Tonight, the Virginia Tech Hokies have their first opportunity to secure a .500 ACC record after four-straight season of finishing with at least a share of last place in the conference. However, the Hokies face a tough challenge from the Pittsburgh Panthers who are coming off a big home win against Duke that should seal the deal on their spot in this year’s NCAA Tournament.
The Hokies will be looking to keep their momentum from their three-game winning streak going along with looking for some revenger after the Panthers blew out the Hokies earlier this season in Pittsburgh. The Panthers will also look to keep their momentum going and avoid doing anything that would even bring them an inch closer to being back on the bubble.
One big difference between the first and second games between these two games is the return of Chris Clarke for the Hokies. Clarke gives the Hokies a quality rebounder that can play some tough defense, and get to the rim to get a layup or draw a foul. Against a Pittsburgh team that is in the top 50 in the nation in rebounding per game, having Clarke for the second matchup should definitely help the Hokies on the glass.
The most interesting player battle of the night will come in the post between Michael Young and Zach LeDay who are two very similar players. LeDay has not been as efficient from the field lately, but the junior forward has done a great job of getting to the line while both are their team’s leading scorers and rebounders.
With this game being in Cassell Coliseum, LeDay may have a slight edge that could make a big difference in this game.
Since their 19-point loss to Pittsburgh, Virginia Tech’s defense has improved significantly as the Hokies have held five of their last seven opponents to under 70 points and all seven of their opponents to under 75 points. Virginia Tech’s tough defense has become an issue for many opponents recently, and the Hokies will look to provide some tough defense once again.
One player who could be tonight’s x-factor is Justin Bibbs who has started to get back going recently with double-digits scoring nights in his last three games including 22 at Wake Forest. Bibbs has started to be more assertive while he seems to be starting to heat back up from beyond the arc which definitely will be something to watch.
Pittsburgh is a very good team but they definitely could be vulnerable to a letdown game after their big win while the Hokies know another win would help their NIT push even more. Virginia Tech is not the same team that got beat by 19 at Pittsburgh about a month ago, and the Hokies will make it known that they could be a sleeper to make a run in the ACC Tournament.
Pittsburgh’s veteran trio of Michael Young, Jamal Artis, and James Robinson will keep the Panthers in it to the end, but Seth Allen, Zach LeDay, and the Hokies have definitely been better at home this season and will extend their winning streak to four guaranteeing themselves a .500 ACC record.