After taking care of business in an 81-66 win over Notre Dame, 10th-ranked Virginia Tech takes the floor at Cassell Coliseum looking to improve to 13-1 against a struggling Boston College coming off a loss to Hartford.
With that said, here are our three things to watch and pick for this noon ACC clash.
1. Can Virginia Tech continue their strong three-point shooting?
Unsurprisingly, one of the most impressive things about this Virginia Tech team is their three-point shooting. So far this season, the Hokies are second in the country in three-point shooting making an insane 45.3% of their threes. Nationally, only 14 teams are even shooting 40% or better from three-point range with only five of those teams being in major conferences (Creighton, NC State, Michigan State, St John's). Among those 5, Virginia Tech is the best three-point shooting team.
The most impressive part about the Hokies' three-point shooting may be the fact that VT has 4 of the top 100 three-point shooters in the country among those eligible. That group includes Ty Outlaw (53.4%), Ahmed Hill (50%), Nickeil Alexander-Walker (47.9%), and Wabissa Bede (46.2%). In addition, Justin Robinson is shooting just under 40% from three-point range and even Kerry Blackshear is showing some range shooting just under 35% from beyond the arc.
Virginia Tech enters this game coming off an impressive shooting performance against Notre Dame making 60% of their shots including 61.1% of their threes.
Putting together a shooting performance like that is the latest example that the Hokies' hot shooting from three-point range isn't a fluke in large part because of the multitude of talented shooters that give the Hokies plenty of options. Additionally, Virginia Tech is averaging 18 assists per game and ranks 12th nationally in assist-turnover ratio with their impressive ball movement being one of the biggest reasons for their offensive and three-point shooting success.
Virginia Tech's impressive three-point shooting is here to stay and a big reason why to expect VT to put together some more blowouts against weaker ACC competition going forward.
2. Can Ahmed Hill build some momentum in ACC play?
Last season, Ahmed Hill started the season off hot averaging 16.3 points per game during non-conference play scoring in double figures in 11 out of 13 games. However, Hill struggled in ACC play with only four games in double figures including 0 games with 10+ points after the Hokies' January 22nd upset win over North Carolina.
This season, Hill didn't have as prolific of a non-conference slate averaging just under 13 points per game, but the question is whether Hill can keep this going into ACC play unlike last season, giving an additional quality secondary scoring option on the outside to go alongside Nickeil Alexander-Walker and Justin Robinson.
Hill started ACC play well with 17 points on an impressive 7-8 shooting for Notre Dame including 3-4 from three-point range. The biggest positive that suggests Hill is poised to keep this going is the fact that he is averaging career highs in all 3 major shooting percentages shooting 49.2% from the field, 50% from three-point range, and 91.7% from the free-throw line.
Ahmed Hill has shown promise early on that he can avoid an ACC slump as he did last year in part because of his more efficient shooting. However, the Hokies will need Hill to continue to play at a high level to force defenses to respect all five of VT's main lineup that has the talent to matchup with almost any team in America.
3. Key Matchup: Justin Robinson vs. Ky Bowman
The battle of the point guards should be one of the best individual matchups of the day featuring two of the ACC's best at the position.
As Nickeil Alexander-Walker has taken a large step in his development and a larger offensive role, Robinson has shifted into more of a traditional point guard role.
So far, Robinson may have seen his scoring average drop from 14.0 to 13.4, but his assists per game are up from 5.6 to 6.1 while he's averaging a career high 1.8 steals so far this season, showing lots of improvement on the defensive end.
Meanwhile, Ky Bowman has taken on a lead scoring role in Chestnut Hill after the departure of Jerome Robinson and has become a more effective scorer in the process.
So far, Bowman is averaging 20.9 points per game along with seeing his field goal percentage jump from 42.2% to 43.9% despite averaging 0.7 more shots per game. In addition, Bowman has become more efficient at the free-throw line shooting a career high 82.4% from the charity stripe. Accordingly, Bowman's assist numbers are down with Bowman averaging 3.7 assists per game after averaging 4.9 assists per game last season.
The roles of these two players have changed as the development of others has allowed Robinson to slide into a traditional point guard role while Bowman has had to take on a lead scoring role and be a more modern point guard.
After beating Notre Dame by 15, there's no reason that Virginia Tech won't be able to comfortably take care of business against a struggling Boston College team. The Eagles have been extremely inconsistent with a win over Minnesota that seems more surprising everyday along with home losses to IUPUI and Hartford, the second of which happened this past weekend.
One area that Boston College does have an advantage is where most ACC teams will likely have an on-paper advantage in, rebounding. The Eagles have a trio of players averaging 7+ rebounds per game including big men Nik Popovic and Steffon Mitchell plus point guard Ky Bowman. If the Eagles want to have a chance, they are going have to be dominant on the glass and carry a significant advantage in second chance points.
Unfortunately, that's the only area where the Eagles may be better than the Hokies with Virginia Tech being significantly better on the offensive and defensive ends. Boston College is averaging 12.7 turnovers per game while facing a Virginia Tech team that has been one of the best at forcing turnovers averaging 7.5 steals per game with three players averaging at least 1 steal per game.
Expect the Hokies to be able to force turnovers and take advantage of transition opportunities off those turnovers. Additionally, the Hokies are the much more efficient basketball team shooting 51.8% from the field and 45.3% from three-point range compared to 45.3% from the field for BC and a dismal 30.7% from three-point range.
In the past, the offensive advantage would be more than enough, but VT has also taken a significant step forward on the defensive end ranking fifth in the country in points allowed per game while holding opponents to 39.2% from the field. That combination is a recipe for disaster for the Eagles especially on the road in front of what should be a large Cassell Coliseum crowd on a Saturday afternoon.
Led by Nickeil Alexander-Walker and Justin Robinson, Virginia Tech will take care of business improving upon their play in their 15-point win over Notre Dame for a larger win against BC.
Pick: #10 Virginia Tech 82, Boston College 60
Photo Credit: Harley Taylor
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