Gobbler Country's own Jawhar Ali gets you primed and pumped for tonight's game! The game can be watched on ESPNU, so tune in, log in, and let's GO HOKIES!
The Hokies' victory over Florida State marked the first double-digit margin of victory in conference play since Feb. 24th, 2013 (ironically also against the Seminoles), a span of 1096 days. Virginia Tech will have a great opportunity to win two straight games by double-digits with Boston College on the schedule Tuesday night. The Eagles have been nothing short of abysmal this season, still winless in the conference (0-14) and playing just flat-out terrible basketball at times. For example, Boston College had only scored 14 points at halftime against Wake Forest. To compare, the Hokies scored their 14th point with 11:50 in the first half against FSU. There really won't be a viable excuse if Virginia Tech finds a way to lose this game.
The Eagles' offense is, well, offensive. They're averaging less than 55 PPG during ACC play, which unsurprisingly ranks last in the league. Their 90.4 Offensive Rating is the 10th worst in the NCAA. Conference opponents have held Boston College to just 38% shooting from the field and 32% from three-point range. They haven't scored 70 or more since pre-conference play. Basketball all comes down to scoring points, and the Eagles have been pitiful at doing so this season.
Boston College's most dangerous offensive threat is Eli Carter. A transfer from Florida, the 6-2 senior averages 14.6 PPG in ACC play and also leads his team in assists with 3.6 APG. With a Usage Rate of 31.9% (16th highest in the country), Boston College often will give Carter the rock and let him try to make something happen with little help around him. Think 2001 Sixers and how little help Iverson had. Now divide that by a million, and you get the Boston College Eagles of 2016. Carter shoots 36.8% from the field, a number that is negatively skewed by him having to take on multiple defenders every time he touches the ball. Defenses have keyed in on Carter, forcing someone else on the Eagles beat them, and the Hokies will unquestionably employ that strategy on Tuesday night.
Other than Carter, freshman Jerome Robinson has been impactful for Boston College. He averages 11.6 PPG, and his 6-5 frame makes it hard for shorter defenders to contest his shots. His one issue is that he's listed at just 181 pounds which gives defenders a chance to throw him off by playing extremely physical. If Chris Clarke is ready to go, then I would expect him to be matched up with Robinson and successfully shut him down, but Clarke's status is unknown.
Chris Clarke playing status for #Hokies on Tuesday up in the air— Mark Berman (@BermanRoanoke) February 22, 2016
Despite Carter and Robinson being the Eagles' top scorers, Dennis Clifford could be the guy the Hokies have to be extra careful of. Clifford stands at 7-1, which automatically makes him an inside threat, specifically for lobs and offensive rebounds and putbacks. Virginia Tech has been vulnerable to simply getting outmuscled in the paint, and Clifford has the ability to do that. For the season, he's shooting 47% from the field and averaging 9 PPG, which aren't eye-popping numbers by any means. It wouldn't be surprising to see if the Eagles can get Clifford going by getting him the ball on the low block and let him operate in the post which is a strength of his.
One area that Boston College has really struggled with has been turnovers. Their 18.1% Turnover Percentage ranks just 319th in the nation. The Hokies, like most teams, have had the most success defensively when they've been able to force turnovers so they can get out in transition. Buzz is most likely preaching ball pressure to force Boston College into making questionable decisions and turn those turnovers into points on the other end. That's how Virginia Tech was able to go on an extended 25-9 run against Florida State to come back to win last Saturday's contest.
The Hokies were finally able to break their spell of ineffectiveness on offense against the Seminoles, scoring 46 points in the second half and shooting north of 60% from the field. Getting stops on the defensive end certainly contributed, but Virginia Tech was noticeably sharper and more decisive with the ball in their hands. They didn't let FSU's defense get settled and attacked them off the bounce. The spacing and respacing of shooters was also excellent, which is how Justin Robinson got open back-to-back dagger threes to finish the Seminoles off.
Against Boston College, the Hokies should be able continue their offensive rhythm that they showed against Florida State. The Eagles' defense has allowed conference opponents to shoot 48.9% from the field, which is the worst in the ACC. The Hokies seemed much more confident in their three-point stroke against the Seminoles, going 11-19 from downtown. That bodes well against a Boston College defense allowing ACC teams to shoot 39.4% beyond the arc. Justin Bibbs needs to show that he can still hurt teams from deep. He's only been shooting 31.4% from three-point range in the last six, which is something that needs to change if the Hokies want to make a run the ACC tournament. But while Bibbs' shooting percentage has dropped, Justin Robinson has really improved in that category. The freshman has seen more playing time and rewarded his coaches, shooting 63.6% from deep in the last five games.
Just because the Eagles' perimeter defense is mediocre doesn't mean the Hokies should settle for outside shots. Teams rarely start off hot shooting from outside. The best teams start by attacking the basket which creates open catch-and-shoot looks in rhythm where nearly every team in the ACC can take advantage of. The Hokies have shown the ability to drive and shown the ability to shoot, albeit inconsistently. Combining those elements should create open looks against most defenses, especially against Boston College.
The one thing that would prevent a Hokie victory in my opinion is overconfidence. Unfortunately, this could be a trap game for Virginia Tech. The Hokies have played poorly on the road since their victory at Georgia Tech in January, and a lot of the losses haven't been close ones. Sure the victory over the Seminoles should be a confidence-booster, but it's onto the next one. And I'm sure the Eagles are hungry to finish their season with at least one conference win on their resume, and a Hokies squad that struggles on the road may be their perfect opportunity to notch that first win.
There really isn't a whole lot to say about this one. Virginia Tech is the better team and I think Buzz keeps his team grounded despite winning their last game. Even if Chris Clarke doesn't play, the Hokies have enough to keep the Eagles at bay.
Two-game win streak? Yes please. Hokies win 75-61.