After suffering a blowout loss at Virginia, the Virginia Tech Hokies have had over a week to prepare for a trip to Coral Gables to take on the #11 Miami Hurricanes in what is by far the toughest road game left on Virginia Tech’s schedule. The task at hand will be tough for the Hokies, but an upset victory tonight would put the Hokies in a great position to get into the NIT and a shot at making a late surge onto the fringe of the bubble.
The Hurricanes are only a game behind Miami in the ACC with a game in Chapel Hill on Saturday followed by a games against Virginia, Louisville, and at Notre Dame before closing in Blacksburg. However, Jim Larranaga and the Hurricanes will have to avoid sleeping on this game with the Hokies looking for a big road win against a ranked opponent and few guaranteed opportunities to get another signature victory.
One important battle will come on the glass with both teams averaging around 36 rebounds per game. Kerry Blackshear and possibly Johnny Hamilton have the potential to be very important in this game against Miami center Tonye Jekiri who is averaging 9.8 rebounds per game. Blackshear has been playing better in the last few games, but has to be on his game especially around the boards tonight.
If Blackshear can have a big game and slow down Jekiri in his first road ACC game in his home state, the Hokies will have a pretty decent chance at pulling off the upset.
One player that could be an x-factor is Chris Clarke who showed in limited action against UVA how he makes the Hokies better. Clarke will allow Virginia Tech to go with a smaller lineup that is still effective on the glass with Clarke averaging over 7 rebounds per game. It is unknown how much Clarke will be able to play, but if he can play 25 or more minutes, it could have a big impact on tonight’s outcome.
Zach LeDay and Justin Bibbs have been fairly efficient on the offensive end, but the Hokies will need them to do that again along with needing Seth Allen and Jalen Hudson to step up with their offensive efficiency against a Miami team that has 5 of their top 7 scorers shooting over 48% from the field.
The Hokies have a big challenge on the road at Miami in what will be their last road game against a ranked opponent, but anything is possible this college basketball season. Expect Zach LeDay to play well and provide plenty of scoring as usual along with Justin Bibbs making some threes, but Miami is definitely the better team, and will get the job done at home.