Hokie Hoops Preview: VMI
After the performance Mike Young and company put together in Bubbleville this past weekend, Virginia Tech fans should be pumped up. What Villanova thought would be a tune-up game added to their shortened non-conference schedule turned out to be a serious kick in the teeth from a gritty Hokie squad. Virginia Tech followed that up with a commanding performance against a weaker South Florida team to boast a 3-0 record and earn themselves a #16 ranking in the latest AP poll.
Each of the keys to the game mentioned in the Villanova game preview panned out in Virginia Tech’s favor. They shot the ball efficiently, netting 50% from behind the arc, and were red hot down the stretch when they needed it most. The Hokies also did an excellent job of limiting the Must Stop Player in Jeremiah Robinson-Earl. The 6’9” forward, who garnered National Player of the Year buzz through his first two games, was held to just 14 points on 5-15 shooting. While rebounding is crucial in every matchup, winning the battle on the boards against a fundamentally sound team like Villanova is even more important. The Hokies did just that, leading the rebounding battle 40-31 and holding the Wildcats to just 7 offensive rebounds.
This week will be a much lighter workload for Mike Young and his squad.
Virginia Tech will look to build upon their hot start as they face off against the Virginia Military Institute in the I-81 Showdown.
The Scouting Report
Mike Young is familiar with head coach Dan Earl and his Keydet crew as he has faced off against them 12 times since VMI rejoined the Southern Conference in 2014. The Terriers defeated the Keydets in all 12 matchups. Speaking about Coach Young, Earl had this to say:
“Mike is an unbelievable coach in general. Defensively, I don’t know if he’s ever gotten enough credit for how hard his teams played at Wofford… they seem to be doing the same thing at Virginia Tech.”
Virginia Tech’s most recent performance against VMI was not their greatest display, though despite struggling on offense, they pulled out a 64-55 victory. Hunter Cattoor was the lone bright spot in that game, scoring his then career-high 14 points off the bench.
The Keydets are 2-1 so far this season with wins against St. Andrews and Longwood. In their only power 5 matchup, they suffered a 21-point loss to Penn State (whom the Hokies face in next week's Big Ten/ACC matchup) where they were dominated in every component of the game. They play a small-ball lineup that will allow Keve Aluma and the Hokie frontcourt to have their way in the paint. Considering the lack of size and inside presence, the Keydets rely heavily on the three-ball. They put up 36 shots from three-point land against the Nittany Lions, connecting on only 11 of them. Five of those threes came at the hands of sophomore point guard Kamdyn Curfman who dropped 15 on the Hokies last season on 5-6 shooting from three. He has continued to shoot the ball well this season, making him the Must Stop Player for this game.
Must Stop Player
All things considered, the Keydets have a pretty solid backcourt in Curfman and senior Greg Parham. The two combined for 38 points against a respectable Penn State team, collectively scoring 8 of the Keydets 11 three-pointers on just 14 attempts. If the Hokies want to avoid a game like last year, in which VMI was on their heels until the closing minutes, they will have to defend the three. Jalen Cone is expected to make his return this week and will be tasked with making sure Curfman and the VMI backcourt cannot gather any momentum on offense.
No disrespect to the Keydets, but Virginia Tech should have a much easier time in this matchup. As long as VT can keep the Keydets from getting hot, they should win this game fairly easily.
Thursday, December 3rd