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Three Things to Watch for Virginia Tech Against #23 Miami

Sean Pedulla 1 VT CSU 2022 ES
Photo Credit: Erin Smith

Virginia Tech heads on the road after ending their long losing streak and starting a winning streak with home victories over Duke and Syracuse. Two big games loom for the Hokies this week starting tonight on the road at a #23 Miami team looking to bounce back from a close road loss at Pittsburgh over the weekend.

The Hokies have some momentum now going into this one, but also know that they still have a lot of work ahead to get back on the right side of the bubble. However, tonight is 1 of 2 Q1 win kpportunities this week for the Hokies at a time where it feels like Tech needs to get at least 1 for their NCAA opponents whether that comes tonight or Saturday vs UVA while a sweep would be a game changer.

So with that said, here are my 3 things to watch for the Hokies vs the Hurricanes.

1. Can VT Use Their Frontcourt Size To Their Advantage?

Miami is one of the smaller teams in the ACC as they dont have a single player above 6'7'' who is averaging double-digit minutes per game. Meanwhile, Tech has the 6'9'' Grant Basile and 6'10'' Lynn Kidd to bring a size advantage to the paint for the Hokies in this one.

Now Norchad Omier is a very talented undersized center at 6'7'' who is putting up Zach LeDay-esque numbers averaging 13.5 points, 10.4 rebounds, and 1.5 blocks per game this seasons after transferring in from Arkansas State. He is known for his defense as well despite his size, but Grant Basile has been playing about as well as anyone in the ACC and given his refinement on that end, feeding him often makes a lot of sense especially with Omier averaging 3.2 fouls per game.

Lynn Kidd has also proven to be quite productive off the bench and should have a larger role after the Syracuse zone led to a heavy reliance on Basile for the base-line role given his multi-level scoring ability compared to Kidd.

Omier presents a challenge, but Tech has the size and the refined skill of Basile to go after him and maybe given his foul average, get him into foul trouble. If they can and do so effectively, it could be the difference in this game.

2. Backcourt Dual

This should be one of the best backcourt battles in the ACC this season with VT having the talented duo of Sean Pedulla and Hunter Cattoor while Miami has star Isaiah Wong plus big time transfer Nijel Pack who you may remember from Miami super booster John Ruiz tweeting about him getting $400k per year for 2 years.

Regardless of how much these guys are making in NIL, all four of these players are absolute studs who have been playing at a high level all season.

All four players are averaging double-digit points per game and shooting over 41% from the field. All but Pedulla are shooting over 37% from 3 and all but Pack are averaging better than a 2:1 assist/turnover ratio. Those are quite good numbers across the board with all four players being guys who can make their impacts felt in varying ways.

One thing that could favor the Hokies is the fact that Sean Pedulla may be as rested as he's been in a long time without being rusty. Tech's star point guard only played 17 minutes against Syracuse due to foul trouble and with Tech playing on Monday vs Duke rather than Tuesday or Wednesday, that gave Pedulla and the Hokies as a whole an extended recovery period. Could this mean we see a sharper Sean Pedulla just weeks after the multi-game stretch where he played all 40 minutes? That could be a huge factor in this backcourt battles.

These are the type of good vs good matchups that you love to see and will be a great test for both duos that will likely end with someone elevating their game in a difference making way tonight.

3. Crash the Boards

Miami is a pretty good offensive rebounding team with Omier and Jordan Miller both averaging over 2 offensive rebounds per game. They aren't so good at defensive rebounding as opponents are averaging 11.6 offensive rebounds per game which ranks 329th in the country.

For Tech's frontcourt, getting second chance opportunities has to be a priority in this game against a Miami team that is smaller than you in the frontcourt and has had issues crashing the offensive glass. Tech may be 266th in offensive rebounds per game in the country, but the Hokies are capable on this end with 4 players averaging at least 1 offensive rebound per game (including Darius Maddox whose status is unknown for this game due to a family matter) so this is an area where the Hokies have to step their game up given the Miami weakness.

We've seen moments where the Hokies have done so and used to either pick up a game or come closer to a win that may have been a larger margin if not. Tonight should absolutely be seen as an opportunity to make a difference that could help them pick up a big Q1 win.

Can Tech take advantage of Miami's weakness in defensive rebounding and have a strong day on the offensive glass? Whether they can or can't could prove crucial in this one.

One More Thing: Put Jim Larranaga in the Hall of Fame

Yes, you come here to read primarily about VT but it's impossible not to say something about the fact that Jim Larranaga should go in the Basketball Hall of Fame in his first season as a candidate. Larranaga may not be a name brand head coach, but in over 2 decades, he's won well over 700 games and has elevated both George Mason and Miami to their best basketball runs in school history.

Beyond the George Mason Final Four run that mesmerized the sport prior to Butler and VCU, Larranaga has won 4 regular season conference titles and 4 out of 5 conference tournament titles in school history for the Patriots. Additionally, he took George Mason to 5 of their 6 total NCAA Tournament appearances with the Patriots having not reached March Madness since he left.

Meanwhile, Larranaga is on the verge of leading Miami to their 6th NCAA Tournament appearance during his tenure. The Hurricanes had 6 NCAA Tournament appearances in their history prior to his arrival. Additionally, he has 3 of their 4 Sweet 16 appearances including their only Elite 8 run plus Miami's only conference tournament title and one of their 2 regular season conference titles.

Larranaga's a coaching great who should get a spot in Springfield ASAP. At least, he's finally a candidate for it.

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