With non-conference play officially done, #21 Virginia Tech fully dives into conference play with a road trip to Conte Forum in Chestnut Hill to take on a struggling 6-6 Boston College hungry to right the ship after a slow start. The Eagles had a four-game losing streak that included a loss to New Hampshire prior to a 7-point victory over Stonehill, but the Eagles have been a thorn in Mike Young's side with Tech being 0-3 versus the Eagles during Young's tenure.
So how will this one play out? Here are my three things to watch for the Hokies against the Eagles.
1. Handling a Strange Environment
Conte Forum isn't exactly a tough environment in terms of what we think of with venues like Cassell Coliseum, Cameron Indoor Stadium, John Paul Jones Arena, etc. However, this is a venue that can lack atmosphere to an extreme where the challenge becomes producing your own energy to handle this forum that has the energy you would expect in the old Ancient Greek forums rather than a college basketball arena.
Mike Young knows well that this place is a strange environment that can be weirdly tough to play in as he stated after the win over Grambling.
“We’re gonna have to play better, it’s not an easy place. There'll be 37 people there and (BC) will have put the basketball floor down hours before tip-off. It’s cold as hell but you have to find a way to win the game; no ands, ifs, or buts about it,” Young said.
Tech is going to have to do well at producing their own energy in this one against a Boston College team that hasn't been great this season but does have some talented players. The win against Oklahoma State in Barclays Center could be good prep for this one given the small crowd that was on hand for that game though playing in an NBA arena like that has way more atmosphere than Conte Forum.
Conte Forum is one of the strange environments given how dull it is and the Hokies must be ready to bring their own energy in this one.
2. Three-Point Shooting Showing Signs of Life
Virginia Tech showed some signs of life in terms of reaching their peak three-point shooting ability in their rout of Grambling.
During that game, the Hokies shot over 40% from behind the arc (40.7%, 11-27) for the first time since their close victory over Old Dominion in the opening round of the Charleston Classic.
That shows two things about this team. First, that they have developed into a team that doesn't need the three ball to win but can do so a whole bunch of ways as we've seen. And second, this team has definitely not reached their ceiling yet given the three-point shooting talent that this roster has.
This game presents another opportunity to build momentum in that area to reaching their peak against a BC team not exactly known for their perimeter defense. The Eagles currently 320th in the nation in opposing three-point percentage with opponents making 36.7% of their threes against BC this season.
Tech has the shooting talent to make the Eagles pay for their perimeter defense issues and could be poised for a big game from deep following their best three-point shooting display in weeks against Grambling.
3. Will Rodney Rice Make His Debut?
Tech fans have been waiting a while now to see Rodney Rice make his debut with Mike Young being patient in making sure that Rice is fully ready to go before sending him out there for the Hokies. However, that 100% time may be upon us as Jon Rothstein reported and the Roanoke Times also confirmed that Young feels Rice is close with the promising freshman sending out a crpytic hourglass tweet earlier today.
Virginia Tech freshman Rodney Rice (ankle) is "very close to being full speed", per Mike Young. Hokies will "make a determination" on his status prior to Wednesday's game against BC.— Jon Rothstein (@JonRothstein) December 19, 2022
Former Top-100 recruit.
⏳— Rodney Rice (@rodneyrice__) December 21, 2022
Rice would definitely be a big boost for the Hokies as someone who has the talent to provide at least 10-15 quality minutes per night off the bench for this team. Additionally, Rice is also the backup point guard for the Hokies and can allow Tech to give star Sean Pedulla a couple extra minutes of rest which would be valuable both in late game situations and as the season progresses as a whole.
Now Tech may ease Rice with only a few minutes in his first couple games just to let him get his legs under him especially given how MJ Collins has played fairly well as the fourth guard for the Hokies. However, it's likely inevitable that Rice will be a significant role player for this team with the path towards that potentially beginning tonight.
Of course, Tech could also hold Rice out one more game with a 10-day gap for Christmas coming up after this game before the Hokies take on Wake Forest in Winston-Salem. Given how the Demon Deacons look like a competent, mid-tier ACC team following their upset against Duke last night, that may not be a bad idea either.
Prediction: Virginia Tech 71, Boston College 59
Boston College has been in a thorn in Mike Young's side and though they are only 6-6 with losses to Maine, Tarleton State, and New Hampshire; the Eagles can not be underestimated. Makai Ashton-Langford and Demarr Langford both have missed some time with injuries this season and are talented players that as this team plays more together, will continue to elevate the Eagles above what they've been to date.
However, Virginia Tech is clearly the more talented team and should be able to attack from all facets. While BC is ranked 90th in defensive efficiency, their frontcourt is a weakness of theirs with Justyn Mutts and company more than capable to take advantage. Tech also has the three-point shooting to take advantage of the perimeter defensive struggles that the Eagles have had this season.
Mike Young has had his struggles against Boston College during his tenure but this time, the Hokies will get a win inside the Conte Forum and end Young's losing streak to the Eagles.