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Can the Hokies pull off an upset against #12 UVA? [Credit: Harley Taylor][/caption]The Virginia Cavaliers protected their home floor in their first matchup against Virginia Tech taking down VT 71-48 in Charlottesville but now, the Hokies have a chance to get some revenge for their loss in Charlottesville and a chance to protect their home floor at Cassell Coliseum.
Virginia was named a three seed in the NCAA Tournament selection committee's first ever pre=Selection Sunday top 16 team release. Tony Bennett once again has the Cavaliers at the top of the ACC with UVA needing a win Sunday to keep pace and tie current ACC leaders North Carolina. Meanwhile, the Hokies are 5-6 in ACC play but enter a favorable closing stretch with four of their last seven games at home plus two of their final 3 road games coming against two of the ACC's bottom four teams, Boston College and Pittsburgh.
For the Hokies, this is a tremendous opportunity to pick up a high quality win that would significantly increase Virginia Tech's breathing room relative to the bubble and put them in an extremely strong position to get a 6 or 7 seed along with putting them close to a top 25 return.
Key Matchup: London Perrantes vs. Seth Allen
The battle of the two veteran point guards will be the most fascinating to watch even if Perrantes and Allen my not necessarily be guarding each other especially when Virginia is on offense but these two will be fascinating to watch especially with Allen and Perrantes both averaging over 12 points per game and shooting over 41% from three and over 44% from the field.
Allen has cooled off a little in his past couple games but has continued his streak of double-digit points and will be ready to thrive in front of his home fans while Perrantes will play a big role in this game as the senior leader going into a hostile, rival environment with Virginia being a win from jumping into the top 7 or 8 in the polls and staying tied with North Carolina at the top of the ACC.
If one of these players significantly outplays the other as Ja'Quan Newton outplayed Seth Allen by a decent amount in our key matchup on Wednesday, one of these teams will have a big advantage.
Keys to the Game
1. Take advantage of the open shots you get.
Virginia's defense is quite good, but the Hokies will be able to get some open shots as they did when they faced off in Charlottesville, but they also struggled to take advantage of those great opportunities. While making a reasonable percentage of those open opportunities wouldn't have been enough to make it a really close game, they'll need to take advantage of them in what should be a close, competitive game.
Ahmed Hill has been quite cold shooting from beyond the arc lately while Justin Bibbs has started to get back going. On Sunday, the Hokies will need their top two wings firing on all cylinders from deep along with guys like Seth Allen, Justin Robinson, and Ty Outlaw taking advantage of open opportunities against a Virginia defense that won't give up many great shots and a VT team that has struggled with offensive rebounding.
2. Take advantage of transition opportunities.
Virginia Tech's offense has been most successful in transition, but they face a Virginia team that is one of the best in the nation at protecting the basketball averaging only 10 turnovers per game. For the Hokies, that will mean limited opportunities out in transition and on fast breaks, making it of the upmost importance for VT to take advantage when they do.
On top of that, the Hokies have been able to occasionally manufacture an extra transition opportunity or two and in this game, the Hokies would be smart to try to find a way to create a 3-on-2 or 2-on-1 opportunity if they can. Being efficient in transition will be critical for a Virginia Tech team that has had a large amount of its success in transition offensively.
3. Get second chance opportunities.
The Hokies have struggled to crash the boards especially on the offensive glass in which the Hokies got beat by UVA 11-3 in their first meeting. Virginia Tech has some guys who have proven in the past to be solid rebounders in Zach LeDay and Chris Clarke, but the Hokies will need those two and Khadim Sy to get some second chance opportunities especially playing at home against a UVA team that can crash the boards.
Virginia Tech is facing a Virginia team that doesn't have a lot of size, but a Virginia team that was still able to hold them to only 3 offensive rebounds when they first met. The Hokies will need to do better than that and while playing at home with the extra boost from the home fans should help, VT will need LeDay, Clarke, and Sy battling in the frontcourt and getting some offensive rebounds.
For Virginia Tech:
Justin Robinson will play a large role in Sunday's game as Robinson averages the most minutes per game for the Hokies while also likely being the guy that will guard London Perrantes for most of the game. Robinson will play a large role against Virginia and could be a big difference maker on this matchup if he has a big game.
Robinson had one of his best offensive games of ACC play this past Wednesday against Miami with a team-high 15 points while also having 3 rebounds and 2 assists. The biggest thing for Robinson was that he went 6-for-7 from the free-throw line in the game and if Robinson can not only get to the line consistently but also make his free throws at a high rate, he could make a big difference maker.
Robinson will play a big role in this game and if he has a big performance, it'll make life difficult for Virginia.
Isaiah Wilkins has been playing quite well recently for the Hokies with 15 points and 9 rebounds against the Hokies and double-digit points in five of his past seven games plus a double-double in Virginia's most recent game against Louisville (13 points, 11 rebounds, 5 blocks).
Wilkins was quite effective on the glass in Virginia's first game against the Hokies and his rebounding could make a big difference in this game along with his high shooting percentage as Wilkins has shot over 63% from the field in each of his past four games. Wilkins isn't a star on this team, but has stepped up his game over the past few weeks and could be an issue on Sunday for the Hokies if he can keep his recent strong play going especially with neither team having a large frontcourt.
The Hokies have struggled lately but the Hokies have consistently been better at home especially this season while Buzz teams have also been competitive against major competition in all three years of the Buzz Williams era including his first year when the Hokies took Duke and Virginia to the brink while also coming close to upsets over UNC and Louisville last year plus upsets of UVA last year and Duke this year in Cassell Coliseum.
Virginia Tech has also shot the ball better at home and while Virginia's defense is one of America's best, it definitely hasn't been as good on the road in general this season. The Hokies also have shot the ball better at home this season while Seth Allen has been shooting the ball from deep at a very high level and Justin Bibbs is starting to heat up.
This will undoubtedly be a close game and Virginia's defense will give the Hokies' problems, but VT will play much better in a big game atmosphere at Cassell Coliseum while the Hokies will shoot the ball better being at home. Winning on the road in the ACC is tough especially against your rival and while UVA will give VT a run for their money, the Hokies will pull off the upset led by veterans Seth Allen and Zach LeDay.
Pick: Virginia Tech 65, #12 Virginia 62