The Virginia Tech Hokies enter ACC play coming off two bad losses by a total of 42 points plus the loss of freshman forward Chris Clarke for most likely the season with a right foot injury. Things have gone south over the past couple of weeks for Virginia Tech, putting their backs up against the wall at 8-5 with ACC play just starting.
Fans are looking for hope in this team and that can start tonight in their ACC opener at home against the North Carolina State Wolfpack.
The Wolfpack enter ACC play with a 10-3 record that includes wins over Missouri and LSU, but also a season-opening loss against William & Mary. Mark Gottfried and the Wolfpack are in somewhat of a rebuilding year, but also have their eyes set on trying to make some sort of postseason play just like Virginia Tech.
North Carolina State is not a very deep team, but has a star in Anthony Barber averaging 23.1 points along with three others averaging at least 10 points a game. This Wolfpack team seems somewhat similar to the Hokies with Erick Green except the Wolfpack have more pieces around N.C. State.
The Wolfpack go with a seven-man rotation just like another team Virginia Tech played earlier in the season, Iowa State. Don’t be surprised if Buzz Williams and the Hokies go with a deeper rotation than normal along with more frequent changes to try to tire out the Wolfpack with an up-tempo, high-pressure strategy.
Virginia Tech has struggled on the glass in their previous two games and face another tough challenge with the Wolfpack being a top 15 team in the nation in rebounds per game. The Wolfpack only have two players averaging 6 or more rebounds per game, but all seven players in their rotation average at least 4 rebounds per game.
The Hokies will need a full team effort to try to not get blown out by the Wolfpack in the rebounding category. This could once again be one of the big issues for the Hokies if they don’t rise to the occasion.
Justin Bibbs was shut down against West Virginia, and the Hokies need to find ways to get the sophomore guard open from beyond the arc. Bibbs has also not been shooting the ball as well recently, but Virginia Tech needs to find a way to get him in rhythm and get him opportunities.
Against bigger, more athletic frontcourts, Zach LeDay and the Hokies have had some issues with the junior transfer needing some help from someone with Chris Clarke out. Kerry Blackshear has had a couple of tough games, but Virginia Tech needs him or Johnny Hamilton to step up.
Anthony Barber has had a tremendous start to the season, and is starting to play his best basketball as conference play approaches. The Hokies will need players like Seth Allen, Justin Robinson, and Devin Wilson to play tough defense on Barber and force other Wolfpack players to beat them.
Virginia Tech needs a bounce-back win desperately, and will come out with the necessary intensity. However, Barber is a very talented scorer and the Hokies have struggled to contain these type of players recently. Virginia Tech will keep it close but come up short once again against the Wolfpack ahead of a showdown with rival Virginia.