The Virginia Tech Hokies suffered two tough home losses to arguably the best team in the nation in the North Carolina Tar Heels, and a Louisville team that shot 12-of-18 from beyond the arc. Today, the Hokies began a two-game road stint at Pittsburgh with Virginia Tech needing to get a win against either the Panthers or Syracuse.
While the Hokies enter this game on a three-game losing streak with three close losses, Pittsburgh also enters this game off a 13-point loss at a Clemson team that has taken off in 2016 and looks like a NCAA Tournament team. Both teams will be a hungry for a win with Pittsburgh looking to not start sliding towards the bubble while Virginia Tech looks to add a good win.
Pittsburgh doesn’t have the same type of size in the frontcourt that many Virginia Tech opponents have had with none of their top three big men being taller than 6’8”. Despite their smaller size, Pittsburgh ranks in the top 60 in the nation in rebounding with plenty of depth.
In this matchup, the Hokies will need Zach LeDay and Kerry Blackshear to be more productive on the boards. However, the Hokies should also give Johnny Hamilton some more playing time after he had 4 rebounds in only 9 minutes against Louisville.
LeDay continues to be Virginia Tech’s consistent scoring threat with the junior forward seeming to quietly get at least 15 points ever game. LeDay’s ability to stretch the floor has made Virginia Tech’s offense more dangerous against man-to-man defense with more lanes that Jalen Hudson and Seth Allen took advantage of against Louisville.
The big matchup may come between LeDay and Pittsburgh forward Michael Young, another undersized big man that leads his team in points and rebounds. LeDay has the edge as a rebounder and shooter from outside, but the Hokies will need to make sure that LeDay wins this matchup and slows down Young who is averaging 1.2 points more per game than LeDay.
The Hokies will need some scoring consistency from Jalen Hudson and Seth Allen tonight after the duo had a combined 53 points against Louisville. Hudson and Allen were both able to attack the rim and make their layups while also making plenty of free-throws and will need to do so again tonight.
The Hokies will not only need Hudson and Allen to both at least be in double-digits tonight, but also need Justin Bibbs making a few threes and avoiding the foul trouble that he got into last game. Virginia Tech will also need freshmen Kerry Blackshear and Justin Robinson to be more effective scoring after both were held without a point against Louisville.
Pittsburgh is the favorite, but don’t doubt the Hokies in what would be a strong win if they can do it. However, Pittsburgh has the veterans and a very deep rotation that Jamie Dixon will try to use to wear down the Hokies. Virginia Tech will keep it close, but the Panthers will win a close one.