The Virginia Tech Hokies are headed for their first NCAA Tournament in a decade with Senior Day left to end their regular season, but they face a challenge against a Wake Forest team that is barely on the field and right on the bubble after beating Louisville this past week. The Hokies will be looking to climb as high as the fifth seed in the ACC Tournament while a win for Wake Forest puts the Demon Deacons in a much better position to make the NCAA Tournament.
Buzz Williams and Danny Manning were both hired at the same time with Williams already having the Hokies headed for the NCAA Tournament in his third year while Manning has Wake Forest poised for their first postseason appearance and possibly first NCAA Tournament since the 2010 NCAA Tournament appearance in the third and final season of the Dino Gaudio tenure.
Virginia Tech and Wake Forest have made some big turnarounds with the Hokies headed for the NCAA Tournament and Wake Forest headed for some sort of postseason appearance in either the NIT or NCAA Tournament.
Key Matchup: Zach LeDay vs. John Collins
This game will feature a great matchup in the post between two of the best big man in the ACC in Zach LeDay and John Collins who is building a strong case to be ACC Player of the Year and is a big reason why the Demon Deacons have a decent chance at making the NCAA Tournament.
Collins has been playing at an extremely high level recently with 12-straight games with 20 or more points along with 8 double-doubles during that time period while averaging 19.3 points, 9.8 rebounds, and 1.7 blocks in only 26 minutes per game this season. Collins is only a sophomore and is a star that should have Wake Forest fans excited about the future of the Demon Deacons whether they do make the NCAA Tournament or not.
Meanwhile, Zach LeDay has been steadily productive averaging 15.3 points and 7.0 rebounds per game while having at least 7 rebounds in each of his past 5 games since Chris Clarke went down along with three games of at least 18 or more points. In this game, LeDay will face a tough matchup against one of the ACC’s new stars in Collins who has proven himself against just about every one in the ACC this year.
Collins is a tremendous talent and no one should be surprised if he has 20+ points in this game but if LeDay can be productive and prevent Collins from going off for 25+ points, Virginia Tech will have a good chance against a Wake Forest team that doesn’t have much depth.
Keys to the Game
1. Establish and disguise the pick and roll.
One thing that slowed the Virginia Tech offense down against Miami was the fact that Miami had done a great job with their scouting report and were well-prepared to handle the pick and roll with Virginia Tech not doing a great job of disguising the pick and roll. However, the Hokies were able to get their pick-and-rolls and screens going by the end of the game with Seth Allen being able to get some rhythm and help the Hokies finish off their victory over Miami.
Wake Forest likely will be preparing to deal with the pick-and-roll that has helped Virginia Tech’s offense be quite effective in creating space on the outside for Virginia Tech’s tremendous group of talented shooters that are shooting 40.9% from beyond the arc. If the Hokies can get their pick-and-rolls going early in this game, Wake Forest will likely have a long day defensively.
2. Clean up the turnovers.
Against Miami, the Hokies were once again fairly sloppy the ball with 11 turnovers against the Hurricanes, but they didn’t end up paying in the end due in part to the fact that the Hokies didn’t have a single turnover in the final 10.5 minutes of their win over Miami. Cleaning up the mistakes in the closing stretch of the game helped make the difference against Miami and they’ll have to keep it up against Wake Forest.
The good news is Wake Forest isn’t a great defensive team that doesn’t force a lot of steals averaging only 5.4 steals per game. For the Hokies, protecting the basketball will be important in this game as if they have a bad day protecting the basketball like they did at Boston College, they will pay for it this time.
For Virginia Tech: Justin Robinson has emerged as Virginia Tech’s best ball distributor with Seth Allen moving more into a smaller two guard role along with taking over the point when Robinson is getting rest. Robinson leads the Hokies in averaging 4.7 assists per game and has made some impressive passes this season that not many point guards in America could make but has also made some sloppy, lazy turnovers.
Robinson has been passing the ball quite well recently with at least 4 assists in each of his past 5 games, and at least 8 assists in three of those past 5 games including a career-high 11 assists against Boston College as a part of his first career double-double. Robinson has been making plenty of great passes recently and Wake Forest will have to be ready or else Robinson could have another big day with plenty of assists.
For Wake Forest: Forward Konstantinos Mitoglou is an average rebounder for a 6’10” forward averaging only 5.9 rebounds in 25 minutes per game, but Mitoglou is a well-rounded offensive player that can stretch the floor and is shooting 32.9% from beyond the arc this season. Mitoglou is an interesting mismatch against a smaller Virginia Tech team that could cause some problems though Virginia Tech’s athleticism may put more pressure on him on the outside.
Mitoglou had one of his best games of ACC play this past week against Louisville with 12 points including a couple threes in Wake Forest’s 7-point win against Louisville. In Saturday’s matchup, Mitoglou has the potential to be a mismatch that could cause his fair share of problems for the Hokies especially if he can get going from beyond the arc.
The Hokies are set for their first NCAA Tournament in a decade while Wake Forest enters this game right on the bubble, but knowing that a win would put them in a strong position to make the NCAA Tournament. While Wake Forest will have the emotion of making their push to make the NCAA Tournament, the Hokies are looking to climb the seed ladder while Senior Day always brings some extra emotion that can help a lot.
John Collins is a star and will have another big performance as possibly the most talented collegiate big man to play at Cassell Coliseum since Jahlil Okafor. However, Virginia Tech has plenty of great three-point shooting to counter led by Ty Outlaw who has made an insane 20 of his 26 three-pointers in his past four games.
With this being Senior Day, Seth Allen and Zach LeDay will be ready to leave one final big impression on the Hokie faithful in Blacksburg and both star seniors seem poised to have big games in what definitely has the potential to be a very high-scoring affair in Blacksburg.
This will definitely be a very close game and while Wake Forest will show once again why they are worthy of being selected for the NCAA Tournament, they will come up just short on the road with Allen and LeDay leading the charge for the Hokies to a 11-7 ACC record that could lead them to a fifth-place ACC finish.