ACC basketball games are almost here, but first, Virginia Tech will close out its non-conference schedule with a home matchup against Maryland Eastern Shore on Friday. The Hokies are 10-1 on the season and have won five straight games going into Friday night. Tech is undefeated in Cassell Coliseum, where it will host the Hawks in the 2018 finale.
Ahead of Friday’s game, let’s take a look at three things to watch for in this matchup.
1. Tech’s defense should shine
Maryland Eastern Shore is shooting just .368 from the field this season. That number is already lower than the average of all the Hokies’ opponents in 2018. Tech has held opposing teams to a .397 shooting percentage. The Hawks are already at a disadvantage playing this Hokies’ team.
To make matters worse, two of the worst shooting games that UMES has had this season were against ACC teams. The Hawks played NC State on Nov. 11 and shot just .315 from the field. On Dec. 15 against Pitt, their shooting percentage was even lower, at just .309. They’ll have a tough time facing Tech’s defense, which has only let a team score above 70 once this year.
The Hokies’ last three opponents have scored 44, 61 and 60 points, respectively. If the defense shows up like it has in those game, Tech should be able to get away with an easy win on Friday night.
2. Can Tech keep the fouls down?
In the Hokies’ last outing against North Carolina A&T, they committed just nine fouls, a season low. Since the first game of the season against Gardner-Webb, Tech has not committed more than 17 fouls in a game. The Hokies have had a few games with more than 15 fouls and have committed at least 10 in every game expect their last one.
Staying out of foul trouble and not giving up free throws will be beneficial, and if the Hokies can keep their foul numbers low not only in this game, but in all upcoming contests, they will be able to improve on an impressive start to the 2018-19 season.
3. Could this be a trap game?
With conference play just around the corner with the coming of the new year, the Hokies have to be thinking about their upcoming ACC opponents. They open the conference schedule with a home matchup against Notre Dame on Jan. 1.
As they get ready to take on UMES, they’ll have to make sure their attention isn’t focused too much on their tougher opponents that lie ahead. The Hokies have not played many great teams this season, so it’s tough to say how they’ll fare in what could be looked at as a trap game. They’ve played three Power 5 opponents and have won the game before taking on each of those teams.
UMES should not be a threat to the Hokies, but with a slate of tough games coming up, it’s hard to say where their attention will be and if they’ll take the Hawks seriously.
Virginia Tech’s offense has been good all season long and its defense is almost as impressive. The Hokies have dominated their non-conference opponents, and I don’t expect anything to change with Friday’s game. UMES is 1-12 on the season, its lone win coming against Central Pennsylvania College. The only real way the Hawks have even a slight chance to get out of Blacksburg with a win is if this game ends up being a trap game for Tech.
With the way the Hokies have been playing recently and the momentum they have from a five-game win streak, they should be able to walk away with an easy victory on Friday night in Cassell Coliseum.