The Virginia Tech Hokies survived at home in the opening round of the NIT of the Princeton Tigers, but now face a much tougher challenge on the road in Provo, Utah against the BYU Cougars. The Hokies struggled in their opening game against Princeton, but found a way to win while BYU held off a couple of second half runs on their way to a blowout victory over UAB.
Virginia Tech will be facing a unique environment in this matchup in what is a tough home court for BYU due to some great support along with the altitude in Provo. Buzz Williams will have to be prepared to rotate out players frequently along with making sure the Hokies are as well-rested as they have been all season.
BYU’s Kyle Collinsworth may be the best player in the NIT as the senior has 12 career triple-doubles and is averaging 15.3 points, 8.4 rebounds, and 7.5 assists per game this season. Buzz Williams will need to find someone who can basically mark Collinsworth wherever he goes on the court along with bringing toughness to box him out with Chris Clarke and Jalen Hudson being two possibilities depending on what energy level Hudson brings to the game.
Hudson has the potential to be a big x-factor as someone that seems to step up in some of the biggest games. Hudson has been very inconsistent in his two seasons in Blacksburg, but Hudson is in a position where BYU likely will not focus much of their game plan around him, but could be a big surprise that goes for 20 or more points tonight.
As a team, BYU is shooting over 38% from beyond the arc with four of their top five scorers shooting over 36% from deep. The Hokies will have to be sharp defensively and prevent open and weakly-contested threes that the Cougars will definitely take advantage of, but the Hokies have been playing better on the defensive end over the past six weeks.
Unlike Princeton, BYU does have some size in the post though it’s comparable to the Hokies forward combination of Zach LeDay and Kerry Blackshear. Virginia Tech will need to be active in the paint and on the glass against a BYU team that averages 41.1 rebounds in the nation and has two players that average over 7 rebounds and two other bench players that average about 4.5 rebounds each in 15 to 16 minutes per game.
Virginia Tech is actually the better free-throw shooting team at 70% on the season compared to 68.8% for BYU. The Hokies have had some really good free-throw shooting nights, and if the Hokies can get to the line consistently with Seth Allen, Zach LeDay, and Justin Robinson; they will have to take advantage of their opportunity against BYU’s impressive offense.
This will be a very tough matchup for the Hokies given the difficulty of playing at altitude in Provo, but the Hokies will be ready for the challenge in what will be a very competitive game. Both teams know that the winner gets to host a quarterfinal game for the chance to go to MSG and while there is plenty of reason to believe that the Hokies can pull it off, playing at BYU less than 48 hours after beating Princeton is just not a good matchup for Virginia Tech.