In my four and a half years as a student, I did the same thing for every basketball game I went to. I walked up to McCamish roughly 20 minutes before tip, showed my buzzcard, and got in, often to the limited courtside section. Now though, the student enthusiasm has forced a change. The students are now required to sign up ahead of time, and they sold out! I never would have imagined that during my time in school during the Brian Gregory era. Not only that, but now the whole stadium is sold out. I expect it to be a raucous atmosphere at McCamish and provide a big advantage to the Jackets.
The Yellow Jackets will need all the help they can get against the Cavaliers. The Hoos are ranked #2 by the AP and #3 by KenPom. They have the best defense in the country, against an average offense, they’d only give up 85 points in 100 possessions. That’s really, really good. They only have one loss on the season on the road at West Virginia. They don’t have a litany of big wins, but a home win against UNC is really nice and blowing out Virginia Tech and Rhode Island on the road are respectable.
Every conversation about Virginia begins with the Pack Line defense. They pack the defense in which prevents opposing teams from getting easy baskets, but they do a fantastic job of getting out on the perimeter and contesting threes. They don’t foul a whole lot and they force turnovers on 23% of their opponent’s possessions. If you had to nitpick, they could rebound a little better, but that’s about it. If Tech is going to score on Virginia, they’re going to need to make some outside shots. That’s not their specialty, but their have been a few games where the Jackets got some contributions from the outside (7-13 against Yale and 5-12 against ND). Additionally, they need Josh Okogie to have a big game. Nobody else on this team has the scoring talent he does. This looks to be a low scoring game, so he needs to be on his best.
When it comes to stopping Virginia, you have to be most concerned with Kyle Guy, Devon Hall, and to a lesser extent Ty Jerome. These three are the top scorers for the Hoos, and unfortunately for Tech, they are all knockdown shooters, shooting at least 43% from deep. Virginia’s offense is the slowest in the country, 351st out of 351, taking 20.4 seconds per possession. They also don’t turn the ball over (12th in the country with a 15.1 TO%). GT needs to keep defensive intensity for the entire shot clock and not gamble for unlikely turnovers. That, I believe, is much more achievable for this Tech team. The Jackets are pretty good defensively, but will need to lock down their rotations and close out hard on the shooters. Also look out for veterans Isaiah Wilkins and Jack Salt. Neither are particularly dangerous offensively, but both are stalwarts on defense.
This game takes place at McCamish tonight at 8 pm on the ACC Network. My prediction is that the Virginia defense smothers the Yellow Jackets offense and wins 62-52. Oh, one last thing, remember the last time Virginia came into McCamish ranked in the top five just two years ago? I do.