Odds & Pick for Virginia Tech vs. Notre Dame College Basketball: Here’s How to Back the Fighting Irish (Jan. 27)
Mitchell Layton/Getty Images. Pictured: Nate Laszewski.
- Virginia Tech heads to South Bend without guard Tyrece Radford, who was suspended by the team.
- The Fighting Irish have struggled to close games out this season after a difficult stretch to start ACC play.
- Pat McMahon breaks down how that affects his betting strategy for this Wednesday night matchup.
Virginia Tech vs. Notre Dame Odds
Virginia Tech heads to South Bend for a tricky road test against Notre Dame on Wednesday night.
The No. 20 Hokies are coming off a surprising 18-point defeat at Syracuse on Saturday. Hokies fans were hit with more bad news on Monday morning, when it was announced that starting guard Tyrece Radford was suspended indefinitely.
Losing Radford is undoubtedly a big blow, but head coach Mike Young has tremendous backcourt depth, so his absence won’t hurt the Hokies as badly as it would most teams.
Notre Dame and Virginia Tech met earlier this month in Blacksburg, where the Hokies defeated the Irish, 77-63. While Notre Dame has had a disappointing season, it is playing better as of late and is always a tough out at home.
Notre Dame (5-8, 2-5 ACC) was able to climb out of the basement of the ACC standings with victories over Boston College and Miami in its last two outings. The Irish are far from where head coach Mike Brey wanted or expected them to be, but they now have some much-needed momentum and confidence heading into the heart of conference play.
With the offense finally starting to click, the Irish find themselves a small favorite against the ranked Hokies despite their poor record.
When Notre Dame Has the Ball
Notre Dame’s issues this season aren’t coming from the offensive end. The Irish are playing very efficiently on this end of the floor, ranking 24th in adjusted offensive efficiency, per KenPom.
They don’t play very fast (271st in adjusted tempo), but point guard Prentiss Hubb does a nice job of running the offense and creating good shots for himself and others.
Hubb’s outside shooting is down this year, but he’s still finding ways to score at 14.1 points per game. More importantly, he’s consistently getting his teammates involved, averaging 5.3 assists per game, the second-best mark in the ACC.
Nate Laszewski is one of the leading candidates for the ACC’s most improved player, and his emergence has been massive for the Irish offense. The 6-foot-10 junior is a lights-out shooter and currently leads the ACC in 3-point (55.1%) and overall field goal percentage (64.6%).
Laszewski’s ability to sustain this type of shooting efficiency on fairly heavy volume is incredibly impressive. His inside/outside ability creates matchup issues for the opposition on a nightly basis, and he’s also helping open up looks for his teammates by drawing so much attention.
The Irish have a number of other capable shooters besides Laszewski.
They’re one of the best 3-point shooting teams in college basketball, hitting 38.4% of their attempts from distance. Dane Goodwin (42.3%) and Trey Wertz (44.2%) have both been lights out from 3-point land. Hubb (33%) and Cormac Ryan (30.4%) have struggled with consistency, but both have the ability to light it up when they get hot.
The one area of concern for the Irish offense is executing in the second half, especially when playing with a lead. They get too conservative with the ball and have blown big leads on several occasions this season, including in their first matchup with the Hokies. The Irish raced out to a 42-35 halftime lead but only scored 21 points on just two made field goals in the second half.
Closing out games against good teams is an issue that’s plagued Brey and the Irish all season, and he’ll need to find an answer soon for the Irish to be competitive in league play.
Virginia Tech has been strong on the defensive end, ranking 51st in adjusted defensive efficiency. The Hokies are limiting opponents to just 42.3% shooting from the floor and 32.8% from 3-point range.
They stifled the Irish’s outside attack in the first matchup, holding Notre Dame to 6 of 23 (26.1%) shooting from deep. The Hokies’ 3-point defense will be a huge key in this game, as the Irish rely heavily on the deep ball and typically shoot it better at home.
When Virginia Tech Has the Ball
The Hokies have a nice inside-out offense featuring a host of perimeter players surrounding forward Keve Aluma. The Wofford transfer has been a pleasant surprise offensively, averaging a team-high 13.9 points per game on 47.2% shooting.
With Aluma and Justyn Mutts the only forwards playing more than 20 minutes per game, Virginia Tech’s offensive success stems largely from how well the guards play.
The Hokies’ guards take a lot of 3-pointers — 42.2% of the team’s shots coming from beyond the arc. The Hokies are a decent 34.2% from downtown but have a trio of sharpshooters in Hunter Cattoor (45.7%), Nahiem Alleyne (38.5%) and Jalen Cone (36.5%).
Virginia Tech boasts a top-50 offense in terms of efficiency, but whether they can maintain that efficiency without Radford is a big question mark. Radford is the team’s second-leading scorer and one of the main ball handlers, and he leads the team in minutes played.
Wabissa Bede will likely take the bulk of the minutes at point guard during Radford’s absence. Bede is a smart player and good playmaker, but he isn’t much of a scoring threat. Look for Cone, who averages 10.1 points on just 19 minutes per game, to get more action, particularly when the Hokies are in need of buckets.
Defense has been an issue for the Irish, especially against good teams. Notre Dame is allowing 73.4 points per game and ranks 177th in defensive efficiency. They’re allowing 36.3% shooting from 3-point range and will need to keep the Hokies’ shooters in check in order to come away with a win.
The strength of the Irish defense is on the interior with center Juwan Durham. Durham is one of the best post defenders and shot blockers in the ACC and matches up well with Aluma.
Betting Analysis & Pick
The Hokies should be fine in the long haul if Radford doesn’t return this season, but it could take some time for them to get used to playing without him. They’ll need a few games to establish the right guard rotation.
The Irish have a talented roster but couldn’t overcome a brutal early ACC schedule. Now they’re finally playing with some confidence after a pair of wins and smell blood with the Hokies coming off a bad outing at Syracuse and down a key player.
I think the Irish have a great chance of winning this game, but their second-half struggles make me wary of taking them for the full game. Instead, I’ll back Notre Dame to come out and have a strong first half.
Pick: Notre Dame 1st Half -1 or Better