BYU at Virginia Tech
BYU (17-5) at Virginia Tech (12-7), 7:00 PM, ESPN3
The casual college basketball fan might not know much about BYU, but the Cougars are a perennial contender (even without Jimmer Fredette) and they’re almost unbeatable at home. Three of their losses this year are to excellent teams (Wisconsin, Baylor and St. Mary’s) but they had a bad loss last week against Loyola Marymount. At home. Still, they’re an excellent team and are going to push tempo against Virginia Tech. The Hokies hung with North Carolina for a half at a fast tempo and faded as the game went on; they don’t have the depth to play that kind of a game so they’ll have to slow it down as much as they can.
Stat to watch: Rebounding. Virginia Tech hasn’t been awful in this area and they actually out-rebounded Virginia 37-34. But the Cavaliers, who don’t normally get many offensive rebounds, pulled down 13 (Virginia Tech only had four, their fewest in ACC play). Virginia had 17 second-chance points, accounting for nearly 38% of their total. Virginia Tech had zero second-chance points. Virginia Tech has shot just 33% in ACC play yet averages just 9.6 offensive rebounds and turned them into just 8.4 second-chance points per game. BYU is 17-1 when it has the same or more rebounds as its opponent and 0-4 when it is out-rebounded. The Cougars certainly have a size advantage over Virginia Tech, and things have been hard enough on both ends for the Hokies that they could really use a good rebounding effort.
Most important players: Erick Green, Virginia Tech and Noah Hartsock, BYU. Erick Green had 15 points against Virginia, which doesn’t seem like a lot but considering his team had 45, it was crucial. Of the Hokies’ seven free-throw attempts, Green had five (he made three). His speed gets him (and his teammates) scoring opportunities even against good defenses, and he has to continue being aggressive. He has 13 assists and four turnovers in league play so far along with seven steals, but he needs to cut down on his three-point attempts. He’s shooting just 7-of-20 from three and 19-of-37 from two. But his skill set could really benefit the Hokies tonight against a talented BYU team. Hartsock, a 6-8 forward, is arguably BYU’s best player (fellow forward Brandon Davies has also had a great year) and is their leading scorer at 17.5 points per game on 58% shooting, adding 5.4 rebounds, 1.6 assists and 1.6 blocks. In the last two games, he has averaged 24 points on 66% shooting. He’s difficult to stop and Virginia Tech has struggled some against opposing bigs all year.
Random stat: From Tech Hoops, both Virginia Tech and BYU are winless against top-50 RPI teams (Virginia Tech is 0-5, BYU is 0-3) and both teams are undefeated against teams ranked 51-100 (Virginia Tech is 3-0, BYU is 4-0). Virginia Tech is 68th and BYU is 56th. So as Tech Hoops put it: something’s got to give.
Prediction: BYU 78, Virginia Tech 69
Last week: 7-5
Season: 79-31 (17-12 ACC)