The No. 6-seeded Texas Longhorns (21-11, 10-8 Big 12) return to March Madness for the second straight year but face one of the hottest teams in the country in the Virginia Tech Hokies (23-12, 11-9 ACC).
The No. 11-seeded Hokies finished seventh in the ACC but caught fire in the post-season tournament and defeated ranked opponents North Carolina and Duke en route to the championship. Coached by Mike Young, Virginia Tech has won 13 of their last 15 games since opening conference play 3-7.
“We’ll probably have to play our best game of the year,” Chris Beard said earlier this week. “There’s only a few that can slide by with a B-zone game, we’ll have to play our A-zone game, have to play great in the first round, and that’s what we intend to do.”
Per KenPom’s adjusted tempo rating, the Hokies are a slower team than Texas. Yes, that is possible. The Longhorns rank 341st in the nation with VT at 344th. Young’s squad averages the 12th fewest possessions per game, 64.9, while Texas averages 66.2.
In other words, expect a gritty game on Friday.
Virginia Tech ranks 18th in terms of adjusted offensive efficiency per KenPom, but 55th in defense. Forward Keve Aluva leads the team with 15.8 points per game, shooting 53.4 percent overall, and is averaging 6.5 rebounds per game. Aluva has an all-around game with a strong post-game and the ability to knock down threes. He’s also an excellent passer for a big man, put on display against Duke with seven assists alongside 19 points and 10 rebounds.
Outside of Aluva and forward Justyn Mutts, the Hokies are a guard-heavy team and rank 308th in rebounds per game. That will help out the Longhorns, who struggle against bigger teams on the glass.
Junior guard Hunter Cattoor is coming off a 31-point performance against Duke, knocking down seven threes in the victory.
Courtney Ramey will likely draw the defensive assignment against Cattoor, hoping to continue his outstanding season despite not being named to the Big 12 All-Defense team.
“I view Ramey as one of the best defenders in the league,” Beard said. “He guarded the other team's best player consistently this year.”
Texas will need Ramey’s defense but also his ability to knock down shots in a game that is set to be a physical, back and forth affair.
How to Watch:
Streaming: March Madness Live App
Time: approximately 3:30 p.m. Central
Radio: Texassports.com affiliates
Odds: The Longhorns are one-point favorites over the Hokies, according to DraftKings.
Odds/lines subject to change. T&Cs apply. See draftkings.com/sportsbook for details.