The Virginia Tech Hokies nearly pulled off their biggest upset of the season this past weekend as they lost by five at home to the #2 North Carolina Tar Heels. After back-to-back tough losses to current top 25 teams, the Hokies will look to beat their second top 25 team of the season, the Louisville Cardinals.
The Cardinals are currently second in the ACC at 5-1 in conference play, but this has the potential to be a trap game for Louisville with home games against Virginia and North Carolina following this game. Louisville has also gone 2-3 on the road this season with their 2 road being at two of the ACC’s bottom 4 teams, N.C. State and Georgia Tech.
Louisville is 40th in the nation in points per game though that number looks inflated due to a very weak non-conference schedule. However, the Cardinals are one of the best defensive teams in America and have only given up more than 70 points four times this season.
Louisville is also in the top 15 in the nation in rebounds per game, and the Hokies will need Zach LeDay, Kerry Blackshear, Shane Henry, and Satchel Pierce to step up on the glass against Chinanu Onuaku, Mangok Mathiang, Anas Mahmoud, and Raymond Spalding.
LeDay has done a great job offensively of attacking the rim and stretching the floor to create space for players like Seth Allen, Justin Robinson, and Jalen Hudson to attack the rim. However, LeDay hasn’t been as good recently rebounding the basketball and will look to bounce back tonight against a Louisville frontcourt loaded with quality rebounders.
However, Virginia Tech also needs Kerry Blackshear to be more effective on the glass tonight with the freshman likely to receive a lot of minutes tonight as long as he avoids foul trouble. Blackshear is still averaging 5 rebounds per game, and the Hokies will look to Blackshear to also pick up the load on the glass.
With Virginia Tech’s defensive play improving recently and Louisville not being a great shooting team in their backcourt, this game could come down to one or two players stepping up. For the Hokies, that could be Justin Bibbs who has shown the ability to have big scoring outbursts and make big shots from beyond the arc.
The sophomore struggled against the Tar Heels on Sunday with only 6 points, but is still one of the top three-point shooters in the ACC shooting 51.7% from beyond the arc. Bibbs has put together some great spurts that usually come in the second half, making him a threat throughout the game even if he seems to be struggling.
This will be a tough matchup for the Hokies and while they will lose the rebounding battle, Virginia Tech’s bigs will step up in front of a raucous crowd and keep that deficit inside double-digits. Meanwhile, Virginia Tech’s defensive intensity will shine and make this a game that comes down to the end.
Louisville found a way to survive on the road against Georgia Tech, but Buzz Williams is a much-better coach than Brian Gregory, and the Hokies have proven they can close out games. This will be far from a shootout, but the Hokies will pull off a big upset and hand Louisville their second loss in ACC play.