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...And you will know the Virginia Tech Hokies by the trail of threes

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Tech’s youth movement is working out pretty well so far.

Virginia Tech v Syracuse Photo by Rich Barnes/Getty Images

Does massive turnover spell imminent doom when you can’t recruit like Kentucky or Duke? Yeah, most of the time, probably, but not always. Not in Virginia Tech’s case. The Hokies appeared to be set for a rebuild after losing Buzz Williams and five major rotation guys, but they’re getting by okay anyhow.

New head coach Mike Young has one of the youngest teams in the country, but not only is it competitive, it could well challenge for an NCAA tournament bid. Young deserves credit for making it work faster than most people would have guessed. The Hokies are worse off for their personnel losses but it hasn’t been crippling.

Virginia Tech Offense

2020 Hokies Off_Eff (rk) eFG% TO% OR% FTR
2020 Hokies Off_Eff (rk) eFG% TO% OR% FTR
Offense 106.8 (53) 53.2 (45) 14.8 (5) 24.9 (269) 24.7 (323)

Hey, wait a minute, didn’t we just see a team that took care of the basketball and shot a ton of threes while not doing much in the rebounding or free throw categories? Why yes, yes we did.

Virginia Tech shoots it better than Notre Dame and also takes threes even more frequently: 48% of the Hokies’ field goal attempts have been from beyond the arc. It wasn’t so long ago that a style like this from a power-conference team would be seem like a unicorn, but these days it hardly feels abnormal.

Young inherited a program that was perimeter-oriented and didn’t see a need for drastic changes—plus, his first recruiting class was light on forwards, so it isn’t like there was a lot he could do anyway.

The Hokies have attempted at least 20 three-pointers in every game this season, and they’re shooting 37% from three, which ranks 43rd nationally. I’d imagine that shooting so many threes helps with turnovers, since most possessions probably feature fewer risky passes. (They also play extremely slow, which helps as well.)

In any case, Virginia Tech has taken a three-heavy/low-turnover formula and made an effective offense out of it.

Starters

Wabissa Bede (6’0, 200) — He is primarily a facilitator since he doesn’t have a great stroke and Virginia Tech has plenty of shooting talent around him. Bede’s assist rate ranks 22nd nationally and while his shooting percentage is poor, he doesn’t take enough shots for that to be too damaging.

Nahiem Allenye (6’3, 195) — One of six freshmen in the rotation. He’s shooting 35.5% from three but displaying some typical Short Guy Problems inside the arc, where he’s hit only 38.3% of his twos.

Tyrece Radford (6’1, 205) — If you showed me Radford’s line without any details, I’d assume he were like eight inches taller than he is. Radford is hitting nearly 72% of his twos and has taken just eight three-pointers (only made one). He’s also 84th nationally in offensive rebounding percentage and has been good at the defensive end as well. And he’s 6’1?! How the heck is he managing all this?

PJ Horne (6’6, 225) — Horne is getting significant minutes for the first time in his career, paying off the junior’s patience. He has been an outstanding secondary option in the offense and has shown more ability from three than ever did previously. He came in to the season with 143 career two-point attempts against 14 three-point tries. Already this season he’s attempted 56 threes (and hit 34%), against 47 twos.

Landers Nolley (6’7, 225) — Nolley helps the support-role guys play more efficiently by accounting for an exceptional number of possessions by himself, and he’s got a bright future if he sticks around for a couple more years. Right now, he’s an excellent bulk three-point shooter (39%) and not so bad inside (45%), either. He can be a bit turnover-prone, though.

Bench

Jalen Cone (5’10, 170), Isaiah Wilkins (6’4, 225), Hunter Cattoor (6’3, 205), John Ojiako (6’10, 240). Cone you may remember was a prospect that NC State tried to get in on late in the process before losing him to the Hokies. He hasn’t played a ton this season but has been an incredible three-point specialist (55.8% on 43 attempts). That’s good since he’s hitting less than 30% of his twos.

Wilkins is a decent scorer inside and out and has improved his assist rate this year. Though the team takes so many threes, it’d be hard not to do that.

Cattoor is shooting 41% from outside, where the majority of his attempts will come.

Ojiako—hey, a tall person!—is making nearly 54% of his twos in limited action. He hasn’t attempted a three this season.

Virginia Tech Defense

2020 Hokies Def_Eff (rk) eFG% TO% OR% FTR
2020 Hokies Def_Eff (rk) eFG% TO% OR% FTR
Defense 95.4 (88) 47.1 (100) 19.0 (194) 25.2 (64) 18.9 (2)

The Hokies are not only a lot younger this year, they also got a lot shorter, and no doubt those are big reasons why they’ve fallen from 20th in defensive efficiency in 2019 to 88th this year.

On the bright side, they’ve played greater than sum of their statures, so to speak: 335th in average height, 64th in defensive rebounding percentage. That’s effort and quickness paying off.

Opponents also haven’t gotten much at the free throw line, as a low foul rate has been compounded by 66.3% shooting on freebies. The latter part of this is just good fortune, but even as opponents bring up that FT%, it won’t be a huge deal as long as the Hokies continue to limit attempts.

The Pomeroy Predictor likes Tech by one.