Last night, Virginia Tech suffered an upset loss to Saint Louis
in the semifinals of the 2K Classic. However, the Hokies have a great chance to get back to their winning ways of their first two games in today's consolation game against Washington.
The Huskies came up short in their upset bid against Providence, and will be hungry to pull off an upset while the Hokies will likely be angry, looking to leave New York City with a victory.
Washington's first-year head coach Mike Hopkins has the Huskies playing better than expected this season. Washington was nearly upset in their opener by Belmont, but were able to get a win over a Bruins team that has now won back-to-back games against Vanderbilt and one of America's best mid-major teams, Middle Tennessee State. Washington also has a win over an Eastern Washington team that upset Stanford this week and looks like a major contender in the Big Sky.
The Huskies lost a close one last night to Providence, and Virginia Tech can't afford a letdown after their tough loss last night against a better-than-expected Washington team.
Two of the biggest stars in this matchup are both true freshman: Nickeil Alexander-Walker and Washington's Jaylen Newell. NAW had his first bad game last night, but has still gotten off to a very strong start averaging 19 points per game on 54.1% shooting and 41.2% three-point shooting. Meanwhile, Jaylen Newell has been a big surprise for the Huskies leading Washington with 18.7 points per game on 56.8% shooting and 42.9% three-point shooting.
The battle between these two freshmen should be one to watch and will also likely draw some eyes from NBA scouts, especially when the two are matched up against each other. While both players would rather be playing in the championship game, expect both to still play like it is.
The other big battle will come in the post between a pair of third year big men in redshirt sophomore Kerry Blackshear and Washington's Noah Dickerson, a junior from Atlanta. Blackshear returns to the Hokies after missing last season due to surgery while Dickerson returns after nearly transferring from Washington after his freshman season.
Blackshear and Dickerson have both had very similar seasons so far with both players averaging 18.3 points per game along with one game of 15+ rebounds and two games with 4-6 rebounds. These two forwards also both fouled out last night and will be looking to stay out of foul trouble tonight.
This will be a matchup to watch in the post and one that the Huskies know they need to win to have a good shot at pulling off the upset. If Blackshear can bounce back tonight with a strong game, it will make it very hard for Washington to get a victory.
Washington will have to keep an eye on Ahmed Hill who scored 26 points last night and is shooting an absurd 60.5% from the field and 47.4% from beyond the arc. Hill has been impressive so far with at least 19 points in each of his first three games as opponents are struggling to contain Hill.
Hill will also have some help on the wing to get more space not only from NAW but also from Justin Bibbs who made his return last night and had 15 points. The Hokies have lots of talented scorers on the wing that will give Washington lots of issues in this matchup, especially Hill who has continued to improved as a scorer and shooter.
Both teams haven't been great from the free-throw line with each team shooting under 70% from the charity stripe. Poor free-throw shooting proved costly for the Hokies last night and will have to be improved tonight to avoid putting themselves in an easy position to be upset.
Though Washington has played some tougher competition outside of the 2K Classic, the Hokies have still proven to be the better offensive team shooting 56.6% from the field through three games while the Huskies are shooting only 44.4%. A large reason for that has been the Hokies' ability to attack the rim effective consistently to either get an easy layup or a chance to kick the ball outside to an open shooter.
For Washington to slow the Hokies down, they have to find ways to stop them from getting easy lanes to the rim. The Huskies have to also contain the Hokies' in transition where they have thrived offensively under Buzz Williams.
Part of that will come down to limiting turnovers, something that the Huskies haven't done well averaging around 15 turnovers per game though the Hokies haven't been much better averaging around 14 turnovers per game. If one team can clean up their side of things on offense, they may be hard to beat.
Mike Hopkins has Washington headed in the right direction, but Virginia Tech is the better team and should come out with some fire in them after last night's disappointing game. The Hokies are also a deeper team and while the Huskies have a couple of really talented players in Nowell and Dickerson, there is a definite talent gap between the Hokies and Huskies.
Washington's depth isn't great and that combined with their lack of size will help the Hokies attack the rim more successfully and consistently in this game along with receiving a wakeup call last night from Saint Louis.
Washington will push Virginia Tech, but Buzz Williams's team will bounce back led by strong performances from Ahmed Hill and Nickeil Alexander-Walker to pick up a solid win, though not the big win that they were hoping to get at the 2K Classic.
Pick: Virginia Tech 81, Washington 72
Stay up with The Tech Lunch Pail for the latest on Virginia Tech. Like us on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter. Subscribe to our email updates.