Now that we’ve got all our yelling about Wisconsin somehow being a No. 8 seed in the NCAA Tournament out of our system, let’s talk about who the Badgers will actually face in the first round: the Virginia Tech Hokies.
Wisconsin will be seeing a very familiar coach in charge of a very different team, as both compete for a chance at taking down the tournament’s No. 1 overall seed: Villanova. Here’s everything you need to know about the upstart Hokies.
Team: Virginia Tech Hokies
What is a Hokie: A Hokie is a nickname for a turkey
Conference record: 10-8, 7th in the ACC
School location: Blacksburg, Va.
School enrollment: 30,598 students
Hey everybody, remember Buzz Williams? He’s back!
Ol’ Buzz surprised many when he left Wisconsin’s in-state rival Marquette following the 2014 season for Virginia Tech, which was a bottom-tier program before he took over. Since then, Williams has been building a legitimate program in Blacksburg in the last three seasons, going from 11-22 to 20-15 to 22-10 and Virginia Tech’s first March Madness appearance since 2007.
In case anyone needs reminding of what Williams accomplished in six seasons at Marquette, here’s a quick rundown: five NCAA Tournament appearances, three Sweet 16s, a Big East regular-season championship and a 3-3 record against the Badgers.
You also need to see his Twitter, which is colorful to say the least.
Day 1: RPI=246
Day 356: RPI=222
Day 728: RPI=81
It's not the #'s,it's all the ????♂️??♂️???who were a part!
Thank you??? pic.twitter.com/whS8DoNt8P
— Buzz Williams (@TeamCoachBuzz) March 12, 2017
Virginia Tech opened the season with a 12-1 record that included wins against Big Ten foes Michigan and Nebraska, as well as a massive upset over then-No. 5 Duke on New Year’s Eve. The road got a little bumpier as the Hokies hit the wall of playing in a loaded ACC, but they also managed to score a double-OT upset against rival and then-No. 12 Virginia on Feb. 12.
All in all, the Hokies were 3-6 against top 25 teams in the Sagarin ratings and 8-8 against the top 50. They had their ACC Tournament run ended in the second round, losing 74-68 to No. 3-seed Florida State.
What Virginia Tech does well
If Virginia Tech is going to beat Wisconsin, it’s probably going to involve a hail of 3-pointers.
The Hokies led the ACC in 3-point field goal percentage with a 40.3-percent mark while ranking third in the conference in attempts. Four different Hokies have made more than 50 3-pointers this year, something only Bronson Koenig has done for the Badgers this season. That could be bad news for a Wisconsin team that, outside of Zak Showalter, has struggled in the past with defending the perimeter.
Well here's your stat:
Wisconsin is 307th in the country in three-point defense.
Virginia Tech is 9th in three-point offense.
— Josh Parcell (@JoshParcell) March 12, 2017
What Virginia Tech doesn’t do well
Be tall. It’s a little deeper than that, but that’s Virginia Tech’s big disadvantage against Wisconsin at the simplest level. The Hokies’ sole player taller than 6-foot-7, the 6-10 Khadim Sy, averages only 11.4 minutes per game.
Now let’s be clear, just because a team lacks length doesn’t mean it can’t beat teams with quality big men. But that lack of length does seem to have hurt Virginia Tech this season. Fewer than 20 teams in the country ran into a higher block rate on offense than the Hokies per KenPom, and they posted mediocre rebounding rates, as well.
This is a matchup where Ethan Happ can feast in all phases of the game.
Virginia Tech’s player to watch
Zach LeDay is Virginia Tech’s leader in points, rebounds and blocks even though he wasn’t a starter during the ACC Tournament. This is the guy Happ will be spotting up against on most possessions, though Sy will likely draw that responsibility when he’s in. Given that LeDay is only 6-7, there’s a good chance Virginia Tech is going to have to double-team Happ even more than teams usually do.
Virginia Tech’s rotation and stats
|Name||Minutes/game||Usage rate||Points/game||Rebounds/game||Assists/game||Field goal %||True shooting %|