For the first time in years, the Virginia Tech Hokies did not play on the opening day of the ACC Tournament and even had to wait till today’s games were completed to find out who they would be playing. Unsurprisingly, the Hokies will be facing Florida State in a game that ESPN’s Joe Lunardi has apparently said will put the winner onto the bubble for this year’s NCAA Tournament.
Both teams know that this is basically an elimination game to keep their currently slim hopes alive of reaching the NCAA Tournament while the number of 1 seeds in smaller conferences losing means that there will also be less at-large bids in the NIT or more teams that get pushed into the NIT by teams like St. Mary’s, Wichita State, Monmouth, and Valparaiso.
The biggest reason for Virginia Tech’s late-season surge has been their tough defense, but will have to deal with the fact that the Seminoles have a significant size advantage all over. Virginia Tech will have to avoid giving the Seminoles extra opportunities while also preventing some open threes against a Seminole team that doesn’t have a great three-point shooter, but has a few guys that can get hot.
Both teams are shooting under 70% from the free-throw line this season so it will be critical for both teams to have an above-average day from the charity stripe. When these teams met in Blacksburg, Florida State had a good day shooting 76.2% from the line, but the Hokies shot only 59.3% from the line and will have to do better to avoid putting too much pressure on their shooting from beyond the arc.
Seth Allen had a big game against Florida State in February and the junior point guard may be able to bring that intensity to this matchup. Allen has also been shooting the basketball better lately and has the potential to be a difference maker against Florida State while the Hokies will also look to Justin Bibbs to keep shooting the basketball better from beyond the arc as he did against Miami.
Justin Robinson has been playing quite well lately, and now gets his chance to come home to the Washington D.C. area for the biggest games of his young career. To say that Robinson will likely be playing with a little extra edge would be understating as the high-motor point guard will be prepared to leave it all on the floor, but he will have to make sure he plays with composure.
Virginia Tech will need the frontcourt to rebound the ball much more effectively against the 7-foot big men that the Seminoles bring to the table. Zach LeDay had an efficient offensive day in the Hokies’ first matchup but was held to only three rebounds while Kerry Blackshear only had 1, and Shane Henry and Chris Clarke each had two boards. The size difference is an issue, but the Hokies will need LeDay and Blackshear in particular to be effective on the glass and create some second-chance opportunities against a FSU team playing their second game in two days.
The one potential x-factor is Jalen Hudson who took his game to a level we have rarely seen last year at the ACC Tournament in what was an impressive 32-point performance against Wake Forest before only having 5 points against Miami the next day. If the Hokies get the Hudson that dominated Wake Forest last season against Florida State, the Seminoles will certainly be in for a long night at the Verizon Center.
Virginia Tech and Florida State will both be ready for this game knowing the importance and magnitude of this game, and the fresh legs of the Hokies not playing yesterday will make an impact. Zach LeDay, Seth Allen, and Justin Robinson will step up against Malik Beasley and Dwayne Bacon to lead the Hokies to victory to begin a bubble push along with securing a home NIT game.