On Friday, the No. 6 seed Texas Longhorns will face off against the No. 11 seed Virginia Tech Hokies in Milwaukee as the Longhorns look for their first NCAA Tournament victory since 2014.
The seeding for the Hokies is in line with widespread projections, but head coach Mike Young’s team is on a hot streak — Virginia Tech emerged from the ACC Tournament as the surprise champions and have won 13 of its last 15 games. The last two victories in New York came by impressive margins as the Hokies dismantled the Tar Heels, 72-59, then stomped the Blue Devils, 82-67, to win the program’s first ACC Tournament title.
The loss to TCU in the Big 12 Tournament quarterfinals hurt Texas, keeping the Longhorns from a possible five seed and eventually slotting head coach Chris Beard’s team against an opponent peaking at the right time.
The analytics put that reality into further perspective — Virginia Tech ranks No. 23 in the KenPom.com’s adjust efficiency metrics with the No. 18 offense nationally, led by forward Keve Aluma, a 6’9, 235-pounder who averages 15.3 points per game and 6.5 points per game.
The Hokes are particularly dangerous from three-point range, ranking No. 3 nationally by hitting 39.3 percent of their attempts from beyond the arc. Three guards make 41.8 percent of their threes or better, with Hunter Cattoor hitting 82 so far this season, Darius Maddox making 51.9 percent, and Sean Pedulla converting at 44.3 percent.
Cattoor was sensational against Duke, scoring 31 points on 11-of-17 shooting, including 7-of-9 shooting from three-point range.
So the Longhorns will have to defend the three-point line well, especially if they have another game when shots aren’t falling from distance — Texas has eight games this season shooting 25 percent or worse from three.
Virginia Tech also protects the basketball at a high level, turning the ball over on only 16.9 percent of its possessions.
Defensively, the Hokies aren’t quite as good, ranking No. 55 in adjusted efficiency, but do a solid job of keeping opponents off the offensive glass, not sending them to the free-throw line, and defending the three-point line.
Texas head coach Chris Beard has talked about the need to finally play a complete game and that probably won’t be necessary to beat Virginia Tech, but the Hokies certainly fit the profile of a team that could pull off the upset if the Longhorns don’t get strong performances from at least three of their four best players — senior guard Marcus Carr, senior guard Courtney Ramey, senior guard Andrew Jones, and senior forward Timmy Allen.