After being manhandled on the road at Pittsburgh then exacting their revenge on Wednesday night, the Hokies will look to do the same against #7 Miami (24-5). While the Hokies are on a four game win streak, Virginia Tech is 0-5 in its last five against the Hurricanes, so winning this game would not only be huge for a possible NIT bid, but it would also break a bad losing streak. That being said, Miami is on a mission of their own. The Hurricanes have beaten three quality opponents in a row (ND, UVA, Louisville). They are currently tied atop the ACC with North Carolina and look to be one of the most dangerous teams in next week's ACC tournament. All of their stars are playing great basketball, especially on the defensive end.
For an NIT bid, the Hokies should be looking at 19 wins as a benchmark. That means either winning this game and a game in the ACC tourney or two games in the tournament. Last year, seven teams with 19 wins made the NIT and one team did with 18 wins. It's certainly attainable, but it will be tough, especially because it's hard to know whether national media members and the tournament makers will respect the Hokies enough to give them a bid. However, this team has been proving people wrong all season, and all the team is focused on right now is beating Miami.
Here's the link to my game preview for the first matchup earlier this season.
What went wrong in the first game?
Like the first Pittsburgh game, almost nothing went right. The Hokies actually held a 22-21 halftime lead, but that was mainly due to Miami's inconsistent ball handling and just poor play all around. In the second half, the Hurricanes got their act together while the Hokies didn't and the game ended in a blowout. One of the reasons was turnovers, which seems to be a theme for every Hokies' game whether it be a win or loss. The Gobblers couldn't make simple passes and Miami forced 16 turnovers as a result, which is a number that should go down as a result of being at home.
Virginia Tech only shot 29.6% that night, which stands as their lowest FG% in a game this season. The Hokies couldn't maintain their aggressive mindset and settled for perimeter shots all too often. Given Miami's speed, the Hokies were rarely able to move the ball quickly and decisively to get open jump shots. The Hokies' failure to attack the basket resulted in just 14 free throw attempts, which not how Buzz wants his team to play. Admittedly, Tonye Jekiri (a candidate for ACC defensive player of the year) made it tough to attack the basket down low. But 29.6% is atrocious any way you look at it. Look for the Hokies to try to get Miami in foul trouble by getting to the line early and often.
Defensivley, Miami showed that they were just too talented in the second half. They were beat off the dribble too often, letting Angel Rodriguez and Sheldon McClellan get good looks near the rim. They'll have to play much more compact defense. Three-point defense has actually been a strength for the Hokies over the last six or so games. On Wednesday, Pitt shot just 14% from beyond the arc, and since Miami shoots a below-average 34% from three-point land in conference play, the Hokies should focus on not letting the Hurricanes use their athleticism to get to the rim.
What went right?
Again, not much. The Hokies stayed in the game in the first half due to their defense, forcing turnovers while continually disruption Miami's rhythm. They didn't let Miami control the glass either, outrebounding them 33-32. There were a lot of teaching points to come out of that game, and the Hokies have responded with four straight wins.
The one player who came to play for the Hokies was Justin Robinson. The freshman standout led the Hokies with 12 points that game on 5-9 shooting. He seemed to be the only one to attack the paint consistently, and with another double-digit outing on Wednesday, his confidence continues to grow. Buzz likely told his older players to look and mimic what Robinson was able to do to Miami's defense. In addition, he was able to jump passing lanes and ended up with 3 steals to his name.
Miami is a tough matchup in general for Virginia Tech. They have the size on the interior to counter LeDay and the speed and quickness on the wings to match up with the Hokies' wings. Although both teams have quite a bit of momentum riding into this one, Miami's win streak may be even more impressive as they've played better teams, and they are playing for the #1 seed in the ACC tournament. For those reasons, I think the Hokies continue their losing ways against the Hurricanes.
A 66-61 loss for the Hokies. I picked them to lose against Pitt and they won, so hopefully it works in the Hokies' favor this time as well.