The Virginia Tech Hokies only have two games left before hosting highly-ranked Duke on New Year’s Eve to open ACC play and are right outside the top 25. Tonight, the Hokies face Charleston Southern in a game that the Hokies should win, but must avoid overlooking against a CSU team that will be hungry to try to pull off a big upset on the road.
However, the Hokies have seemed to learn their lesson this season from last season’s Alabama State disappointment while also showing how they can wake themselves up after being down 4 at halftime against The Citadel to outscore the Bulldogs by 46 in the second half to win by 42.
Charleston Southern has a good amount of depth in their rotation with only four players averaging more than 20 minutes per game and 6 more averaging at least 10 minutes per game. Virginia Tech will have to be prepared for a CSU team that will try to find ways to use their depth as an advantage while also having six players that are shooting at least 35% from beyond the arc, making Virginia Tech have to be ready for the deep ball.
However, the Hokies have the talent to win a shootout as the Hokies are shooting 40.6% from beyond the arc compared to the Bucs shooting 36.5% from beyond the arc so far. The Hokies also have four different players shooting 40% or better from beyond the arc among those who have at least shot 20 three-pointers so far this season. Virginia Tech has the outside shooting to cause plenty of problems and create room for guys like Justin Robinson and Seth Allen to attack the rim.
CSU is at a size disadvantage in this game with forwards Javis Howard and Jamar Martin likely to be matched up a lot against Zach LeDay and Khadim Sy. Sy has still been playing no more than 15 minutes but even with those limited minutes, this is a favorable matchup for Sy while the freshman big has also been playing better and better lately, and it wouldn’t be surprising to highly efficient around the rim in his time on the floor.
Meanwhile, LeDay is someone that knows how to take advantage of matchups like this and will be ready to have another strong performance whether he’s leading the Hokies in scoring or getting himself a double-double against a CSU team whose leading rebounder is freshman guard Christian Keeling.
CSU will also have to deal with the athletic Chris Clarke who has been the utility guy for the Hokies being able to attack the rim, crash the boards, and dish the ball around effectively as proven by his performance against The Citadel in which he had the first triple-double in Virginia Tech program history. Clarke will be ready to play well in this game and should have another strong performance even if another triple-double is extremely unlikely.
Keeling has proven that he is a physical player in his own right based on his impressive 6.1 rebounds per game average despite being only 6’3” and the Hokies will need guards like Ahmed Hill and Justin Bibbs to be physical and limit Keeling’s ability to sneak in and get some rebounds.
Virginia Tech also has to know that fouls aren’t necessarily a bad thing in this matchup as the Bucs are only shooting 60.9% from the free-throw line though the Hokies have done a good job at playing strong defense without fouling against weaker opposition like CSU this season. Expect that trend to continue, and the Bucs’ free-throw shooting weakness to not really show that much due to the Hokies doing a good job at keeping them away from the charity stripe.
Ty Outlaw got a lot of playing time down the stretch in the blowout against The Citadel on his way to a career-high 14 points and 7 rebounds in 15 minutes including a 4-for-6 shooting day from beyond the arc. Outlaw seems to be the third shooter for the Hokies behind Hill and Bibbs, but the former JUCO player has shown that he is a dangerous three-point shooter in his own right as he has made 50% of his threes so far this season.
Buzz Williams will also likely want to get Outlaw plenty of minutes again in this game so don’t be surprised to see him play most of the closing minutes if it isn’t a close game while Matt Galloway may also get some playing time especially after the scare last game when Justin Bibbs left the floor briefly holding his arm.
Virginia Tech has done a great job of taking care of business against the teams that they are supposed to and with this game being on ESPNU, they’ll be ready to play well on a slightly bigger than normal platform for a game against a weak non-conference opponent. Virginia Tech may not open up the lead that early, but this game won’t end up being too close as the Hokies will take care of business led by a dominant performance down in the post from Zach LeDay and Khadim Sy plus some great outside shooting from Ahmed Hill, Justin Bibbs, and Ty Outlaw.
Pick: Virginia Tech 85, Charleston Southern 63
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