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Zach LeDay Against UMES [Credit: Harley Taylor][/caption]The Virginia Tech Hokies are approaching the top 25 after getting the sixth most votes among teams outside the top 25 while also building a strong non-conference resume with wins at Michigan and in California against Nebraska and New Mexico. The Hokies only have one obvious opportunity to add another quality win against an Ole Miss team looking to pull off the upset and prove that they are ready to surprise people in the SEC.
Ole Miss has a couple solid wins over Massachusetts and Saint Joseph's but a win over the Hokies would be their signature non-conference win after losing at Creighton and being upset by a solid Middle Tennessee State team. Expectations aren't that high for the Rebels, but Ole Miss has the potential to be a NIT team along with finishing in the middle of the SEC.
Ole Miss has been great on the boards, but has done it without having much size with Sebastian Saiz being the only player over 6'7'' at 6'9''. Saiz has been particularly dominant on the glass so far this season averaging 14.1 points and 11.5 rebounds per game so far, but Saiz has been held under 10 points in both of Ole Miss's losses.
In this game, expect Khadim Sy and Zach LeDay to both be matched up on Saiz a lot and while Saiz could easily have a double-double, LeDay and Sy will have to do what they can to limit him. Sy and LeDay will also have to be ready for Saiz to stretch the floor as he is 5-for-12 from deep and with Ole Miss having some solid scoring guards, the Rebels may try to do something that the Hokies like to do and stretch the floor to create lanes to attack the rim.
Saiz is also averaging over 3 offensive rebounds per game, and it will be of the upmost importance for both LeDay and Sy to be effective in boxing out and preventing Saiz from getting second chance opportunities. If the Hokies can limit those second chance opportunities, it'll put the Hokies in good shape.
Ole Miss isn't a great shooting team from the field overall but they are dangerous from deep shooting 39.3% from deep led by leading scorer Deandre Burnett (43.1%) and Cullen Neal (46.7%). The Rebels have the shooters to punish the Hokies if they make any mental mistakes on defense so it will be critical for the Hokies to also be effective in rotating and playing good help defense to make sure Ole Miss can't get one of their sharp shooters open.
Virginia Tech has shown at times and ability to put tons of pressure on opponents and give opposing team nightmares with the number of turnovers that they can force, and they face an Ole Miss team that is averaging around 16 turnovers per game. Virginia Tech's defense will be important in this game led by Justin Robinson and Seth Allen being being able to pressure Burnett and Neal heavily throughout this game.
Burnett leads Ole Miss with 21.6 points per game but is shooting a poor 36.7% from the field. For Robinson and Allen, it will be critical to force Burnett into bad shots while also avoiding fouling the junior who has been one of the best free-throw shooters in the nation so far shooting an impressive 94%from the charity stripe so far this season.
The man who could be the x-factor in this game is Justin Bibbs who is receiving less attention thanks to the impressive play of Ahmed Hill along with Seth Allen and Justin Robinson shooting the ball better this season. Bibbs was one of the best three-point shooters in the ACC last season, and seems poised for a big scoring burst after shooting 6-for-13 from deep over the past three games.
Virginia Tech is the more talented team and while Ole Miss has proven to be very good rebounding the basketball, the Hokies will be able to compete given how Ole Miss doesn't really have a size advantage to exploit. Zach LeDay is once again looking like one of the best big men in the ACC and will be ready to lead the way while Justin Bibbs and Ahmed Hill will outshoot Deandre Burnett and Cullen Neal to lead the Hokies to another home victory.
Pick: Virginia Tech 78, Ole Miss 70
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