Spread: VT by 2.
Let’s stop all the boo-hoo’ing and the crying. Tech had a tough loss on the road in Morgan-hole at wvu, a rough first half against mvsu, an embarrassing stinker against georgia southern, and a critical injury to a bench player in Marshall Wood. But there still is talent on this team, and we are not playing kentucky or duke this weekend. This is the first real test for Coach Johnson, so let’s see how he responds, and in turn, the team responds. VT can win this tourney that features bradley, colorado state (8-2), and cal-state-bakersfield (4-8). Not exactly world beaters. But JJ must light a fire under this team. If the Hokies have the same indifference on the glass they had the last few games, bradley, and most teams, will send the Hokies out of Vegas quicker than a card-counter.
bradley is very experienced and extremely balanced. Their top six feature three seniors and three juniors. So they’ve been there, done that. But they were a combined 19-45 (6-30 in the Missori Valley Conference) over the last two years. They’ve already surpassed the 7 wins they had all of last year (2-16 in the MVC, which is a quality conference). But just one of their eight wins is against a top 100 RPI team (#58 central michigan) — and they lost to #3 michigan by just 8 and #134 south florida by 19.
Speaking of balance, no one averages more than 13 ppg for the braves. They have six players averaging between 8.5 and 13.0 ppg (VT has 3). They have three players averaging over 3 assists per game (VT has just 1 – Green, though Brown is close). They have five guys averaging more than 1 steal per game (VT has just one – Green).
In terms of common opponents, bradley beat georgia southern by 19 (VT lost by 5) and mvsu by 35 (but it was just 9 at the half — VT beat mvsu by 21). So not real favorable there.
Here’s what bradley does really well and the Hokies must address:
- Turnover margin – bradley turns it over less than 12 times per game — similar to VT, but they cause 17 turnovers per game. That’s 5 extra possessions per game, in a matter of speaking, for the braves.
- Steals – The braves pilfer 11 steals per game! That’s an insanely high number (VT averages 5). Tech must protect the ball and watch out for the aggressive bradley defense.
- Assists – You’d expect a good TO margin from a veteran club, and you also see unselfishness in this group. They really share the ball well, as evidenced in their three guys with 3+ assists per game.
- Rebounding – We all know VT must rebound better. They’ve given up 57 rebounds in their last three games (Tech is getting just 58% of their opponents misses). Luckily, the braves aren’t a great rebounding team. Their rebounding numbers and their opponents are exactly the same — they are getting 34% of their misses which isn’t that high. But again, this comes down to effort and VT must fight for rebounds instead of looking like they don’t care. Forget depth and fear of fouls, the Hokies must attack the glass.
- 3-pt shooting – VT must do better than the 13/57 from deep they’ve had the last three games (23%). They must get back closer to that 40% mark to win. bradley is not a good shooting team from long range – they shoot under 30% and average just under 4 makes per game.
HO-KEY TO WINNING: the braves must cause turnovers since they don’t shoot well from deep. If the Hokies can win the 3-pt % battle (which always signifies the winner in VT games) and hit 40% from deep, they should win the game. bradley must force turnovers to win and hope VT isn’t hot from deep. Rebounding, as always, will be the x-factor. Let’s hope we see passion on the glass so the Hokies can advance to the Las Vegas Classic Championship Game at 11:30 PM on Sunday night on CBS College Sports (consolation game is at 9 PM Sunday night).