Virginia Tech hosts South Carolina State on Sunday in an afternoon matchup at Cassell Coliseum. The Hokies have put out two dominating performances since their loss at Penn State, and are still sitting pretty at No. 15 in the AP Poll with a 7-1 record. South Carolina State shouldn’t present too much of a challenge as the Bulldogs are just 2-8 on the season.
As the teams get ready for tipoff, let’s take a look at what to watch for in Sunday’s game.
1. Can the Hokies play all 40 minutes?
Virginia Tech ran away with Wednesday night’s game against VMI, defeating the Keydets 89-68. There is no denying the fact that the Hokies were a dominant team that night, but they slowed up a bit towards the end of the game.
Tech outscored VMI 42-21 in the first half of the game to set the tone for the night. The rest of the game was a different story. The defense wasn’t there as much for Tech and both teams ended up scoring 47 points in the second half. While there was never much of a threat of VMI catching up or taking a lead, the Hokies need to be able to play until the final whistle and not let up in the second half.
There have been a few other times this season in which the Hokies’ opponents have had better offense in the second half of the game. While it has rarely been a factor in the outcome of the game, it could end up costing the Hokies a win if they’re not careful. South Carolina State has been a second half team in some games this season, so showing up on defense will be key for the Hokies on Sunday.
2. Tech can work out some kinks before Washington
While the Hokies will have to take this game seriously and not let South Carolina State sneak by them, this is a good opportunity for the team to work out any kinks in the system before taking on Washington next Saturday. Tech has only played two Power 5 teams this season and has gone 1-1 in those games. The game against SC State should be an easy win and therefore a game in which the Hokies can try to fix any key issues before taking on a tougher opponent.
Some issues that the team has struggled with this season are fouls, turnovers, and as previously mentioned, playing out the entire game. Sunday’s game is a perfect chance for the team to work on these issues and try to improve in all of those areas before they face a bigger test in Washington next weekend. Expect to see fewer turnovers and fouls against the Bulldogs, and look for the Hokies to keep the defense going throughout the second half.
3. SC State playing with a chip on their shoulder
SC State is just another opponent for the Hokies, but for the Bulldogs, Sunday’s game is a chance to prove themselves. They’ve only played one Power 5 team this season, an 89-61 loss to Ohio State. The Bulldogs put up a strong second half in that game, nearly doubling their first half score.
For a team that’s 2-8 on the season and not known by many in the college basketball landscape, a game against a Top 15 team is a perfect opportunity to make a breakthrough. Don’t think that they’ll just go through the motions against the Hokies and be thankful for the opportunity to play against a big team. The Bulldogs will come out on Sunday ready to go and looking for a marquee win over one of the fastest-rising programs in college basketball.
While I think Tech will be able to win this game, I think it will be a fight. SC State could put themselves on the map with a win like this and they’ll certainly take every chance they get to leave Blacksburg with a victory.
Like I’ve said a few times, Virginia Tech should win this game handily. The Hokies scoring margin over the past few games has been egregious and I don’t expect that to change against SC State. If they can play hard the entire game and use this as a chance to work out any kinks without getting too careful, Virginia Tech will be 8-1 tomorrow afternoon and be ready to take on another tough opponent when they face Washington in Atlantic City next weekend. SC State will put up a fight, but it won’t be enough to take down the No. 15 team in the country.
Pick: #15 Virginia Tech 94, South Carolina State 65
Photo Credit: Dave Knachel/Virginia Tech Athletics