Last night, the Virginia Tech Hokies took care of business comfortably against the Florida State Seminoles 96-85, but their reward is their third game against the #11 Miami Hurricanes. So far, the Hokies and Hurricanes have split their season series with Miami blowing out Virginia Tech in the second half in Coral Gables, and Virginia Tech dominating Miami in Blacksburg last Saturday.
Now, the Hokies are one of the hottest teams in any conference tournament with their six-game winning streak, but the Hurricanes will have their eyes on getting some revenge after the loss last Saturday.
One big difference from these two teams’ matchup last Saturday is the fact that Miami will have guard Ja’Quan Newton, who averages 10.9 points per game, back from suspension. The return of Newton gives the Hurricanes another backcourt player that can score and give breaks to the trio of Sheldon McClellan, Angel Rodriguez, and Davon Reed which could help the Hurricanes play at a higher energy against a Virginia Tech team that played last night.
Kerry Blackshear played well last night against a large Florida State frontcourt, but will have to go against a more talented center tonight in Tonye Jekiri. Blackshear needs to prevent Jekiri from being productive on the glass in this matchup, and try to limit the number of offensive rebounds the Hurricanes get. If Blackshear can contain Jekiri and force Miami to try and beat them from the outside, the Hokies will have a great chance to win.
Zach LeDay had an exceptional game last night and while he may not be able to do that again, the junior forward is playing with a big chip on his shoulder after only receiving All-ACC Honorable Mention status this season. The Hokies will need LeDay and Chris Clarke to be effective on the glass against a Miami team that doesn’t have the same massive big men that the Seminoles have and if LeDay can have another double-double tonight, Virginia Tech may be in great shape.
One big difference in the previous matchup was how the Hokies shot 53% from the field and beyond the arc along with over 80% from the free-throw line. If the Hokies are to pull the upset tonight, Virginia Tech needs Justin Bibbs, Seth Allen, and Justin Robinson to be making shots whether that be Bibbs making threes on the outside or Allen and Robinson consistently attacking the rim and either drawing a foul or getting some layups.
Virginia Tech’s defense also will have to be at a high level against Miami’s talented backcourt. In the first matchup, Davon Reed shined as he went 8-for-11 from the field, but Angel Rodriguez was held to a 2-for-8 afternoon and Sheldon McClellan got 17 points but did that on a not so good 7-of-19 shooting from the field. The Hokies must play tough defense once again on this trio along with preventing Miami from getting the 14 offensive rebounds that they got last time against the Hokies.
Miami will definitely be the favorite, but the Hokies will be ready in front of what likely will be a pro-Virginia Tech crowd at the Verizon Center. This has all the makings of a back-and-forth game and right now, Virginia Tech has all the momentum from playing some great defense to making shots at a high level. The Hokies are a good matchup against Miami as a team that has comparable size, and brings a level of toughness and aggression that the Hurricanes have had some issues with.
Unlike the first two matchups, this will be a close game, but the Hokies will leave it all on the floor and once again take down the Hurricanes in a big upset.