Facing a relatively unproven postseason team like Virginia Tech seems like a wash for a tournament perennial like Wisconsin. However, don’t be fooled by the Hokie name: Virginia Tech is here to dance, and they hope for more than one song.
Former Marquette head coach (and Hokies coach since 2014) Buzz Williams is a textbook college basketball personality. He’s an energetic force determined to mold his young men into champions. Williams says he wants to be the CEO of Virginia Tech, or “Chief Energy Officer,” and since the Hokies enter the tournament with relatively low expectations, Williams is stressing the importance of their opportunity, while combatting expectations of a brief run.
— NCAA March Madness (@marchmadness) March 15, 2017
In order to take down a team brimming with confidence given they have less to lose in terms of reputation, the Badgers will need to make sure to slow down the Hokies’ rapid pace of play. Wisconsin plays like they’ve got all the time in the world to score and defend, but that conservative style won’t cut it against a team that averages 71.7 possessions a game compared to Wisconsin’s 66.9. Unless Wisconsin can dictate the pace early, this game could be closer than expected.
Seniors Zach LeDay and Seth Allen have been the soul of Virginia Tech all year, and it shows. They’re the Hokies’ two leading scorers at 16.3 and 13.4 points respectively. LeDay leads the team in rebounds, averaging 7.4 per game as well as a block, while Green is second in assists at a 3.3 per game clip while shooting a blistering 45.1 percent from three on the year. Containing this two-headed monster will be an obvious point of emphasis. Ideally, Wisconsin will counter with their own three headed beast in Hayes, Happ, and Koenig.
That terrific 45.1 percent three point shooting percentage may seem like an outlier, but Virginia Tech is a tremendous three point shooting team altogether, with three players averaging over 42% from three and two more averaging over 36%. That many respectable three point weapons will make any defense’s head spin, so Wisconsin must be sure to hustle to the perimeter and contest shots as well as deny passes to the outside. Denying a characteristic that defines the Hokies makes snagging that W all the more easy.
In essence, the Hokies are an unassuming team. But they’ve got a lot of momentum, especially after finishing 10-8 in arguably the best conference in college basketball, and breaking out of a pattern of consecutive last place conference finishes from 2012-2015. Look for the Badgers to slow things down early and take Virginia Tech out of their element; seeing how the Hokies respond, however – well, that’s all part of the madness.