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Buzz Williams’ best Virginia Tech team comes to NC State with significant injury concerns

These dudes can sure as heck shoot it, man.

NCAA Basketball: Syracuse at Virginia Tech
Michael Shroyer-USA TODAY Sports

Considering where Buzz Williams has Virginia Tech now, it’s easy to forget how terrible the program was when he took over. After Seth Greenberg’s tenure exploded in low orbit, the Hokies compounded matters with a bad replacement hire, though they were at least wise enough to cut bait after only two years of James Johnson.

Over a span of four seasons, including Williams’ first in Blacksburg, the Hokies won a grand total of 12 ACC games. In the 3+ seasons since, Virginia Tech has won 36 league games, and it made the NCAA tournament in each of the last two years.

Buzz’s 2019 group is easily his best and it is led by the veterans who got the turnaround started—four juniors and seniors make up a major part of Tech’s thin but highly-potent rotation. The Hokies are capable of going a long way based on offense alone, and they’ve been about as good as it gets on that side of the floor.

Virginia Tech in ACC Games

Hokies OE/DE (rk) eFG% TO% OR% FTR
Hokies OE/DE (rk) eFG% TO% OR% FTR
Offense 114.0 (2) 57.7 (1) 17.4 (5) 25.3 (11) 33.0 (5)
Defense 107.2 (10) 54.5 (13) 20.8 (2) 28.6 (5) 34.0 (11)

Tech has been the best shooting team from the floor and the free throw line (80.6%) in conference play, and what makes the Hokies especially terrifying is that they are not only great at making threes, they shoot a whole bunch of ‘em.

There are five guys in the VPI rotation shooting better than 40% from deep, led by senior wing Ty Outlaw, who is at 49.5%. Your perimeter defenders had best be on point or your team can get buried in an avalanche of threes.

Justin Robinson is the do-everything guard who keys the Tech attack, and he’s without doubt having a first-team all-conference season. He’s an outstanding shooter across the board, an excellent passer, and he’ll generate his share of turnovers.

... and he might have suffered a significant foot injury in Virginia Tech’s last game. [record scratch]

Robinson missed the final 13 minutes of the Hokies’ win at Miami on Wednesday, sitting out the proceedings with a boot on his left foot. Virginia Tech has offered no information about the injury, but it’s safe to say his status is questionable, and if he can’t go, you have to wonder how that will affect the larger picture.

Virginia Tech has shooting to spare, certainly, but the Hokies could essentially be down to a six-man rotation Saturday. Only nine scholarship players have gotten minutes this season, and in addition to Robinson, PJ Horne is also dealing with an injury. He’s missed three straight games. Another guy has played two minutes in conference games. So if Robinson and Horne are no-gos, Tech is perilously thin.

An additional worry is foul trouble for Kerry Blackshear, who is the only true big on the roster—he’s had issues with fouling throughout his career and averages 5.1 fouls per 40 minutes this season.

Defense has been a considerable struggle at times because of the Hokies’ lack of size, and ACC foes have had little trouble scoring effectively inside or out. Virginia Tech’s defensive success is largely predicated on forcing turnovers and taking care of the glass; the latter becomes an iffy proposition if Blackshear is on the bench, and the former may be more difficult to achieve at a high level with a thinned-out rotation.

There’s no doubt that Virginia Tech can be really, really good when completely healthy. We’ll just have to wait and see how the unknowns play out tomorrow.

The Pomeroy Predictor likes Tech by one.