Spread: Louisville -4
5:30pm Central – KFC Yum! Center, Louisville, KY
#19 Virginia Tech Hokies (8-1, 2-0)
Virginia Tech comes into tonight’s game after having not played in a week, as their game against in-state rival Virginia this past weekend was postponed due to COVID concerns within the UVA program. The UVA game would have been a nice measuring stick for the Hokies, but tonight’s contest will serve the same purpose and will go a long way in helping to show whether VT is legit or not. Tonight’s game will be Virginia Tech’s first true road game of the season, as they’re 6-1 at home and 2-0 on a neutral floor—with one of those neutral site victories being a win over #3 Villanova during the opening weekend of the season.
Head Coach Mike Young, in his second season at the helm at VT, is looking to avoid another midseason meltdown after a promising start. Last season, Virginia Tech started the year 6-0 (including a win over Michigan State) before losing 16 of their next 26 and finishing 16-16. VT was 3-7 on the road last year, a number they’ll look to improve on this year starting with tonight’s contest.
Young’s most dynamic threat is junior forward Keve Aluma (16.0 PPG, 6.7 RPG), who leads the team in scoring, rebounds, and blocked shots. Aluma sat out last year after transferring from Wofford, effectively following Young to his new destination in Blacksburg. The Hokies rank 77th in the nation 3PT% at 36.5%, and they shot 50% (10-20) in their neutral site win over Villanova earlier this year. Three-point shooting is the name of the game on offense for the Hokies, as they have the 55th highest 3PT FGA / Total FGA rate in the country with 43.1% of field goal attempts coming from beyond the arc.
Louisville Cardinals (7-1, 2-0)
Louisville is looking to continue rolling tonight, as they’ve won their last three straight, including two conference games, since getting shelled by Wisconsin on December 19 in their return to action. Since the Cards’ 37-point defeat at the hands of the Badgers, they’ve knocked off Pitt and Boston College—both on the road—by double figures, with a home win against in-state rival Kentucky sandwiched in between. The Cards are a perfect 5-0 at home this year.
Defense has been Louisville’s calling card, as they’ve done a great job limiting teams’ effectiveness inside the arc; even accounting for the Wisconsin game, opposing offenses are shooting just 43.3% from two against the Cards this season, good for 32nd in the nation in that stat. On the offensive end, Louisville’s strengths mirror their defense. Louisville ranks 72nd in the nation in two-point FG% at 53.3%. The Cards are on the other end of the spectrum for VT when it comes to three-point FGs as a proportion of total FGA. While VT has the 55th highest %, Louisville has the 286th highest %, as only 31.5% of Louisville’s field goals are of the three-point variety.
Guard play is the Cards’ strength, as senior point guard Carlik Jones (16.4 PPG, 6.6 RPG, 5.1 APG) leads the team in scoring and assists while sophomore off-ball guard David Johnson (14.4 PPG, 6.3 RPG, 4.0 APG) is second in the team in scoring.
Tonight’s game will determine which team sits alone at the top of the ACC standings. Both of these teams play at a slow pace (each are ranked 300+ nationally in terms of tempo, according to KenPom). Louisville has played an especially slow brand of basketball since they returned to full strength after the Wisconsin game. The big question is whether VT can make their shots from outside the arc. Louisville is comparatively better on defense inside the arc, so the Hokies should get their chances from deep. I’m not convinced VT will be able to shoot the ball like they have in previous big games, though, especially with this being their first true road game of the season. Take Louisville -4 (-110) AND UNDER 132.0.
Mac is 9-9 on the season. All picks are one unit. A $100 bettor has a loss of $82.