#25 Miami at Virginia Tech Preview and Pick

Can Zach LeDay and the Hokies take down #25 Miami? [Credit: Harley Taylor]
The Virginia Tech Hokies made ending their NCAA Tournament drought inevitable on Saturday, winning at Boston College by 16 on Saturday to put the Hokies in a very strong position to make the NCAA Tournament with a good chance to push for as high as a 6 or 7 seed with two remaining home games against quality ACC opponents in Miami and Wake Forest.

Tonight presents the tougher of the Hokies’ two remaining home games against a Miami team that has won four-straight games including wins last week at Virginia and at home against Duke. Both teams are playing quite well entering the final week before the ACC Tournament with Jim Larranaga set to take Miami to its second-straight NCAA Tournament with Buzz Williams set to lead the Hokies to their first NCAA Tournament since 2007.

For both teams, this is a prime opportunity to add a signature win with this being the best game left on the Hokies’ schedule while Miami has a tough road trip to Tallahassee this Saturday to face 15th-ranked Florida State who will be looking to lock up a double-bye in the ACC Tournament.

Key Matchup: Zach LeDay vs. Kamari Murphy

If there’s one positional matchup where there may be the biggest advantage on-paper, it’s in the frontcourt with the Hokies having one of the ACC’s top big men in Zach LeDay while Miami has the veteran Kamari Murphy to lead the charge and try to find a way to slow LeDay down. For Murphy, this will be a big challenge and while he won’t face a size disadvantage unlike what he’ll face Saturday at FSU, he will face a veteran big that is playing some of his best basketball right now.

Since Chris Clarke’s injury, LeDay has averaged 16.3 points, 8.8 rebounds, and 1.5 blocks while shooting 51.2% from the field and 87% from the free-throw line. LeDay has been one of the best big men in the ACC and the country over the past couple weeks and against a smaller Miami frontcourt, LeDay could cause plenty of his problems with his size not being an issue while LeDay’s strong post play has opened more space on the wing for the multitude of talented three-point shooters that Virginia Tech has.

Murphy will face a big challenge, but will also look to take advantage of facing a small Virginia Tech frontcourt in this game. If Murphy can find a way to slow down LeDay, Miami will have a much better chance at extending their winning streak to 5 and begin to really climb the seed list for the NCAA Tournament.

Keys to the Game

1. Clean up the turnovers.

Virginia Tech may have beat Boston College by 16 but somehow, the Hokies’ margin of victory was smaller than the 19 turnovers that they had against the Eagles. Against a more talented Miami team, Virginia Tech can’t afford to be nearly as sloppy with the basketball or the Hurricanes will make them pay regularly for that.

Miami has proven to be solid at forcing steals averaging 6.5 steals per game (145th in the nation) and could cause some problems if the Hokies are sloppy again with the basketball. Miami also has some quality athletes like Brown, Ja’Quan Newton, and Davon Reed who can get out in transition off of turnovers and make their opponents pay so it’ll be quite important for the Hokies to protect the basketball.

2. Attack the rim often.

Virginia Tech’s offense has played much better lately due largely to the fact the Hokies have been shooting the ball much better from beyond the arc while also doing a great job of creating space for threes that is built on getting defenses to collapse on someone attacking the rim from the mid-range or perimeter whether that be Zach LeDay, Seth Allen, or Justin Robinson.

The Hokies have done a great job of effectively using the pick and roll to create space for Allen and Robinson to effectively create mismatches that Allen and Robinson have used effectively to get to the rim and get a layup, draw a foul or kick it out to an open shooter. In this game, it will be important for the Hokies to establish their slashing and pick and roll game early to create more space for Allen, Justin Bibbs, Ahmed Hill, and Ty Outlaw from three-point range.

X-Factors

For Virginia Tech: Ty Outlaw gained the most minutes after the loss of Chris Clarke and has proved that he is worthy of those minutes as the former JUCO transfer has stepped up with two big games on the weekends with 19 points and 7 rebounds at Louisville, and 16 points and 7 rebounds at Boston College while shooting 5-for-6 from three against the Cardinals and 5-for-5 from three against BC.

Outlaw has proven to be a very good three-point shooter for the Hokies while also being a decent rebounder that has definitely helped make the rebounding drop-off be not as significant as it could have been after the Chris Clarke injury. Outlaw has proven that he can be a surprise threat to make big things happen and in this game, Miami will need to pay plenty of attention to him and even that may prove difficult with VT having plenty of guys who are threats from beyond the arc.

For Miami: Bruce Brown has started to play better over the course of the season with the freshman wing having a career game against Duke with 25 points plus 4 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 blocks, and 2 steals. Brown may not be the star of this team right now, but he has proven to be one of the ACC’s top freshmen with star potential.

Brown has the potential to be a significant difference maker if he can have a big game, but the Hokies also shut down Brown when the two teams first met with Brown only having 2 points, 5 rebounds, and 4 assists in that game. Tonight, Brown has the potential to make a big difference either way whether it be with a big game that helps Miami or being shut down and making Miami’s challenge that much more difficult.

Prediction

Virginia Tech has been much better at home this season, but Miami has been playing extremely well lately and this has all the makings of a game that will come right down to the wire. Virginia Tech has been the ACC’s best three-point shooting team in conference play while the Hokies have Seth Allen, Ty Outlaw, Justin Bibbs, and Ahmed Hill all shooting over 40% from beyond the arc which will give Miami problems.

Miami has a strong trio of guards to lead their backcourt with Davon Reed, Ja’Quan Newton, and Bruce Brown, but Virginia Tech has the frontcourt advantage with Zach LeDay playing some of his best basketball right now and seeming poise for another big game against the Hurricanes tonight.

This game will come down to the wire and playing at home along with having experienced guys like LeDay and Mr. Clutch Seth Allen will be a big boost for the Hokies in this game. Reed and Newton will play well on the road as veteran players used to this environment while also looking to play much better in Blacksburg after getting blown out last year, but the Hokies will get the job done and gain a big win led by strong performances from the Hokies’ star seniors along with some great three-point shooting.

Pick: Virginia Tech 76, #25 Miami 74

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