For the first time in more than a decade, Virginia Tech won a game in the NCAA Tournament beating Saint Louis 66-52 to advance to the second round. Now, the Hokies are a win away from their first Sweet 16 appearance in over 50 years with the Liberty Flames standing in their way after an upset of 5 seed Mississippi State.
With that said, here are our picks for the Hokies against Liberty.
Virginia Tech will face a tougher matchup from a more proven Liberty team that has lots of shooting and a strong post presence in Scottie James, making them similar in some ways to VT. For the Hokies, it will be critical for them to be sharper defending the perimeter against a Liberty team that has the shooters to take advantage.
Expect a closer game in the first half for the Hokies with Liberty being a strong 12 seed and Saint Louis being arguably the weakest of the 13 seeds. However, the Hokies will be able to slowly wear down Liberty especially with star players like Kerry Blackshear, Nickeil Alexander-Walker, and Justin Robinson who can all take over.
Expect the Hokies’ offense to be much sharper in this game with VT relying more on high quality ball movement as normal and a lot more threes. Liberty will make it interesting, but the Hokies will pull away and advance to their first Sweet 16 in over 50 years.
Pick: Virginia Tech 78, Liberty 70
Looking at this Second Round matchup for the Hokies against Liberty, the key to victory is discipline. Tech is by far the more talented team. They just need to play like it and not look too far ahead to a potential matchup with Duke.
I expect the Hokies to play well, but maybe not as well as they should. Virginia Tech will get out to a hot start but allow the Flames to creep back into the game in the second half. Expect a lot of three pointers to be made from both sides and the Hokies to pull away at the end.
Pick: Virginia Tech 75, Liberty 64
The Hokies need to be very focused on this Liberty Flames team. All the talk of a potential Sweet 16 bid is a bit premature, in my opinion. Luckily, if anyone knows how to keep his players focused on one game at a time, it’s Buzz Williams.
Liberty is a very good basketball team, particularly on the offensive end. The Flames are 51st in the country in Adjusted Offensive according to KenPom, and they average 74 points a game, which is exactly the same as Virginia Tech.
Where the Hokies have the advantage, though, is on defense. Virginia Tech has proven themselves to be one of the elite defensive teams in the country this season, and Liberty does not have any player who is capable of taking over a game singlehandedly.
The Hokies should definitely take this game seriously, because Liberty is not the type of team to lay down and take a loss just because they are the underdog. In the end, though, I expect the Hokies to turn in a good defensive performance to help them get the victory.