After days of anticipation, the highest-seeded team in Virginia Tech basketball history is ready as the fourth-seeded Hokies have their eyes on winning their first NCAA Tournament game in over a decade. Meanwhile, Saint Louis is hoping to replicate their upset of the Hokies in last year’s 2K Classic at Madison Square Garden.
With that said, here are our picks for the late night matchup between the Hokies and Billikens.
Outside of rebounding, this is a mismatch in just about every category in the favor of the Hokies. Virginia Tech will even have a rare size advantage with Kerry Blackshear that shows the mountain Saint Louis is going against.
If there are positives for the Billikens, it’s the fact that they have a veteran backcourt that won’t be intimidated by the stage along with a group of players and coach that have lots of major major conference experience and likely carry a chip on his shoulder.
Unfortunately for the Billikens, the Hokies are a much better team before the return of Justin Robinson. Throw in Robinson and this seems like a game that could get ugly in the second half, especially with how VT may actually have more depth.
Expect a big game from Kerry Blackshear who has been dominant and should thrive in the post as the biggest man on the floor. Even if Justin Robinson isn’t 100%, he should be able to draw some attention that will create more space for the rest of VT’s guards while allowing Nickeil Alexander-Walker to slide back into a more natural shooting guard role where he impressed during the first 3 months of the season.
While Saint Louis should be able to keep it interesting in the first half, expect the Hokies to wear the Billikens down and pick up their first NCAA Tournament win under Buzz Williams.
Pick: Virginia Tech 78, Saint Louis 64
With Justin Robinson set to return for the Hokies, team morale is at an all-time high. This veteran team looks ready to avenge an embarrassing loss to St Louis last season and show that they are capable of making a deep tournament run.
With Robinson back, this offense will be firing on all cylinders. Expect the Hokies to get out to a big lead early on and maintain it the whole game. This will be an easy First Round win for the Hokies.
Pick: Virginia Tech 83, Saint Louis 62
It’s important to remember that no game is a given in March. With that said, I do think the Hokies got probably the best draw they could have asked for as far as their first and possible second games.
Buzz Williams and many of the players have talked extensively about not overlooking any game despite all the talk about a potential Sweet 16 run, so I think they will have their complete focus on this game. They also have the extra motivation of seeking revenge on Saint Louis from last season.
Matchup wise, the Hokies should have the advantage, especially on the offensive end. Virginia Tech is 12th in the country in KenPom’s adjusted offense ranking, while Saint Louis is 205th. With Justin Robinson back, I expect the Hokies offense to run even more smoothly.
I want to be careful not to sound too confident about a Hokies win, because that is when the upsets can happen in March. Still, I do think the Hokies will get it done in the end.