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NC State gets back to it against a Virginia Tech team coming off an extended COVID break

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That COVID break will matter, unless of course it doesn’t.

NCAA Basketball: Virginia Tech at Duke Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports

When Virginia Tech takes the court against NC State on Tuesday night, it’ll be the Hokies’ first game in nearly two weeks. Tech had to postpone multiple games because of COVID-19 issues within its program, and nobody knows how these guys will look after the break, not to mention the illnesses.

Come out gangbusters, like they never missed a second? Or maybe they’re in for a lethargic night as they try to get their legs back?

Before the Hokies went on pause, they were playing well.

Virginia Tech 2021-22

... Adj OE/DE (rk) eFG% TO% OR% FTR
... Adj OE/DE (rk) eFG% TO% OR% FTR
Offense 110.0 (38) 53.5 (51) 16.7 (55) 28.3 (175) 23.8 (311)
Defense 91.0 (23) 45.6 (50) 21.9 (49) 25.6 (79) 23.6 (44)

The 8-5 overall record is underwhelming but includes losses to Memphis, Xavier, Duke, and a surprisingly spry-looking Wake Forest group.

Offensively, Tech has found success through taking care of the basketball and making shots. The Hokies rank 13th nationally in three-point shooting (39.1%) and feature seven guys who have attempted at least 10 threes. Four of the seven are shooting better than 37%.

Leading scorer Keve Aluma (15.0 PPG) is not among them, though it ain’t for a lack of effort (he is 7-31 from three on the year). But maybe he should forget about that outside shot given that he’s a career 58% shooter inside the arc. The big man is also an elite offensive rebounder and he’ll bother some shots at the defensive end as well. Forward Justyn Mutts has also had a good start to the season, and like Aluma, has been excellent inside the arc.

Among the high-volume shooters NC State would do well not to forget about are Hunter Cattoor (30-67, .448), Storm Murphy (20-53, .377), and Nahiem Alleyne (21-61, .344). Cattoor and Murphy are unlikely to be doing anything other than shooting jumpers. Murphy, for instance, has taken a grand total of nine free throws in 368 minutes. That is not a man taking the ball to the rim with regularity.

Virginia Tech’s solid balance and ability to make jumpers at an elite level are hugely concerning given that NC State’s defense hasn’t been offering up much resistance to anybody of late.

But it isn’t all bad news! Virginia Tech doesn’t boast a ton of size and its interior defense has been only average: the Hokies have allowed 49.8% shooting on twos, which ranks 180th. The reason their eFG% defense is so low is because opponents are shooting just 25.9% beyond the arc. There’s a fair amount of good fortune inherent in that number.

I’m also not buying that turnover rate as an accurate reflection of the Hokies’ ability to be disruptive. They rank only 266th in steal rate and 158th in block rate, so maybe they’ve been a little lucky here too.

So I’m not sure this defense is entirely as formidable as it looks, and State has been playing better offensively the last couple of games. Hey, who knows!

Anyway KenPom likes Tech by a dozen.