Virginia Tech's NCAA Tournament hopes received a major boost with back-to-back wins over North Carolina
and Notre Dame
. Now, the Hokies head to Chestnut Hill to face a Boston College team that is the best they've had during the Jim Christian era.
For the Hokies, this is a game they can't afford to lose. With their win over Notre Dame, the Hokies' road to 10 ACC wins opened up with VT having a credible path to getting four ACC road wins, a number that gives VT some breathing room in upcoming home games. That makes this game (and the road trip to Georgia Tech) must-win games. Boston College may be an improved team, but this is still a game that the Hokies should win.
However, the Eagles have proven to be a tough out at home this season with all three of their ACC wins coming at home including a big upset victory over Duke. The Eagles are a team on the rise and have a solid upcoming stretch of home games (plus a trip to ACC cellar dweller Pitt) that could give them a road to push for a NIT bid. For them to do so, they'll need to continue their home success starting tonight.
Virginia Tech: Kerry Blackshear
The value of Kerry Blackshear has shown time and time again as the Hokies' only regular player above 6'6''. Blackshear has been one of the ACC's most improved players this year averaging 13.3 points, 6.3 rebounds, and 1 block per game while shooting an insane 60.8% from the field.
However, Blackshear has had an issue with foul trouble at times especially on the road as documented by our own writer David Cunningham (if you don't follow him on Twitter, you probably should).
Against Notre Dame, the Hokies had some issues rebounding in the post with Blackshear out of the game (though Blackshear didn't have his best game on the glass with only 3 rebounds). Blackshear's presence in the post is important for a Virginia Tech team that lacks size and can have issues with their post defense and rebounding without Blackshear on the floor.
Boston College: Jerome Robinson
Boston College's leading scorer Jerome Robinson (18.3 points per game) has been playing some of his best offensive basketball recently. The junior guard has scored at least 17 points and shot at least 50% from the field in each of his past four games. While his three-point shooting hasn't been consistent in those games, he's still been efficient overall and will have to be a focus for the Hokies on defense.
Robinson is a part of an impressive backcourt trio with Ky Bowman (nicknamed "Cheeto Head" by Cassell Guard) and Jordan Chatman (guy who couldn't miss against VT last year in Cassell
). This backcourt trio has Boston College on the rise with all three averaging at least 13 points per game with all three still having at least one more year of eligibility.
Keys to the Game
1. Crash the Boards
The one big difference between the Hokies' two wins was their rebounding which was fantastic against North Carolina, but poor against Notre Dame. Against the Fighting Irish, the Hokies gave up 15 offensive rebounds while only getting six themselves (though the last one was a big tip-in from Chris Clarke).
Boston College isn't a great rebounding team, but they have a few different guys who are effective rebounders including 6'1'' point guard Ky Bowman (who's averaging 6.9 rebounds per game). The Eagles know rebounding is a weakness for the Hokies and will look to test it and try to get second chance opportunities against a VT team that is always extremely efficient from the field.
If the Hokies can put together a strong rebounding performance as they did against UNC, they'll make life a lot tougher for the Eagles.
2. Perimeter Defense Will Be Key
Virginia Tech will need to defend the three-point line against a Boston College team with a pair of talented three-point shooters in Jerome Robinson and Jordan Chatman shooting above 44% from three. Boston College also has the best three-point shooting percentage in conference play at 39.2%.
The Eagles shoot a lot of threes (they've taken more threes than the Hokies) and will look to get some open opportunities from beyond the arc against a Hokie defense that has allowed their fair share of open three-pointers.
Virginia Tech's defense has improved in the past two games, but they'll need their defense to continue to improve especially from beyond the arc. The Hokies still are allowing teams to shoot over 42% from three, but have seen that number decrease recently. However, they'll need another better-than-normal performance against the best three-point shooting team in-conference play.
Playing in Chestnut Hill hasn't been easy this year, but Texas Tech and Clemson have shown that it's definitely possible to go to Boston College and get a win. The Eagles enter this game struggling in the midst of a two-game losing streak while the Hokies have momentum with back-to-back wins that have them playing some of their basketball of the season.
The best matchup of the night will come at point guard between Ky Bowman and Justin Robinson. While Bowman has been quite good this season, Robinson has been very impressive especially on the road this season.
If Robinson can have another big performance like that, he'll give the Eagles plenty of issues.
Boston College will get some three-pointers, but the Hokies' improved perimeter defense will prevent BC from shooting beyond their average from beyond the arc. Meanwhile, this matchup is perfect for Kerry Blackshear against a BC frontcourt that isn't nearly as talented as the backcourt for Boston College. Expect a big game from Blackshear with what is a very good matchup for the redshirt sophomore.
Virginia Tech's offense has looked more like the efficient machine that impressed us in non-conference play and will find its rhythm tonight once again. Boston College's three-point shooting will keep the Eagles right in it but led by strong games from Blackshear, Robinson, and Ahmed Hill; the Hokies will pick up a big road win at Boston College.
Pick: Virginia Tech 79, Boston College 75
Photo Credit: Harley Taylor
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