithstanding, Buzz Williams’ charges are usually excellent 3-point shooters. With the exception of P.J. Horne, everyone who plays significant minutes for Virginia Tech shoots at least 35 percent from beyond the arc, with five players shooting above 40 percent from deep. In a game like this, Virginia Tech’s deep shooting can be critical because possessions are likely to be at a premium given each team’s style. As has been seen before, Virginia’s strength — its patience — can become its weakness if the Cavaliers are forced to play from behind for extended stretches of time, and that’s only going to happen if the Hokies can hit from outside.
College Basketball Pick: Kentucky vs. Georgia
Virginia will Cover if:
The Cavaliers can get to the free throw line. Note that says get to the free throw line and not “turn the game into a free throw contest”. It’s actually vital that the game does not turn into a free throw contest for Virginia, because with a seven-man rotation, the Cavaliers are not a deep team and would run out of bodies before the Hokies do. But when the Wahoos can get to the foul line without sending their opponents there, they’ve got a big advantage. Out of the seven players who play significant minutes for Virginia, only Jack Salt shoots less than 76.6 percent from the stripe.
Dan’s Pick to Cover the Spread:
Buzz Williams has done a fantastic job with Virginia Tech. He’s taken what was one of the ACC’s worst programs and turned it into a consistent NCAA tournament team, and the Hokies now hold a top-10 ranking. But while those accomplishments are impressive, I don’t think the Hokies are ready to play with this Cavaliers team.
Quite frankly, Virginia Tech just hasn’t shown enough against the teams it has faced to convince me that it can go into Charlottesville and get a win. I’m aware that the Hokies did exactly that last season, but that comes with a caveat: it was the second meeting between the Commonwealth rivals. In recent years, this series has followed a pattern: Virginia Tech gets blown out in the first meeting before stunning Virginia by a basket in the return game.
Given that the Hokies haven’t really tested themselves on the road to this point outside of a loss to a mediocre Penn State squad, I think that pattern is going to hold. Virginia Tech might not get blown out Tuesday, but nor do I think it can get the better of Virginia on Tuesday. I’m taking the Cavaliers to remain perfect and cover.
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