(Photo of David Johnson: Jamie Rhodes/USA TODAY Sports)
LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Heading back on the road to begin the remainder of their ACC schedule, Louisville defeated Boston College to the tune of 76-64, as four starters finished in double figures in their first game of the calendar year. Next up for the Cardinals, they return home to host the Virginia Tech Hokies. Tipoff is scheduled for Wednesday, Jan. 6th at 6:30pm EST, and can be viewed on the ACC Network.
Here are a couple of the more significant storylines to follow ahead of Cardinals' matchup with the Hokies:
Outkicking the Coverage
Virginia Tech didn't exactly head into the 2020-21 season riding a wave of momentum. Prior to the previous season getting cut short because of COVID-19, the Hokies had won just two of their final 13 games. Once the offseason began, they lost starters Landers Nolley II & PJ Horne and key reserve Isaiah Wilkins to the transfer portal.
The Hokies did sign a top-40 recruiting class and land three noteworthy transfers, but Virginia Tech was still chosen to finish eleventh in the Atlantic Coast Conference out of the league's fifteen teams.
That all being said, of course it makes perfect sense that Virginia Tech has had one of the hottest starts of the season in all of the ACC. The Hokies are off to an 8-1 start under second-year head coach Mike Young, tied with Clemson for the best start in the conference, and have an impressive win over the Tigers as well as a victory over then-No. 3 Villanova.
As impressive as those wins are, the rest of the Hokies' resume up to this point is relatively empty. Three of their wins come against teams in the bottom 60 of KenPom's rankings (Radford, Coppin State, Longwood), and they have an inexplicable 20-point loss to Penn State at home.
Man in the Middle
Most of Virginia Tech's efficiency on both ends of the floor is directly because the efforts of redshirt junior Keve Aluma. After having to sit out last season due to NCAA transfer rules, the former Wofford standout is having a breakout season.
Through the Hokies' first nine games of the season, 6-foot-9, 235-pound forward is leading Virginia Tech in points (16.0 ppg), rebounds (6.7 rpg) and blocks (1.2 bpg). He's also very adept at drawing contact and getting to the free throw line, as he leads the ACC in free throw attempts (54) and is second in makes (35)
On a Virginia Tech squad that is a middle of the pack team when it comes to their rebounding because of their team size, but Louisville will have to keep tabs on Aluma on the defensive end. 2.4 of his 6.7 rebounds per game are of the offensive variety, good for eighth in the ACC.
While Aluma is Virginia Tech's best scoring option and defensive asset, the Hokies get a ton of production out of their guards.
Starters Nahiem Alleyne & Tyrece Radford as well as backup Jalen Cone are the only other VT players to average double figures, as they put up 11.1, 10.8 and 10.3 points per game respectively. Wabissa Bede isn't a huge scoring threat, averaging 5.7 points per game, but he is great decision maker with the fourth-best assist-to-turnover ratio in the ACC (1.87).
Between those four and sixth-man guard Hunter Cattoor, and the Hokies have made a living on the three ball. 43.1% of their field goal attempts are three-pointers, and they have the third-best three-point shooting percentage in the ACC at 36.5%.
You can follow us for future coverage by liking us on Facebook & following us on Twitter:
Facebook - @LouisvilleOnSI