Wisconsin Basketball: Get to know the Badgers’ first round opponent

Mar 4, 2017; Blacksburg, VA, USA; Virginia Tech Hokies seniors, guard Seth Allen (4), forward Zach LeDay (32), forward Greg Donlon (14), and guard Matt Galloway (33) are honored following the game against the Wake Forest Demon Deacons at Cassell Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Michael Shroyer-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 4, 2017; Blacksburg, VA, USA; Virginia Tech Hokies seniors, guard Seth Allen (4), forward Zach LeDay (32), forward Greg Donlon (14), and guard Matt Galloway (33) are honored following the game against the Wake Forest Demon Deacons at Cassell Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Michael Shroyer-USA TODAY Sports /

Badger of Honor interviewed FightingGobbler.com site expert, Mike McDaniel to get insight on the Virginia Tech Hokies entering Thursday night’s matchup.

The Wisconsin Badgers will be playing in their 19th straight NCAA Tournament, and this time with a major chip on their shoulder as they were awarded a No. 8 seed in the East bracket- one game away from a possible matchup with the No. 1 overall seed and defending national champion Villanova Wildcats.

Related Story: Badgers robbed by NCAA

In their first round matchup, the Badgers will take on the Virginia Tech Hokies out of the ACC as part of the 8/9 game. The Hokies are of course coached by Buzz Williams, who was the coach for Marquette for many years and has familiarity with playing the Badgers.

Virginia Tech went 2-1 against common opponents this season, losing to North Carolina in conference play, but with two victories over the Big Ten in the non-conference slate. In late November, the Hokies beat Nebraska on a neutral floor and then won at Michigan- the eventual Big Ten Tournament champion, 73-70.

In light of Thursday night’s meeting, we at Badger of Honor decided to reach out to one of Virginia Tech’s biggest fans and the leader of FightingGobbler.com, Mike McDaniel, to get a fan’s perspective on what to expect in Buffalo.

Here’s McDaniel had to offer to us:

Q: What does Virginia Tech need to do to beat Wisconsin?

McDaniel: Virginia Tech enters the tournament ninth in the country in three-point offense. Wisconsin ranks 307th in the country in three-point defense. In order to pull off the upset, the Hokies need to shoot the ball well from beyond-the-arc to counter the size disadvantage that they will endure in the paint. Wisconsin’s Ethan Happ holds a distinct size advantage at 6’10” over Virginia Tech’s best “big man”, Zach LeDay. While LeDay is listed at 6’7″, Buzz Williams has mentioned several times that he is only 6’5″. As a result, successfully doubling the post defensively with a guard when Happ is isolated down low, coupled with shooting a hot three-ball, are both paramount for the Hokies if they want a legitimate chance to defeat this veteran-laden Wisconsin squad.

What does Wisconsin need to do to beat Virginia Tech?

McDaniel: Feed Ethan Happ early and often and get Zach LeDay into foul trouble. The Hokies currently only play seven rotational players due to attrition on the injury front, and as a result, have a pretty thin bench. LeDay stands as the Hokies’ only capable big man, as 6’10” freshman Khadim Sy has struggled to get his footing in his first season of college ball. In Virginia Tech’s loss to Florida State in the ACC Tournament Quarterfinals, Zach LeDay went to the bench with four fouls with nine minutes to play, and that’s when the Seminoles used a 13-1 run to take control of the game. I have a feeling that the turning point in this game against Wisconsin could once again be whether or not the Hokies stay out of foul trouble. If they do, they’ll contend. If they don’t, I expect Wisconsin to pull away late and cruise to a win.

3. Who will be the X-Factor for the Hokies’ postseason success?

McDaniel: In my opinion, it’s Ahmed Hill. The Hokies’ redshirt-sophomore has been mercurial all year long on both ends of the floor, but when he’s at his best, the Hokies have the additional scoring punch that they need with a thin roster. He’s third on the team in scoring, averaging 11.6 points per game, but to give you an idea of how hot-and-cold he’s been, let’s take the ACC Tournament into account. In Virginia Tech’s Second Round victory over Wake Forest, Hill scored 12 points on 5-of-9 shooting and pulled down five rebounds. In the Quarterfinals loss to Florida State, a 74-68 spread, Hill had only three points and three rebounds in 28 minutes. He absolutely needs to be aggressive offensively, because if he’s not, the Hokies struggle to find offense during droughts when LeDay and Seth Allen are held in check.

4. Who is a player on Wisconsin that can pose as a threat for Virginia Tech?

McDaniel: It is 100% Ethan Happ. The Hokies simply don’t have an answer for his size and athleticism in the post other than having LeDay try to bully him in the paint. With that strategy comes foul trouble, which the Hokies absolutely cannot afford. Like I mentioned, Virginia Tech will try to double the post to assist LeDay, but if Wisconsin can get the ball to open shooters when the Hokies double the post, it could spell trouble all night long for Buzz Williams and company.

5.  In general, are Virginia Tech fans pleased with their seeding?

McDaniel: Speaking for the fan base–not really. Many Virginia Tech fans expected the Hokies to be higher than a 9-seed, but when looking at the resume, it’s hard to justify the Hokies doing much better than an eight or a nine, even with 10 wins in a tough ACC. The Hokies ended the year with a non-conference strength of schedule ranked 308th in the country, and had two bad losses to Texas A&M and NC State to boot. Some fans expected Tech to be a 7-seed for some reason, but honestly when looking at the particulars, the Hokies are much closer to a 10-seed than a 7-seed. All-in-all, there shouldn’t be much to complain about seeding-wise, but it is certainly a tough draw to face the Badgers first, followed by a possible tilt with the number one overall seed Villanova in the following round.

6. Buzz Williams coached at Marquette and has faced Wisconsin many times. Will that familiarity be a significant advantage for VT?

McDaniel: Some of the schemes are certainly similar under Greg Gard as they were under Bo Ryan, but I don’t think there will be a significant advantage for the Hokies. Buzz is years removed from playing this team, and the roster is so different now that this Wisconsin team will pose a new set of challenges as opposed to the Wisconsin teams of old. Familiarity helps, but I don’t think it will ultimately make enough of a difference to be noticeable.

7. Final Score Prediction

McDaniel: I’d love to see the Hokies win a game in their first NCAA Tournament since the 2007-08 season, but this is too tough of a match-up and too bad of a draw in my mind. It should be relatively competitive, but I’ll take the veteran roster of Wisconsin that has been there before to get the job done in an exciting First Round game.

Wisconsin 76  Virginia Tech 70

You can find McDaniel’s interview with our staff at Badger of Honor below:

Next: FightingGobbler.com: Getting to know the Badgers

The Badgers and Hokies last meeting came back in 2008 as part of the Big Ten/ACC Challenge. Wisconsin won that game 74-72 in Madison. Virginia Tech and Wisconsin will tip off on Thursday at approximately 8:40 CT- roughly 25 minutes after the Villanova/Mount St Mary’s-New Orleans game. It will be televised on CBS.