After almost a week off, the #13 Virginia Tech Hokies return home looking to improve to 5-0 before travelling to Penn State for next week's ACC-Big 10 Challenge game. The Hokies will face off against a 1-3 St. Francis (PA) team looking to improve upon their 1-3 start that has included three 15+ point losses to teams currently ranked in the top 25.
With that said, here are our three things to watch for the Hokies in today's game.
1. Can Virginia Tech Avoid a Letdown?
While the Hokies should be able to win this game regardless of their performance level, the biggest question is how will the Hokies do coming off a six-day rest after playing three games in four days against quality competition including their dramatic win over Purdue.
The Hokies have had these type of letdown games at times in the past getting off to slow starts in the first half before pulling away comfortably in the second half as the significantly more talented team.
For Buzz Williams, he'll be looking for his team to start out strong rather than come out with a slow start even if the competition isn't so great. While the Hokies should be able to comfortably take care of business either way, Williams' measurement of success for this game will likely come down to how his team starts out after almost a week off since the Charleston Classic.
2. Can Kerry Blackshear Stay Out Of Foul Trouble?
While Kerry Blackshear being in foul trouble or not won't have an impact on the outcome of today's game, this is one of those areas where today presents a great opportunity for him to improve in an area that has been problematic for him.
Against Purdue, the Hokies could have used Blackshear a little more at times but once Blackshear was able to stay out of foul trouble, he added an interior scoring presence that helped the Hokies' offense take off even more beyond what the Hokies' star guard trio of Justin Robinson, Nickeil Alexander-Walker, and Ahmed Hill were able to do.
Penn State will know that getting Blackshear in foul trouble would help their chances next week, making it important for Blackshear to improve in this area with games like this being a great learning opportunity. One way Blackshear could make a positive step is if he could avoid a foul in the first 5 minutes of the game and if he can stay under 2 fouls for the half.
In a game where the Hokies will likely look to get PJ Horne plenty of second half playing time, Blackshear will look to show some improvement in staying out of foul trouble early in games, something that was a major problem against Purdue.
3. Will Landers Nolley Play?
The status of Landers Nolley remains up in the air as the NCAA has still forced Nolley to sit out despite the fact that they no evidence of any kind to suggest that Nolley's ACT score was illegitimate. Of course, the Hokies haven't needed Nolley so far in their 4-0 start, but the freshman from Georgia will be a definite upgrade to the Hokies' rotation.
If Nolley is able to make his debut, it would be a great opportunity for him to get some minutes under his belt before the Hokies head to Penn State for one of their two remaining quality non-conference games.
Whenever Nolley does make his debut, there will be a lot of relief and excitement surrounding this year's most talented true freshman.
Until then, #FreeNolley.
Virginia Tech should take care of business in the game, but St Francis should be able to at lesat vive the Hokies a decent level of competition. Though the Red Flash are 1-3, their 3 losses are all on the road to ranked teams in Buffalo, UCLA, and North Carolina by 15+ points. the Hokies fit the bill as another one of those teams who should be able to comfortably take care of business.
Don't be surprised though if the Hokies get off to a slow start though given how they haven't played in almost a week. However, this Virginia Tech team's talent will show over time and while it may be a little bit closer than expected at halftime, the Hokies will comfortably pick up the win as expected.
One thing this game should provide is a chance for the Hokies' bench and younger players to get some valuable reps including sophomore Wabissa Bede in a primary offensive role, PJ Horne as the focal big man, and Isaiah Wilkins and Jon Kabongo both getting a significantly higher share of minutes in the second half.
Virginia Tech will take care of business as they prepare to head to Penn State for one of their two remaining quality non-conference games as they pursue perfection before the start of ACC play.
Pick: #13 Virginia Tech 88, St Francis (PA) 62
Photo Credit: Dave Knachel/Virginia Tech Athletics
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