Virginia Tech renews an in-state matchup tonight when the Hokies take on VMI in Cassell Coliseum. Tech has played VMI more than any other non-conference opponent, with the two teams’ first meeting taking place during the 1908-09 season. The Hokies hold a 91-43 lead over the Keydets in the series, and have won the past six meetings between the two squads.
With all of that said, here is what you should watch for in tonight’s game
1. Potential for Another Blowout
The Hokies non-conference schedule hasn’t been too strong this season. Save for a few games in Charleston against formidable opponents, Tech has been able to run circles around some of the smaller schools they’ve played. Naturally, this has led to a large scoring margin for the team. Tech is outscoring its opponents by 23 points on average this season, the seventh-best mark in Division I.
Tech is averaging 88 points per game this season. VMI, meanwhile, is averaging 78 points per game. While those numbers don’t look too far off on the surface, look a bit deeper and you’ll see a trend.
The Keydets have lost three games on the road this season by an average of 28 points. Tech is 3-0 at home, winning those games by an average of 40 points. Coming off a game in which the Hokies defeated Central Connecticut State by 54 points, that trend of blowing opponents out of the water could continue tonight.
Of course, VMI is a bit of a tougher opponent than Central Connecticut State, and one of the Keydets losses came at Kentucky, but if they’re not careful, the Hokies could run away with this one early.
2. Can Nickeil Alexander-Walker Keep Scoring Double Digits
Star guard Nickeil Alexander-Walker has scored in double digits in every game this season for Virginia Tech. The 6'5'' sophomore is leading the team in scoring with 17.9 points per game. He put up a season-high 25 points in the final of the Charleston Classic against Purdue last month.
Since that game, he’s been scoring in double digits still, but hasn’t been able to get above 20. Alexander-Walker has scored 11, 13 and 14 points in the three games since the win over Purdue. If that number continues to climb, he could have his sights set on another outstanding performance for Tech tonight.
3. Can Virginia Tech Avoid the Turnover Bug?
Turnovers haven’t been too much of a problem for the Hokies this season, but there have been quite a few of them. Twice this year, they’ve committed 15 or more turnovers, the season opener against Gardner Webb and the loss to Penn State. It’s reasonable to think that in the season-opening game, the team might have been shaking off some rust. By the time they played Penn State, they should have worked out those kinks.
The team only gave up nine turnovers in the win over Central Connecticut State, but the season average is still too high for a team ranked in the top 15. If the Hokies really want to dominate and win tonight’s game, as well as the rest of the season, they’ll have to fix those mistakes and really focus on not giving up so many turnovers.
Most of what I’ve said in this article has been in praise of Virginia Tech. The Hokies have done a tremendous job scoring this season and have done pretty well limiting their opponents’ offense. There have been some hiccups at times and the offense doesn’t always run as smoothly as it should but it’s hard to argue against a 23 point scoring margin.
This matchup is one of those that pretty much only goes one way. It’s not as lopsided as the football rivalry with UVA, but it’s getting that way in recent years. VMI could keep it competitive, but in the end, I see Virginia Tech dominating as they have at home early this season.