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Daniel Wilco | | January 15, 2019

Virginia vs. Virginia Tech prediction: 3 stats tell us who will win this Top-10 matchup

Ole Miss trending up in Andy Katz's Power 36

No. 4 Virginia and No. 9 Virginia Tech face off in an early fight for first place in the ACC Tuesday night. Both teams are 3-0 in conference, and after Duke fell to 3-1 following a loss to Syracuse Monday, the top spot is wide open.

You can watch the game at 8 p.m. ET on the ACC Network.

Before the game, we’re breaking down three key factors and predicting the outcome. Let’s get into it.

Which team can make the most of limited opportunities?

Surprising to no one, Virginia is still one of the slowest teams in the country. The Cavaliers’ pace of 62.5 possessions per game is only faster than Siena, which boasts an impressive pace of 61.3 — the slowest in Division I. The average among all 353 teams is 70.7.

As such, it’s not often that they play teams used to that glacial tempo. And yet their next opponent, Virginia Tech, is tied for the eighth-slowest pace in the country, at 65.8.

But that’s only one reason why the Hokies’ are so lethal: Virginia Tech has the second-highest offensive rating in the country, at 120.4 points per 100 possessions. A team that can control tempo and is the second-most efficient offense in the country? That’s a frightening matchup for anyone.

RELATED: Forecasting Michigan's and Virginia's chances to go undefeated this season

Virginia Tech also has the fifth-best defensive rating in Division I at 87.1. Virginia hasn’t faced another team this balanced. The only other team the Cavaliers have played with a comparable defense was Virginia Commonwealth, which ranks No. 9 in defensive rating. That game saw the Cavaliers shoot a season-low 29.5 percent from the floor. And Virginia Tech’s defense is better. 

How will Virginia fare from 3-point range?

Duke showed us Monday night what a terrible shooting night can do to you. The Blue Devils were 9-for-43 from 3-point range, and lost to unranked Syracuse 65-61 at home. Last year, Virginia Tech upset No. 2 Virginia in Charlottesville after the Cavaliers had one of their worst shooting performances of the year, going 11-for-38 (28.9 percent).

RELATED: 3 takeaways from Syracuse's upset of No. 1 Duke

The Hokies’ 3-point defense is better than average, but not outstanding. They’ve held opponents to 32.2 percent from beyond the arc, the 102nd-best rate. But Virginia Tech is one of the best 3-point shooting teams out there, hitting at a blistering rate of 42.3 percent. That can create problems for opposing teams, forcing them to try to make up the difference with forced 3-pointers of their own. Notre Dame tried this, going 13-for-34 in an 81-66 loss against Virginia Tech. If Virginia falls into this trap, it could give the Hokies all the space they need to pull off the upset. But the Cavaliers solid shooting so far (they’ve shot over 40 percent in eight of their 15 games) makes that a tall order.

Can Justin Robinson break out of his slump?

Virginia Tech’s guard had his strongest season as a junior last year, and through the beginning of this year, it looked like he was building on that momentum. Then came the slump. 

Through the first 11 games of the season, Robinson was averaging 14.5 points per game while shooting 48 percent from the floor. In the past four, he’s down to 9.3 points per game on a field goal percentage of 34.4.

MORE: 13 college basketball predictions this season that were dead wrong

That puts him as Virginia Tech’s third leading scorer on the year, behind sophomore guard Nickell Alexander-Walker (17.8 points) and junior forward Kerry Blackshear Jr. (14.1 points). Those two are more than enough to carry the weight against lesser teams, but if Virginia Tech will stand a chance in Charlottesville, they’ll need Robinson at full force.


This is an uphill fight for Virginia Tech. The Hokies have only played two true road games this year, and didn’t play well in either (one, a loss to Penn State, the other a 3-point win over Georgia Tech). But an extremely efficient offense and a stalwart defense, combined with Justin Robinson potentially at full force just may be enough. In all honesty, this game could easily go either way, but we're going with the upset. Score prediction: Virginia Tech 59, Virginia 57

How we're doing with these predictions

We're 5-3 so far. Not bad, not great.

Ohio State vs. Michigan State (Jan. 5)

  • Our pick: Michigan State
  • Result: Win

Virginia vs. Florida State (Jan. 5)

  • Our pick: Virginia
  • Result: Win

Kentucky vs. North Carolina (Dec. 22)

  • Our pick: North Carolina
  • Result: Loss

Gonzaga vs. North Carolina (Dec. 15)

  • Our pick: North Carolina
  • Result: Win

Kansas vs. Villanova (Dec. 15)

  • Our pick: Kansas
  • Result: Win

Gonzaga vs. Tennessee (Dec. 9)

  • Our pick: Gonzaga
  • Result: Loss

North Carolina vs. Michigan (Nov. 28)

  • Our pick: North Carolina
  • Result: Loss

Duke vs. Auburn (Nov. 20)

  • Our pick: Duke
  • Result: Win

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