The No. 20 Virginia Tech men’s basketball team travels to South Bend today to face Notre Dame. The last time these two teams met, the Hokies pulled away late in the second half to secure an 81-66 victory at home on New Year’s Day.
Tech currently sits tied for 6th in the ACC with a 9-5 record, while Notre Dame is 3-10 and tied for 13th. Here are three things to watch as the Hokies take on the Fighting Irish today:
1. Can Blackshear stay hot?
Since the injury to senior point guard Justin Robinson, center Kerry Blackshear, Jr. has carried much of the load offensively for VT (you can read more about it here). Blackshear has averaged almost 20 points per game since Robinson’s injury while also averaging 8.5 rebounds and 2.7 assists.
Blackshear has been nearly impossible to guard lately, and Notre Dame’s defense will have to key in on him. In the previous matchup, Blackshear scored 21 points with seven rebounds, so he’s had success against this team already. Coach Mike Brey will need to get creative and make some drastic adjustments if he hopes to stop Blackshear.
2. Can the Hokies make shots?
In their last game against No. 3 Virginia, the Hokies were nothing short of awful from the three-point line. They finished 3-for-27 in a game that would have been quite winnable with more made shots.
Much of Tech’s offense comes from outside shooting, and without Robinson, the Hokies can’t afford to keep missing open looks. They are well regarded as one of the top three-point shooting teams in the country, but if they continue to miss shots, Notre Dame will have a much easier time stopping the Hokies in a hostile environment.
The Hokies finished their last matchup with Notre Dame with 11 threes, including four for senior Ty Outlaw. Look for Outlaw to try and capitalize on open looks from deep.
Senior Ahmed Hill has struggled to make threes recently, making only five in his last six games. His three-point percentage is only 13 percent during this stretch. Hill will need to get out of this slump and make some big shots when his team needs him to.
3. The turnover battle
The Fighting Irish are averaging just under 10 turnovers per game. The Hokies, on the other hand, are one of the best teams in the country at forcing turnovers. They force 15 per game on average.
The Irish had 11 turnovers in the New Year’s Day matchup, and that proved to be a difference maker, as the Hokies only had seven. Notre Dame will need to limit turnovers while also forcing the Hokies into mistakes if they want to get the upset.
The Hokies average around 12 turnovers per game, and that number has only gone up since Robinson’s injury. Mistakes will be key as any miscue can be amplified when playing on the road. Notre Dame will look to use the crowd to their advantage and try to get inside the Hokies’ heads.
Virginia Tech tips off against Notre Dame at 4 p.m. this afternoon.
Prediction: #20 Virginia Tech 66, Notre Dame 58
Photo Credit: Bobby Murray