The Runner Sports

Round of 64 Matchup Breakdown: #8 Wisconsin vs. #9 Virginia Tech

The Wisconsin Badgers and Virginia Tech Hokies meet in the final game for the day in the East Region for the right to most likely play Villanova in the second round on Saturday. These two teams play very different styles of basketball with the Hokies looking to spread you out and knock down threes, while the Badgers play at a much more deliberate pace that forces opponents to beat them on their terms. The most intriguing matchup on the court will be between Wisconsin’s Ethan Happ and Virginia Tech’s Zach LeDay. Both forwards are integral to their team’s success and whoever wins that matchup will have their team in a good place to win the game.

Make sure to continue to come back all month-long to get breakdowns of all your favorite ACC schools as they progress through the NCAA Tournament. So far the ACC is 2-1 with both Notre Dame and Virginia surviving first round scares by a combined six points.

First Four

Wake Forest vs. Kansas State

Round of 64

Virginia vs. UNC Wilmington

Notre Dame vs. Princeton

Florida State vs. FGCU

Offense

Advantage: Virginia Tech

The Hokies are one of the best shooting teams in the country connecting on 49% of their shots from the field and 40.3% from deep, both of which are ninth in the nation. Five different Hokies have taken at least 100 threes on the season with four of them making at least 50 on the season. Junior Justin Bibbs leads the team in made threes with 63. However, the Hokies are more than just a three-point shooting team with senior forward LeDay doing work down low averaging 16.3 PPG and 7.4 RPG. Virginia Tech is missing do-it-all sophomore Chris Clarke, who went down about a month ago with a torn ACL. Back in December, Clarke became the first player in school history to record a triple-double. Since his injury Virginia Tech is 5-3, with Clarke the Hokies were 17-7.

Wisconsin will not be confused for an offensive juggernaut at all this season with the Badgers only averaging 71.9 PPG. The Badgers get a majority of their scoring from their big three Bronson Koenig, Ethan Happ, and Nigel Hayes, who all average at least 13 PPG. The 6’10 sophomore Happ, who is cousins with Blue Jays pitcher J.A. Happ, does a little of everything for the Badgers leading them in assists, rebounds, and is second in scoring. Koenig and Hayes are two guys who have been around forever and have seen it all. The pair have combined for over 3201 career points over the course of their long careers.

 

Defense

Advantage: Wisconsin

Where the Hokies excel on offense, the Badgers excel on defense. On the season Wisconsin is holding opponents to 61.4 PPG, which is good for ninth in the nation. A lot of their defensive success comes from their ability to limit opponents’ looks inside. On the year, opposing teams are only shooting 42.6% from two, which is good for ninth in the nation. Much like on offense, Ethan Happ does a ton for the Badgers on defense. Happ leads Wisconsin in blocks (38), and steals (63). Happ is one of only two players to finish in the top 15 in the Big Ten in steals and blocks. The Badgers also don’t give their opponents any easy points from the line. Opponents only shoot 14.2 free throws per game against the Badgers, which is the eight lowest mark in the nation.

Virginia Tech has struggled to stop quality teams this season with 13 different teams scoring at least 75 points against them; in those games, the Hokies are 7-6. Their biggest weakness on defense is their biggest strength on offense, three-point shooting. Opposing teams have shot 36% from deep, which is seventh worst in the NCAA Tournament this year. The Hokies have also struggled to force turnovers this season, with their opponents only coughing up the ball 11.7 times a game.

 

Coaching

Advantage: Buzz Williams

Buzz Williams is in his tenth season as a head coach at the young age of 44. Over the course of his career Williams has amassed a record of 207-133 and has been to the NCAA Tournament five times prior to this season. Before coming to Virginia Tech, Williams had a very successful run at Marquette including two Sweet Sixteens and an Elite Eights. This is his first appearance with the Hokies, but almost certainly won’t be his last as he has a solid core of young players that should continue to grow as they mature.

Greg Gard took over for Bo Ryan after he stepped down abruptly last season. This is Gard’s first head coaching job after spending the previous 25 years as an assistant at both the high school and college levels. In his first season at the helm Gard led the Badgers to the Sweet Sixteen, and is back for the second time in as many years. Though he does not have a long track record, he does have a winning percentage of over 70%. However, it remains to be seen how he will do once he has all of his own guys in place.

X-Factor

Advantage: Virginia Tech

Both teams struggle to defend the three-point shot, but Virginia Tech is much more equipped to take advantage of those deficiencies. The Hokies feature four different players who are comfortable stroking it from deep including two of the top four shooters in the ACC in Ty Outlaw (48%) and Seth Allen (45%). If the Hokies get hot from deep they could bust this one open due to the fact that the Badgers struggle to score.

Prediction

Virginia Tech 74 Wisconsin 69

The Badgers’ defense will keep them in it until the end, but they do not have the offense to keep up with Virginia Tech. The Hokies ride their outside shooting to a minor upset over the Badgers and move on to play the winner of Villanova and Mount Saint Mary’s game.

 

Sterling Thomas

Sterling Thomas

Born in Littleton, Colorado, Sterling moved to the heart of ACC country when he was young and developed a deep passion for basketball.

Fast forward to college where Sterling had the opportunity to work with the Florida Gulf Coast University basketball team under Andy Enfield and was apart of the 15-seed Eagles that made a historic run to the Sweet Sixteen and was dubbed Dunk City.
Sterling Thomas