The next challenge for Virginia’s stifling defense will be the nation’s leading scorer.
UVa, which visits Virginia Tech on Thursday, ranks second nationally in scoring defense (50.6 ppg) and sixth in field-goal percentage defense (36.4 percent).
Hokies guard Erick Green averages 24.6 points. Last weekend, UVa held Florida State’s entire team to 36 points.
Is UVa coach Tony Bennett plotting various double teams to stop Green? Or will he let Green get his points and focus on containing the rest of the Hokies?
“They have some other guys that have some experience that can score, but he’s special,” Bennett said. “I don’t know if you can stop guys like that, but you try to make their looks tough.
“You’ve got to make it hard for him, but you have to be sound with the other guys too.”
Virginia Tech no longer ranks among the top 10 teams in the country in scoring offense, as it did earlier this season. But the Hokies do rank fourth in the ACC in scoring offense (75.5 ppg) with their up-tempo approach.
The Cavaliers, who rank last in the ACC in scoring offense (62.1 ppg), play at a slower pace.
“They’re going to play their style of game where they want the possessions low,” Tech coach James Johnson said. “They’re going to play great defense and they’re going to be very methodical and very smart on offense.
“We’re going to try to rebound the basketball and get out and run and try to get some easy baskets, like we’ve been trying to do all season.”
But the Hokies could have plenty of trouble scoring against the Cavaliers.
“Their transition defense is very good, so getting … easy baskets against them is going to be very difficult,” Johnson said. “They protect the paint, keep the basketball in front of them, so penetrating the defense, whether it be on the dribble or the pass, is going to be very difficult. … They force you to make contested jump shots.
“They don’t let you get a direct look to the basket or direct passes — they’ve got their hands up.”
Wake Forest often trapped Green last weekend, and Johnson figures UVa will do the same.
“He’s seen a lot of different defenses, and Saturday it took him awhile to kind of recognize and see what was going on and how to handle it,” Johnson said. “He’s just got to adjust every game to the way teams are playing him.”
Johnson must hope that Green’s supporting cast delivers when Green is double teamed. In the win over Wake, the Hokies’ final three baskets were scored by Jarell Eddie, Marquis Rankin and Robert Brown.
“When [opponents] take Erick Green away in certain situations, these guys still have confidence to be able to make plays,”Johnson said.
North Carolina State coach Mark Gottfried has a connection to the Super Bowl.
Two of them, in fact.
Gottfried is a second cousin of the Harbaugh brothers. Baltimore Ravens coach John Harbaugh and San Francisco 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh will be squaring off in the Super Bowl.
“I’m really proud of them,” said Gottfried, who took his sons to a Ravens game last month. “It’s unbelievable.”
Gottfried’s father, ex-South Alabama athletic director Joe Gottfried, and the Harbaughs’ father, former college football coach Jack Harbaugh, are first cousins.
“Being the sons of a coach, they grew up around the game,” Mark Gottfried said of the Harbaugh brothers. “They grew up around coaching and watched their dad.
“They’re both very competitive, and they’ve always been that way.”
John Harbaugh once served as an assistant to former college football coach Mike Gottfried, who is the brother of Joe Gottfried and a first cousin of Jack Harbaugh.
Jim Harbaugh coached Mark Gottfried’s son Brandon at Stanford before being hired by the 49ers.
Mark Gottfried isn’t the Harbaugh brothers’ only college basketball connection. Their sister Joani is married to Indiana coach Tom Crean.
Miami to host Duke
Two of the ACC’s better teams will square off at 7 p.m. Wednesday when No. 25 Miami hosts No. 1 Duke on ESPN.
Miami is off to a 4-0 start in the ACC even though center Reggie Johnson (12.6 ppg, 10.1 rpg) has been sidelined the past eight games with a broken thumb. He is not expected back until mid-February at the earliest.
The Hurricanes went 1-2 at the Diamond Head Classic in Hawaii without Johnson but have since reeled off five straight wins, including a victory at North Carolina. Miami coach Jim Larranaga said Julian Gamble has done a “fantastic job” as Johnson’s replacement.
“The chemistry of this team is very good — [and] the experience that we have, the size and physicality of our team,” said Larranaga, whose squad is 13-3.
Duke (16-1, 3-1) is also without a key player. The Blue Devils are 1-1 without injured forward Ryan Kelly (13.4 ppg).
“Opponents … can look at more ways of stopping Mason [Plumlee] and Seth [Curry] with Ryan being out, and that makes it more difficult for us to score,” Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said. “So we’re going to have to really do a good job of screening and getting each other open.”
When asked if Duke looked more beatable without Kelly, Larranaga laughed.
“Duke is Duke. Every player they have on their team is an outstanding athlete,” Larranaga said.