Virginia Tech took care of business in their season opener with a dominant 111-79 win over Detroit Mercy. The Hokies are preparing for a pair of important games this upcoming weekend in Madison Square Garden, but first have to get through The Citadel tonight.
Since The Citadel hired Duggar Baucom, they have embraced a unique, up-tempo style that will always have them among the highest-scoring teams in the country, but also put them among the teams that allow the most points per game.
The Citadel is projected among the bottom half of teams in their conference. However, their unique style of play always makes life difficult, and gives them a chance to pull a big upset if they catch a team on a bad shooting night. For the Hokies, it will be critical to get to the room effectively and take advantage of three-point opportunities that come.
The most interesting matchup in this game will come at the point between Justin Robinson and the Bulldogs’ Preston Parks. Parks led The Citadel in scoring last season averaging 17.5 points per game and opened this season with 21 points in 22 minutes in a victory over Division III Oglethorpe.
Robinson will be tested by Parks, but the junior point guard has proven to be a very capable defender in addition to being a very good passer. While Parks should have a solid game, don’t expect to be nearly as efficient as he was against Oglethorpe when he went 7-for-10 from the field including 5-for-6 from beyond the arc.
Another intriguing matchup with come between two athletic forwards in Chris Clarke and Zane Najdawi. Najdawi is a Virginian native, and was quiet in The Citadel’s opener with nine points, but should be a featured part of their game plan tonight. Najdawi led the Bulldogs in rebounding last season while shooting 43.1% from beyond the arc and averaging 15 points per game.
Clarke will have to follow Najdawi all over the floor tonight but if the Hokies have someone for the role of guarding a “stretch 4” type player, it’s Clarke. Clarke is one of the ACC’s best defenders and a quality rebounder who can make life difficult. If Clarke can contain Najdawi tonight, it will make life much easier for the Hokies.
Virginia Tech dominate the boards in their season opener and should be able to do so again tonight. The Citadel did average around 37 rebounds per game last season but when you put that in perspective with the high volume of shots they take, it shows that they are a below-average rebounding team.
Expect Kerry Blackshear and PJ Horne to crash the boards well after solid performances on the glass against Detroit Mercy. Meanwhile, don’t be surprised to see some of the Hokies’ guards crash the board well as Ahmed Hill and Tyrie Jackson did Friday night.
Nickeil Alexander-Walker shined in his debut with 24 points on 9-of-14 shooting including 4-of-7 shooting from beyond the arc. It would probably be crazy to think Alexander-Walker can continue to score at that high of a volume and efficiency, but NAW showed that he is the real deal. Tonight presents another great opportunity for NAW to build some more confidence on a night where he should be able to take plenty of shots.
When facing a team like The Citadel, it will be important for Virginia Tech’s bench (non-best 5) to step up especially with the need for frequent substitutions to get players rest. However, that bench played well even when you move past a guy like Chris Clarke who came off the bench, but it really in Buzz’s best five lineup.
Among those players, Devin Wilson showed that he may be in that best 5 for the time being with 10 points on perfect shooting, 3 rebounds, and 3 assists. PJ Horne was effective in his 20 minutes with 10 points and 5 rebounds while Tyrie Jackson’s athleticism and hustle showed with 9 points and 8 rebounds in 21 minutes, an impressive stat for the Hokies’ shortest player. Wabissa Bede also had four points as Virginia Tech showed that they have a lot more depth which will help them later this season.
Tonight, Hokie fans will be in for a track meet of sorts in Cassell Coliseum. However, the Hokies have become one of the fast break teams in America over the past few years and that should show in this game. The Hokies shot 56.8% from the field in their season opener against Detroit Mercy and should be able to do so again tonight.
Nickeil Alexander-Walker, Ahmed Hill, and Kerry Blackshear were all effective from the field and that trio should lead the way in this game. Justin Robinson will keep Preston Perks in check some while taking advantage of tonight’s game to make some great passes and attack the rim consistently. VT also has experience against The Citadel’s unique style that will help them tonight.
Buzz Williams will make sure his team is focused on tonight and not looking ahead to the 2K Classic. The Hokies will get the job done with another blowout victory that may make them the nation’s leader in points per game.