The NCAA Tournament is in sight for the Virginia Tech Hokies entering their final 3 games with the Hokies seeming almost certain to end their 10-year NCAA Tournament drought. The Hokies have avoided picking up what would be seen as a bad loss so far with this game being their last game they need to win to avoid a bad loss against a Boston College team that is ranked outside the top 200 but has made plenty of their ACC opponents work more than they expected to get a win.
Boston College has struggled immensely recently with the Eagles on an 11-game losing streak heading into their final home game of the season before they make road trips to Notre Dame and Clemson. Boston College also enters this closing stretch with head coach Jim Christian on the hot seat in his third season in Boston though with BC early in their search for a new athletic director, Christian may be safe given how finding a new AD could take months.
Meanwhile, Virginia Tech can guarantee at least a .500 ACC record with a win along with a win likely sealing the Hokies’ spot in the NCAA Tournament especially with how weak this year’s bubble is. As mentioned above, leaving Boston with a win would guarantee that the Hokies don’t enter the ACC Tournament with a loss to a team outside the RPI top 100 as of Friday which is extremely impressive though NC State and Texas A&M are both in the 90s of the RPI.
Key Matchup: Seth Allen vs. Ky Bowman
This is a matchup of experience vs. youth as Seth Allen and Ky Bowman both have proven that they can step up and have huge performances for their teams while taking over when their teams look to them to. Allen has been better than Bowman at that, but the BC freshman point guard has been one of the best surprises among ACC freshmen and seems likely to end up on the All-ACC Freshman Team averaging 14,4 points per game while having 24 against Notre Dame and 29 against Florida State in BC’s past two games.
Seth Allen has taken his game to a whole new level this year shooting career highs from three-point range (48.4%) and from the field as a whole (54.5%) while also making clutch shot after clutch shot. Allen may only be averaging a little over 12 points per game, but he has making big things happen when the Hokies need him to while also having some big games in his own right including 20 against Virginia and 25 at Louisville.
When these teams met the first time, Allen shined with 18 points while shooting 5-for-7 from the field and going 6-for-8 from the free-throw line while Bowman struggled early especially as the VT student section chanted “Cheeto Head” at him, but Bowman did end up with a double-double (17 points, 10 rebounds) though Bowman shot a very poor 5-for-18 from the field with Jordan Chatman’s surprise 30-point performance keeping BC in the game that night.
In this game, the Eagles will need Bowman to play well to have a chance while Allen has found ways to make an impact as one of college basketball’s top closers along with being able to take over and have a big game with 20+ points. If Allen outplays Bowman, BC will be in some serious trouble while Allen has shown that the Hokies can win without him having a big game against quality opponents with Allen having only 8 against Clemson and at Pittsburgh.
Keys to the Game
1. Keep BC’s guards on their heels.
Boston College has a very young backcourt that has shown their inexperience this season with both Jerome Robinson and Ky Bowman averaging at least 3 turnovers per game and the Eagles as a whole averaging 14.9 turnovers per game. This has the potential to be a big problem for BC even with the Hokies not having Chris Clarke as Virginia Tech has plenty of veterans who can give some opponents issues.
Virginia Tech also has been incredibly effective on transition and fast break opportunities, making it even more important for Boston College to find a way to limit their turnovers in this game. If the Hokies can force some youthful mistakes and get in transition, they could definitely open up the score some and artificially create some energy early at a Conte Forum that is not known right now for having much energy in the building due to BC’s struggles.
2. Attack the rim early and often.
One of the strengths of Virginia Tech over the past couple of years has been their ability to effectively stretch the floor and attack the rim with guys like Seth Allen and Justin Robinson being able to cause plenty of problems working off of screens, and pick and roll plays. On top of that, Virginia Tech faces a young Boston College team that has had some foul trouble issues from their stars with BC leading scorer Jerome Robinson averaging almost 3 fouls per game and Ky Bowman averaging 2.5 fouls per game.
Virginia Tech has won games with their free-throw shooting while the Hokies have also been able to use LeDay setting up in the post or Allen and Robinson slashing at the rim to get to the line and get layups before turning that into more room on the outside to kick it out to guys like Ahmed Hill and Justin Bibbs. For Virginia Tech, it’ll be important to attack the rim early and often not only to try to get BC’s top guys in foul trouble but also to create more space for guys like Hill and Bibbs on the wing.
For Virginia Tech: Justin Bibbs has shot the ball much better especially from beyond the arc shooting above 55% from three-point range in three of his past four games while also scoring in double-figures in all four of his games. Bibbs was critical to the Hokies’ upset of Virginia while also making a big three down the stretch against Clemson this past week.
Heading into this game, Bibbs brings plenty of experience for the Hokies in his third full year with the Hokies as one of Virginia Tech’s three veterans alongside Seth Allen and Zach LeDay. Bibbs has been playing some of his best basketball lately and with Bibbs heating up from beyond the arc, he could definitely make the difference in this game.
For Boston College: After having a career game with 30 points including making his first 10 shots including 9 threes the first time Virginia Tech and Boston College faced off, Jordan Chatman is the easy choice as the x-factor for the Eagles as Chatman followed his 30 with 22 against Wake Forest but has since scored no more than 10, which came against Louisville right after BC’s game against VT and Wake Forest.
Chatman has not shot the ball well lately but he has shown that he can get really hot and the Hokies will want to do what they can to shut Chatman down especially after what he did last time to the Hokies. Chatman has the potential to be a difference maker that compliments Jerome Robinson and Ky Bowman, but the Hokies are sure to pay more attention to him.
Virginia Tech is definitely the better team by a good amount, but Boston College has proven tough at home including in their most recent home game against Notre Dame when they were up 10 at halftime before getting beat by 8. Boston College also will have a chip on their shoulder given that this is their last home of the season along with being in the midst of an 11-game losing streak.
Boston College also has a quality pair of guards in Jerome Robinson and Ky Bowman that can score plenty of points and is the type of star pair that can make things more difficult than expected.
The thing is, the talent gap is quite big while Virginia Tech will know that they need to take care of business with veterans like Seth Allen, Zach LeDay, and Justin Bibbs ready to lead the charge.
Zach LeDay has been playing quite well recently and against a BC frontcourt that has some size but isn’t that talented, the senior forward will have a big game while Allen and Bibbs will put up strong performances, stepping up as the veterans that they are. Robinson and Bowman have the talent to combine for 40 to 45 points in this game, but BC doesn’t have any consistent scoring outside that pair, and the Hokies will be able to go on the road and get the job done against a tough BC team.