Dec 22, 2014; Blacksburg, VA, USA; Virginia Tech Hokies head coach Buzz Williams congratulates guard Ahmed Hill (13) during the game against the Virginia Military Keydets at Cassell Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Michael Shroyer-USA TODAY Sports
The Virginia Tech Hokies are big underdogs as they prepare to travel to Morgantown, West Virginia to take on the 17th-ranked West Virginian Mountaineers. Last year, the Hokies defeated West Virginia in Blacksburg, but the Mountaineers are a lot better this year, and this is an intense rivalry so the crowd will likely be very loud.
On top of that, the Hokies also have a lot of young players who have only played one true road game at Penn State which is not the same type of environment they will face in Morgantown. Young teams also typically have issues turning over the basketball, and West Virginia is great at forcing turnovers, averaging 13.3 steals per game which leads the nation.
West Virginia has talented post players who can force turnovers with senior forward Jonathan Holton averaging 1.8 steals per game, sophomore Nathan Adrian averaging 1.2 steals per game, and sophomore Devin Williams averaging 1.0 steals per game.
With all this said, it will be critical for the Hokies to limit their turnovers if they are to have a decent chance at pulling off the upset in Morgantown.
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The Hokies are averaging 12.92 turnovers per game which is tied for 147th in the nation. This number is not ideal especially with the level of competition the Hokies have faced, but this is a game where Virginia Tech must do a very good job of holding onto the basketball.
The Mountaineers are 27th in the nation in points per game but 235th in field goal percentage which is a clear sign that West Virginia thrives on getting tons of possessions through turnovers. This also shows that the Mountaineers are very effective at turning those turnovers into quick, fast break points.
Dec 14, 2014; Blacksburg, VA, USA; Virginia Tech Hokies guard Devin Wilson (11) looks to pass against the Alabama A&M Bulldogs in the second half at Cassell Coliseum. Virginia Tech defeated Alabama A&M 65-55. Mandatory Credit: Michael Shroyer-USA TODAY Sports
One player that will have to be very careful with the ball is Joey van Zegeren who is not a very good dribbler. With West Virginia having big men that know how to force turnovers, van Zegeren will have to be able to quickly do damage in the post to get points, or kick it back outside to the point guard or an open shooter.
Devin Wilson also needs to be effective in this game and avoid turnovers especially since he is going against a very talented point guard in Juwan Staten. West Virginia will have a focus on slowing down Wilson especially since the Virginia Tech offense is very effective when Wilson can attack the rim, and pass the ball to another big man or an open three-point shooter.
Virginia Tech also has plenty of freshmen in the backcourt with Justin Bibbs, Ahmed Hill, and Jalen Hudson all getting plenty of playing time. Freshmen are usually the ones who have the biggest issues with turnovers, and these three will need to avoid having turnover issues in this tough matchup with West Virginia.
Buzz Williams will do what he can to make sure the Hokies are ready for this tough environment, but we will just have to see what happens in this game.
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