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Previewing Virginia Tech: Rebuilding Hokies bring some scares

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Michael Shroyer-USA TODAY Sports

How to watch the game

Tip time: 6 p.m. ET, Saturday Feb. 21

TV: ESPN2

Online streaming: WatchESPN

Radio: Sirius/XM 84, Wolfpack Sports Network (affiliates)

Virginia Tech vitals

Record: 10-16 (2-11)
Pomeroy ranking: No. 178
RPI: No. 217
Wins vs. Pomeroy top-100: 2
Best win: Georgia Tech (No. 76 in Pomeroy Ratings)
Worst loss: Appalachian State (No. 293 in Pomeroy Ratings)

Adjusted tempo: 65.5 poss/40 minutes (ranks 151st)
Adjusted offensive efficiency: 101.0 (ranks 181st)
Adjusted defensive efficiency: 102.4 (ranks 176th)

Virginia Tech @ StatSheet
Virginia Tech roster
Virginia Tech schedule
Virginia Tech 2015 stats

The Virginia Tech offense and starters

Virginia Tech Offense -- Four Factors eFG% (National Rank) TO% OR% FT Rate
2013-14 47.1 (272) 19.7 (264) 31.7 (168) 38.1 (241)
2014-15 51.4 (76) 19.0 (153) 26.1 (321) 34.0 (262)

The first year of Buzz Williams' Virginia Tech reclamation project isn't going well, exactly, but this season was never going to be about the results in the win-loss column. The Hokies endured so much roster turnover in the offseason that Williams was left to build around Devin Wilson, Adam Smith, and Joey van Zegeren. Van Zegeren left the program after being suspended in early January.

Williams was left to construct a lineup out of inexperienced players, most of whom are guards. So he's been doing some dabblin'. It must be fun as a coach, I mean at least for a little while, to do some dabblin'. No expectations, just throwing guys on the floor in varying situations to see what sticks.

While there have been some hiccups, most cucially the Hokies have found that Adam Smith is pretty damn good when he's healthy, and when Maryland transfer Seth Allen becomes eligible next season, the Hokies will have themselves a backcourt duo that can cause a lot of problems.

Smith is one of the few holdovers from the previous regime, and maybe one reason for that is he's already transferred once--he came to Tech from UNC-Wilmington. As a sophomore at Tech in 2014 he was occasionally a big-time scorer before a leg injury cut his season short. Now he's in the midst of a career year.

With its guard-heavy orientation this season, it's not surprising that the Hokies are leaning on jump shots. And when I say guard-heavy, I really mean there's a lot of short dudes in this lineup--the Hokies have few options at forward, which has led to a lot of small-ball lineups. It's killed their rebounding, but that's kind of beside the point in a season like this one.

The Hokies are shooting 38.7% from three, which ranks 33rd nationally. About 35% of their field goal attempts come from beyond the arc; that's above the D-I average, but it doesn't put them in the category of extreme perimeter-orientation.

That three-point accuracy has held up just fine in league play, so if you're looking for one big reason to fret about Saturday night, this is it. The Hokies can shoot the three and won't be shy about it. Despite this, their offense has been mediocre at best, but still, if the basketball gods are smiling on a three-point shooting team, you never know.

Starters

Devin Wilson (6-4, 190) -- Wilson has 107 field goal attempts and 96 free throw attempts this season. His free throw rate ranks seventh nationally. He is much more of a distributor than scorer, but when he does look for offense he's often getting himself to the line.

Adam Smith (6-1, 170) -- Adam Smith is not scared. You can ask Pittsburgh all about that. He's been a high-workload player throughout his career, and in 2015 he's taking about 27% of VT's shots while he's on the floor. He is posting career-bests from two (44.9%) and three (43.3%). Smith averages 7.6 three-point attempts per 40 minutes.

Ahmed Hill (6-5, 195) -- Shooting 36.4% from three and 39.7% inside the arc. He's turnover prone and a mediocre free throw shooter.

Justin Bibbs (6-5, 220) -- Bibbs is shooting better than 43% from beyond the arc, though he isn't shooting quite as frequently as Smith. His high turnover rate and modest shooting both inside the arc and at the free throw line are limiting factors for now.

Malik Muller (6-3, 220) -- Not so good inside the arc, above average from three. Feel like I've written this already. Too many turnovers. You know, the typical freshman stuff. Hill, Bibbs, and Muller are all first-year guys. Sometimes that will be painfully apparent.

The Virginia Tech bench and defense

Reserves: Jalen Hudson (6-5, 195), Satchel Pierce (7-0, 255), Christian Beyer (6-7, 220), Shane Henry (6-8, 190). Buzz Williams loves Jalen Hudson, who he considers the most talented player on the team. Hudson's effort is not always high, though, and his output has been all over the place. Sometimes he warrants big minutes and scores efficiently, other times he's barely heard from.

Pierce, Beyer, and Henry can give the Hokies the rebounds they sorely miss otherwise but tend not to contribute much to the scoring.

Virginia Tech Defense -- Four Factors eFG% (National Rank) TO% OR% FT Rate
2013-14 47.0 (68) 13.0 (348) 29.5 (87) 33.5 (45)
2014-15 48.9 (165) 20.1 (127)
38.1 (346) 33.5 (101)

After ranking 29th in effective height last season, the Hokies rank just 248th in 2015. They are dead last in both OR% and DR% in league play. Their interior defense in league play has been awful, which is one more reason why they need every last turnover they can force.

The Pomeroy Predictor likes NC State by 14.