2017 ACC Tournament: Virginia Tech vs. Wake Forest Preview and Pick

Seth Allen and VT head to Brooklyn ready to make a run. [Credit: Harley Taylor]
The Virginia Tech Hokies had the potential to go to Brooklyn as the fifth seed in the ACC Tournament, but Wake Forest pulled off the small upset in Cassell Coliseum on Saturday to drop the Hokies to the seven seed. However, Virginia Tech will get a chance to get some revenge quickly with the Hokies facing off against Wake Forest in the second round of the ACC Tournament after Wake Forest took down Boston College in the opening round of the ACC Tournament.

Buzz Williams has done an impressive job turning around Virginia Tech with the Hokies set to return to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2007 in only year 3 of the Buzz Williams era which seemed improbable when he took over. Meanwhile, Danny Manning and Wake Forest are on the bubble but after beating Louisville and VT last week in addition to avoiding a bad loss against Boston College, the Demon Deacons seem to be on the right side of the bubble for now especially with them having a 9-9 ACC record.

Key Matchup: Zach LeDay vs. John Collins

While this is the same key matchup as it was for last Saturday’s game, this matchup could have a big impact on the game with John Collins being arguably the best player in the ACC facing off against the veteran Zach LeDay who will have lots more rest given how the Hokies last played Saturday and Wake Forest played yesterday.

While Senior Day likely brought some extra motivation, LeDay had a big game with 24 points, 10 rebounds, and 2 blocks against Wake Forest while Collins had issues with foul trouble leading to the end of his long streak of 20+ point performances. However, Collins still had a solid game with 13 points and 9 rebounds while shooting 5-for-6 from the field though LeDay was even more efficient going 9-for-10 from the field.

Collins bounced back against Boston College with 19 points and 12 rebounds, and likely will have a game more like that as someone who is quite talented and has a future in the NBA. However, LeDay knows what it takes in these games and his goal should be to try to ware down Collins especially with Wake having played yesterday along with the Hokies needing him to have another strong game on the glass as he had in every game since Chris Clarke’s injury with LeDay having at least 7 rebounds in each of those 6 games.

If LeDay has another big game like he did this past Saturday, life will be very difficult for Wake Forest especially if Collins has a down day.

Keys to the Game

1. Attack the rim and get to the free-throw line

When the Hokies and Wake Forest faced off the first time, free throws made a big difference as the Hokies won the free-throw battle in the first half going 12-for-13 compared to 10-for-12 for Wake Forest but the Demon Deacons got the line regularly in the second half shooting 17-for-21 from the charity stripe compared to 4-for-4 for VT.

The large margin and the fact that the Hokies only took four second-half free throws is unusual and something that the Hokies need to change to avoid an early exit. VT will need Seth Allen and Justin Robinson to be aggressive working off pick-and-rolls to attack the rim and get to the free-throw line to give themselves those easy opportunities that Wake relied on to beat them this past Saturday.

2. Push the tempo.

Wake Forest does have some depth, but they are built around a seven-man rotation just like the Hokies, but VT has the advantage of not having played the previous day that they must look to take advantage of. Wake Forest does get a little over 24 hours to rest before this game, but there is a good chance that Wake will be a little more tired than normal given the nature of playing back-to-back days.

Given how Virginia Tech has had lots of success in transition or when they’ve been able to create transition opportunities, the Hokies would be smart to push the tempo early and often to try to wear down the Demon Deacons and create more room for guys like Seth Allen and Justin Robinson to attack the rim along with creating more space for three-point shooters like Ty Outlaw, Justin Bibbs, and Ahmed Hill against a tired Wake Forest defense.

If the Hokies can wear down the Demon Deacons early, a win will e a lot easier for the Hokies to get.

X-Factors

For Virginia Tech: Ty Outlaw has emerged as one of America’s top three-point shooters ranking 16th in the nation among eligible players shooting 48.5% from beyond the arc. Outlaw has stepped his game up since Chris Clarke went down averaging 13.5 points in the six games since then and playing 35 or more minutes in four of those six games. Outlaw has also been shooting the ball insanely well from beyond the arc in those six games with an impressive 68.6% three-point percentage.

Outlaw has stepped up in a big way over these past six games and he has shown a couple of times especially against Miami, Outlaw is a man capable of putting a huge game together that can surprise and give opponents’ nightmares along with giving VT an extra boost to get a victory.

For Wake Forest: Grad transfer Austin Arians hasn’t played a big role for Wake Forest this season averaging 7.9 points per game, but Arians has heated up recently with 15 points against Virginia Tech followed by 17 points against Boston College including 5-of-7 shooting from beyond the arc. Arians has taken off over the past two games giving Wake Forest some quality three-point shooting that can make a big difference this time of year.

Arians has played well in conference tournaments in the past from his time at Milwaukee where Arians was a part of a Panther team that won the Horizon League Tournament and went to the NCAA Tournament in 2014 with Arians having at least 12 points in each of the final 3 games in that tournament. Arians has proven that he can handle these high pressure conference tournament games and with the senior sharpshooter heating up, he could be a big x-factor in this game.

Prediction

Virginia Tech has the large benefit of having the extra rest compared to Wake Forest, but the Demon Deacons won’t likely have to do much scouting especially with both teams having played so recently. It’s a challenge to beat a team twice within a week, one that the Hokies were unable to do beating Miami in their final regular season game last season before falling to the Hurricanes in the quarterfinals of the ACC Tournament.

Wake Forest has some experienced players around their young frontcourt star John Collins and will need guys like Bryant Crawford and Austin Arians to step up and help lead the way. Meanwhile, Seth Allen and Zach LeDay will be looked to for leading the charge and having big performances as they’ve had in the past in the ACC Tournament especially last year from Allen.

No one should be surprised if Collins has a big game in primetime against a smaller VT frontcourt but expect LeDay to play well while the Hokies’ rest will make a difference as Seth Allen will have a big game wearing down Wake and effectively attacking the rim. VT also is the ACC’s best three-point shooting team and with Wake not being a great defensive team and being tired from playing yesterday, VT should get some open threes in this game.

This game will definitely be close and Wake Forest has proven they should be in the NCAA Tournament, but the Hokies are the better team and with VT having the extra rest, they will be able to wear Wake Forest down and get revenge on the Demon Deacons led by big games from their veterans and strong three-point shooting.

Pick: Virginia Tech 84, Wake Forest 78

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