Virginia Tech may already be 1-0 in ACC play thanks to a win over Louisville in early December, but conference action begins in earnest this weekend, with the Hokies taking on Wake Forest. moved to Winston-Salem to You can also check out some features for this weekend’s games at the link below.
With that said, here are three things to watch for Hokies vs. Demon Deacons and my predictions.
1. How will Virginia Tech’s defense hold up against Wake Forest’s offense?
Virginia Tech may not be a defensive type, but they have shown legitimate improvement on the defensive side of the floor, currently ranking higher in defensive efficiency than offensive efficiency (53 to 62), according to KenPom. .
Defensively, the Hokies faced a tough test in non-conference play, with mixed results. However, according to KenPom, Wake Forest ranks 32nd in offensive efficiency, with only Florida Atlantic and Auburn ranking higher among the teams Tech has played this season and in recent weeks. It will be the toughest test.
Tech’s perimeter defense will be the favorite in this matchup, as five of Wake Forest’s top six scorers are shooting 36% or higher from 3-point range, and each is averaging at least 2.7 3-pointers per game. It will be especially tested.
The Demon Deacons may be a little better at 3-point shooting compared to the national average, but they need more balance, especially with the presence of a true quality starting center in Efton Reed, who just became eligible earlier this month. There is a possibility that it is starting to show itself. That’s because a court ruling currently prevents the NCAA from enforcing the one-time free transfer rule, allowing Reed, a second transfer, to play. Reed hasn’t played well shooting-wise so far, but he’s been steadily getting to the free-throw line to make up for those struggles.
All four of Wake Forest’s leading scorers are also shooting 55% from inside the arc, splitting their 2-point and 3-point attempts about evenly. Tech won’t be able to cheat either way in this game, which will be the toughest test the Hokies have faced defensively in recent weeks.
If Tech can slow down a loaded Wake Forest offense, there would be good reason to believe the Hokies’ improved defense can maintain this high level throughout ACC play.
2. Battle of Hunters
Perhaps the most important matchup of the match will be between Hunter Kattoa and Hunter Sallis.It’s possible that Kattore is closely guarding Cameron Hildreth (and Tech needs MJ Collins/Tyler Nickel to step up there), but Kattore is a former five-year-old who came up from high. Schools that should draw Gonzaga transfer similar to star recruit
Despite currently shooting below 40% for the first time in his career, the numbers suggest Hunter Kattore is having the best offensive season of his career. There are two main reasons for that: He’s shooting a career-best 57.1% from inside the arc, and he’s averaging 4.1 free throw attempts per game (double his previous career best). It’s not the fact that he’s also hitting career-best shots. 89.8% from the free throw line.
Kattoa is currently facing a Wake Forest team that doesn’t allow many fouls, with Sallis averaging 1.8 fouls per game and fellow standout wing Cameron Hildreth averaging just 2.1 fouls per game. But Kattoa has definitely improved his ability in terms of getting to the rim and drawing fouls to get to the free throw line. This game will be a great test of those abilities, but don’t be surprised if Kattoa finds different ways to make an offensive impact in this game.
Kattoa has improved defensively after missing time with an elbow injury and nearly getting thrown out on the end of the floor upon his return. His defensive rating is his highest since the 2020-21 season, and his defensive plus-minus of 2.2 is a huge improvement from last season’s career-low 1.0.
Sallis is a big-time talent who can score at multiple levels and will definitely test Kattoa. He also has a good balance of outside and inside shooting, which can prevent Kattoa from cheating in either direction. If Kattoa can slow down Sallis (if matched up with him) and Cameron Hildreth, the Hokies will have a much better chance of slowing down Wake Forest’s high-powered offense.
3. Will the supporting characters step up as well?
This season, it has often been the big three of Hunter Kattore, Lynn Kidd, and Sean Pedula that are leading the ship for Virginia Tech. The Hokies have gotten some good play from their supporting cast in ways other than scoring, but the inconsistency has hurt them at times.
If a tech company is going to reach peak levels of success, it’s going to need a supporting cast that can fill that role.
Tech’s two biggest needs in this matchup are Mekhi Long and Robby Beran, who will face a tough task against Wake Forest stretch four Andrew Carr. The 6-foot-9 power forward averaged a career-high 15.5 points and 7.6 rebounds this season at Wake Forest, shooting a career-high 40.0 percent from 3-point range and 55.7 percent from the field. Stepped up. whole.
He also leads the Demon Deacons’ main rotation in player efficiency rating and true shooting percentage, averaging 2.7 offensive rebounds per game. Long and Beran are quality rebounders and defensive players overall, and sharpness will be needed in this game.
MJ Collins and Tyler Nickell will also have tough defensive matchups against Cameron Hildreth or Hunter Sallis in this game, depending on Mike Young’s direction. Both players are averaging over 15 points per game and shooting over 59%. Collins has been a more advanced defensive player this season, and it wouldn’t be surprising to see Mike Young rely on Collins more if he has some productive days offensively.
Tech needs both of these players, as well as others like Beran and Jadon Young, as sharpshooters to extend the Hokies’ offense. Wake Forest isn’t a great defensive team, but the Hokies are shooting less than his 34% from 3-point range. The Hokies are showing signs that they won’t live with three and die with three, but they need to make room for Lynn Kidd and the supporting cast needs to do their part and not just rely on Kattoa. And Pedulla to achieve it.
It’s rare in recent years that Virginia Tech has been the clearly more competitive team in the early stages of ACC play, but the Hokies are ranked in the top 150 for strength of non-conference schedule by KenPom. On the other hand, the reality is that Wake Forest is ranked outside of the rankings. Top 275. The Demon Deacons have two quality wins against the University of Florida and Rutgers. This may not be as good as Tech’s wins over Iowa State, Boise State and Vermont, but it’s not far off.
These games after Christmas can be weird, especially around the holidays as practice time can be choppy and teams honestly may not be that sharp given the long time between games. It may become. This may be an advantage for Wake Forest, which plays at home, in some ways, and another for a Virginia Tech team that doesn’t rely as much on 3-point shooting.
All of which means this game feels like a toss-up that could be significant in the months ahead, with both teams hanging out on opposite sides of the bubble for now.Wake Forest has a strong starting lineup.
A negative for the Demon Deacons may be Efton Reed, who isn’t great offensively but is a strong shot blocker on the glass. Reed isn’t as good as Lynn Kidd, but his rebounding and defense may be enough to slow Kidd down in this matchup.
There’s also some concern about the health of Sean Pedulla, who wasn’t feeling well for most of this month before getting injured at the end of the win over Louisville. If Pedulla isn’t sharp in this game, it could be a tough afternoon for the Hokies.
At the end of the day, the concern that Pedulla vs. Wake Forest is at home and they have four players who average at least 15 points per game and can be relied upon to score could be the difference-maker. I expect Kattore and Kidd to play well, but I’m not sure this is the “right” spot for Pedulla and for Tech’s supporting cast to step up at this spot on the road in the ACC. I’m not convinced it can be done.