Virginia Tech at Virginia

Virginia Tech (11-7, 0-4) at Virginia (15-2, 2-1), 6:00 PM, ESPNU

Both Dorenzo Hudson (left) and Sammy Zeglinski (right) need to have good games for their respective teams to win on Sunday.

The in-state rivals meet again. Last year, Virginia Tech lost twice to the Virginia; in the second meeting, Mike Scott was out for UVA. With that win, Virginia Tech might have made the NCAA Tournament. Now, the Hokies are almost certainly out of the NCAA Tournament and Virginia is in but needs wins like these to ensure a good seed. Virginia Tech might be desperate, but that likely won’t be enough. Virginia needs to maintain its high level of focus that it showed Thursday in a throttling of Georgia Tech.

Stat to watch: Rebounding. Virginia Tech has been out-rebounded by an average of nine per game in ACC play. After the Hokies narrowly out-rebounded Boston College in a loss, they let North Carolina pound them to the tune of 51-28 on the backboards (including a 19-11 edge on the offensive glass). In close losses, Virginia Tech has given up 49 second-chance points off of those 13.0 offensive rebounds per game by their opponents – 12.3 points per game just on second chances. North Carolina beat them by 14 points and had 21 second-chance points. Only Wake and BC failed to really hurt Virginia Tech with second-chance points (just 14 combined) but they had 19 offensive rebounds between them, meaning in a slow, deliberate game, Virginia Tech just lost another 30 seconds at least. If the Hokies give up chances like that against Virginia and allow the Cavaliers to milk more clock, they may not break 50. And they may not anyway.

Virginia has been excellent on the glass, out-rebounding Duke and Georgia Tech in its last two games by an average of +14 (Duke was just +5, but still). The Cavaliers have a 38-25 edge in offensive rebounds as well, and they are turning their offensive boards into 45 points (15.0 per game) in second-chance looks while allowing opponents to score just 6.7 second-chance point per game. That’s what Virginia does to you – they frustrate you, make you impatient and then force you into a bad shot, promptly retrieving your miss and making you defend for 30 seconds while they search for a great look. It’s maddening, and it’s what has made the Cavaliers so good this year. Will they be as dominant on the glass without Assane Sene, their center who is out for six weeks? That remains to be seen, but Virginia Tech has been awful on the glass against all ACC opponents this year. If Virginia limits them to one-and-done on offense, they will win by 15 or more.

Most important players: Sammy Zeglinski, Virginia and Dorenzo Hudson, Virginia Tech. Ah, Dorenzo Hudson. What to make of the mercurial senior? He was brilliant in the first half against North Carolina, hitting 5-of-5 shots (4-of-4 three’s) and had 16 of the Hokies’ 39 points at the break. Without him, his team shot 9-of-30 (30%) in the first half. In the second half, he did disappear, literally – he had zero points, and his team had just 29 second-half points. He was 0-of-4 from the floor (0-of-2 from three) and his team would have been better without him (33.3% with him to 38% without him). That’s the kind of up-and-down year it’s been for Hudson thus far, all summed up in one game. He can carry the Hokies, but he can also hurt them. And it’s been like that against Virginia as well: in the two wins over Virginia that Hudson has played in, he has shot 13-of-27 (4-of-6 from three) and averaged 16.5 points. In the two losses, he has shot 5-of-16 (2-of-8 from three) and averaged 6.0 points. That seems more like his year to date. But everyone, including Hudson himself, knows he’s capable of more.

Zeglinski has had a nightmarish time against Duke over his career, and it continued earlier this season in Durham where he shot 0-of-8 to make him 9-of-48 (18.8%) against Duke in six games. He has also played six games against Virginia Tech, and it hasn’t been much better against the Hokies: 10-of-42 (23.8%) and 6-of-26 from three (23.1%, still better than 1-of-22 – or 4.5% – he has shot against Duke). He’s come through in big moments for the Cavaliers this year, scoring 11 in a tough win at Seattle and 20 in a squeaker against Towson, following that up with 17 at LSU in the Cavaliers’ final non-conference game. The problem is Zeglinski hasn’t even totaled 17 points yet (he has 16) in three ACC games. His 10 points on 4-of-8 shooting at Georgia Tech were a nice start, and he’ll need to build on that – without Assane Sene, Virginia’s rotation just got that much thinner.

Random stat: Virginia leads the all-time series 81-52 and 8-7 since Virginia Tech joined the league. Virginia leads 32-12 at Virginia but Virginia Tech has won two of the last four (after going 40 years without winning in Charlottesville: hello, UNC football!). Virginia also leads 5-2 at home since the Hokies joined the ACC.

Prediction: Virginia 65, Virginia Tech 59

 

Last week: 6-5 

Season: 78-29 (16-10 ACC)

 

 

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