Virginia Tech vs. Florida State Preview and Pick

By: Tim Thomas | @TimThomasTLP | Jan 20, 2018
The Virginia Tech Hokies are on the outside looking in for the NCAA Tournament according to ESPN's Joe Lunardi due in part to their lack of good wins outside of Washington. However, the Hokies have a great chance to pick up a win against a struggling Florida State team that is 2-4 in ACC play. Florida State has also fallen to a 10 seed in Lunardi's most recent Bracketology and are winless on the road in ACC play. However, the Seminoles have shown they can win on the road in tough environments including a win at rival Florida during non-conference play. Both teams are looking to pick up an additional quality win with VT having the chance to put themselves right on the bubble while FSU is looking to stay comfortably in the NCAA Tournament field.

Star Watch

Virginia Tech: Kerry Blackshear

Kerry Blackshear will face a large FSU frontcourt including 7'4'' center Christ Koumadje who had three-straight games with at least 8 rebounds before their loss at Syracuse. The Hokies will need another strong performance from Blackshear as he gave them against Louisville's large frontcourt. Blackshear's recent play has been particularly impressive as he's averaged 20 points and 7.3 rebounds per game in his past three games including his 19-point, 12-rebound double-double against Louisville. However, fouls have been a problem for Blackshear as he has had four fouls in each of his past two games. The Hokies will not only need Blackshear to play well, but they'll also need him to stay out of foul trouble against a big FSU frontcourt that could dominate VT on the glass without Blackshear.

Florida State: Terance Mann

Florida State lost a lot of their stars from last season, forcing some other rotational guys like Terance Mann to step up. So far, Mann has been up to the challenge as FSU's leading scorer averaging 15.5 points per game on 59.4% shooting, an insanely good shooting percentage for a guard. After missing a game due to a concussion, Mann returned to have 21 points and 9 rebounds in the Hokies' loss to Boston College. Overall, Mann is averaging 15.5 points, 6.4 rebounds, and 2.9 assists as a well-rounded player who has not only been effective scoring the basketball, but also has been a very good rebounder for a guard. With Xavier Rathan-Mayes, Dwayne Bacon, and Jonathan Isaac gone; Terance Mann has stepped up to lead the charge for FSU and will require plenty of attention in this matchup.

Keys to the Game

1. Limit turnovers

Our Robert Irby took a great look at the Hokies' offense including the vast turnover difference between the Hokies' ACC wins and losses. Turnovers have consistently been a difference for the Hokies in all five of their ACC games, and the Hokies will need to clean up their turnover problem against a Florida State team that can take advantage. The Seminoles have four different players averaging at least 1 steal per game, an impressive stat for any team. All across the board, the Hokies will have to be sharp with their ball movement and avoid some of the lazy passes that teams like Louisville turned into turnovers and buckets.

2. Crash the Boards

Florida State is 12th in the nation in total rebounds per game averaging just under 41 rebounds per game. The Seminoles' success on the glass is due to more than just the big Christ Koumadje as the Noles have five players averaging at least 4.5 rebounds per game including 6'6'' guards Terance Mann and Braian Angola, FSU's two leading scorers. Virginia Tech will need strong rebounding performances from more than just Chris Clarke and Kerry Blackshear, the only two Hokies averaging more than 4.5 rebounds per game. We've seen guys like Nickeil Alexander-Walker have strong rebounding performances, but the Hokies haven't had a lot of consistency from any of their guards. If the Hokies are going to pick up a win over Florida State, they are going to need a strong, collective effort rebounding the basketball, not just Blackshear and Clarke bringing in their fair share of rebounds.

Prediction

This is a big matchup for Virginia Tech where they'll need to be efficient on the offensive end against a FSU team that's likely to get a lot of second chance opportunities due to their size. After poor shooting at the beginning of ACC play, the Hokies have shot the ball much better recently and will come into this game well-rested after a full week of preparation. If you're looking for an x-factor for the Hokies, it's Justin Robinson, VT's star point guard. When Robinson has been playing well, he's been excellent with 17 assists in VT's two ACC wins. When Robinson hasn't, he's had his struggles with no more than 5 assists in any of VT's three ACC losses. After playing poorly in the first two ACC games, Robinson has picked up his play in the past three games including 23 points against Louisville. Free-throw shooting could make a big difference as the Seminoles only shoot 68% from the line while the Hokies are shooting 74% from the line. Overall, the Hokies are a much more efficient shooting team and given the environment, that could make life very difficult especially with a FSU team that averages around 14 turnovers per game. Christ Koumadje could be the x-factor as the Seminoles will need him to have a big game in more than just rebounding. However, Koumadje hasn't proven he can be consistent, and VT can slow him down especially with Blackshear improving at staying out of foul trouble in the first half. With Ahmed Hill heating up from beyond the arc, the Hokies are ready to have a big shooting outburst. Combine that with a young FSU team that struggles with turnovers and free-throw shooting on the road and it's a less than ideal matchup. Led by Hill and Robinson, the Hokies will pick up their second big victory of the season against Florida State.

Pick: Virginia Tech 86, Florida State 81

Photo Credit: Harley Taylor

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