Photo Credit: Liam Sment
Virginia Tech heads on the road to Boston College after winning a thrilling 79-77 game after two overtimes against North Carolina thanks to a game-winner from Tyrece Radford with 0.4 seconds to go. The Hokies are rightfully favorites against a Boston College team that has struggled immensely losing four-straight ACC games and falling so far down the NET that a loss at BC would be a Quadrant 3 loss.
The Eagles won't be an easy win though as big man Nik Popovic returned this week against Pittsburgh, and have also shown potential to beat some solid teams on their best days including a home upset of struggling Virginia.
With that said, here's our three things to watch and pick for Virginia Tech against Boston College.
1. Avoiding a Letdown Game
After playing a double overtime game against North Carolina, the question for Virginia Tech is how will this young team recover and how will they get themselves motivated to play a road game in an environment described more often as a library.
First is the fact that the Hokies had multiple players play more than 40 minutes including Landers Nolley and P.J. Horne. Mike Young said after the game that he would have to take a more rest-focused approach to make sure his team was ready especially given the short turnaround.
Second, Tech will have to go from the emotional high of that victory to playing at a place that provides basically no atmosphere for most games. Yes, that may be beneficial at times keeping some focus, but it can also be hard for a team to get themselves into the game when they aren't playing in an environment full of energy especially for a young team.
While the first will be something we'll have to wait and see, Tech at least has some experience with the second having gone on the road to beat Wake Forest in a game that really lacked much of an energetic atmosphere.
If the Hokies can avoid an emotional and physical letdown, there's no reason why they shouldn't take care of business.
2. Win The Turnover Battle
The contrast between these two teams is significant as Virginia Tech still leads the nation averaging only 9.5 turnovers per game, but are also averaging only 5.8 steals per game as they have struggled to force turnovers. Meanwhile, Boston College has struggled to protect the basketball averaging 14 turnovers per game, but also have done well forcing plenty of turnovers averaging 8.7 steals per game ranking third in the ACC behind Florida State and Duke. That has been led by Steffon Mitchell who's 2.4 steals per game have him ranked in the top 15 nationally.
For the Hokies, they will have to do a great job of protecting the basketball especially in the paint with a guy like Mitchell patrolling down there. Bigs like P.J. Horne and John Ojiako will have to be careful in the paint while guys like Landers Nolley and Wabissa Bede will have to maintain their composure and make smart decisions whether to shoot or make smart passes against BC.
More importantly though is the fact that the Hokies have to do a better job of forcing turnovers and then turning those turnovers into points. That's been one area of concern for the Hokies recently and something that will need to improve today and going forward throughout ACC play as Tech makes a run at the NCAA Tournament.
3. Will Landers Nolley Break His Shooting Slump?
Landers Nolley has been struggling shooting the basketball recently making under 40% of his shots in each of the past three games for the first time all season. Nolley has been relatively efficient overall this season, but his recent shooting slump has been part of the reason why Tech has had some closer than expected games lately.
Now in the games Tech has won, Nolley has done well at getting to the free-throw line to make up for it as he was 4-5 from the line against Wake Forest and 10-11 against North Carolina. However, Nolley didn't attempt a single free throw against Syracuse with his shooting struggles slowing down Tech's offense and helping the Orange pull off the upset.
If the Hokies are to avoid being in danger of an upset, they'll need Landers Nolley to break his shooting slump and be the more efficient offensive player that he has proven to be more often than not regardless of the level of competition.
Landers Nolley seems poised to return to being more efficient on the offensive end with Nolley building some confidence with a strong 2-3 stretch from the field to finish Wednesday's game. More importantly though may be how other Hokies have been able to step up especially Jalen Cone who has emerged as one of America's best three-point shooters making an insane 55.6% of his threes.
Boston College has a solid team led by former Duke PG Derryck Thornton, but the Eagles will struggle from three-point while Tech will make their threes as they continue to find better rhythm recently from behind the arc. This game may be close early, but expect this to play out similarly to what we saw at Wake Forest with Tech cruising to a comfortable victory, avoiding a potential bad loss.