ACC Basketball

ACC Tourney | Virginia Tech vs. Wake Forest

wake virginia tech

Wake Forest and Virginia Tech are not good teams. I hate to kick an ACC team when they’re down, but the truth isn’t always fun.

Wake has dropped five of six and seems to have finished the season before it’s actually over, losing to Duke by 43 and then to Boston College by 18 (sadly, the loss to the Eagles was worse because at least the Blue Devils are a good team).

Virginia Tech finished just 2-16 in the conference, including losing seven in a row, but with the exception of their final game at home against Miami, they’ve remained competitive in those loses. They took Duke to overtime and tested Virginia.

These two faced off just once back on January 31. Wake pulled out a 73-70 win, scoring the game’s final four points. Justin Bibbs had a chance to tie it at the end, but missed a challenged three. Codi Miller-McIntyre finished with 19, hitting all seven shots, while Konstantinos Mitoglou and Mitchell Wilbekin each scored 15 for the Demon Deacons. Six different Hokies scored in double figures, but they were just 9-for-26 from three in the loss.

Virginia Tech’s current rotation features four freshmen (Justin Bibbs, Malik Mueller, Ahmed Hill and Satchel Pierce) who won’t be confused with McDonald’s All-Americans, but they have gotten better as the season has gone on. However, led by guards Devin Wilson and Adam Smith, Buzz Williams’ squad lives to shoot threes and are actually pretty good at it (18th in the nation in 3P%) and overall are top-75 in field goal efficiency and 130th in overall offensive efficiency as their four-guard lineup doesn’t turn the ball over much.

On the defensive side though, the Hokies remain at the bottom third in total defense. The issue is not just that they are young and prone to mistakes, it’s that they have no size inside. Teams have dominated them in the paint, as they are 243rd in the nation in 2P%. Worse yet is their inability to work the glass.

Fact is, Virginia Tech couldn’t rebound if you told them exactly where the ball was going to bounce to, currently ranked 311th in offensive boards and 344th in defensive boards, according to Ken Pom. Freshman Satchel Pierce has the size and the motor to be good one day in the middle and he’s done some decent things since he’s recently started to get playing time, but he’s just too raw to make a difference for long stretches, especially on the defensive side of the ball.

Wake Forest should be able to take advantage inside with the size they have. Devin Thomas is a skilled big man with a NBA body and we’ve seen his ceiling most recently against Notre Dame (26 points, 11 rebounds), but the problem is, he rarely comes close to that ceiling. Mentally he checks out for long stretches and if the Wake’s offense struggles, Danny Manning has failed to find ways for him to get the ball.

Howe bad has it gotten? Since that game against the Irish, Thomas has taken just 21 shots. Meanwhile, freshman center Konstantinos Mitoglou has taken 36 shots, but he prefers to shoot from deep and offers very little presence inside.

The back court is run Codi Miller-McIntyre, but the Demon Deacons can production from Madison Jones (117th in assist rate) and Mitchell Wilbekin (who shoots nearly 40% from three), yet as a team, they continue to turn the ball over way too much (341st in steal% allowed) and 272nd in blocks allowed. They also struggle to get free points on the charity stripe (331st in FT%).

Defensively, the one thing Wake Forest does well is rebound (23rd in the nation), but it’s tough to get a lot of defensive rebounds when you let your opponents make all their baskets. They are just 249th in defensive FG efficiency and, 285th inside the arc.

The key to beating Wake is disrupting the offense as it crosses half court. If they’re starting their offense too far from the bucket, then Virginia Tech can minimize any advantage Wake has in the paint. The fact is, the Deacons’ guards need screens to beat their men and if their big men are forced to set screens five-feet beyond the three line, then they won’t be able to get any set plays inside.

WORTHLESS PREDICTION: Virginia Tech, 69-65  

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