With Chris Clarke done for the season, the Hokies will unquestionably rely on seniors Seth Allen and Zach LeDay to carry a heavy load as they make their argument for an NCAA tournament bid. However, the Hokies cannot afford to solely rely on just two players during the final stretch of the season.
One player who has the ability to step up and become that third significant contributor is Justin Bibbs. Buzz Williams has coached the team to two straight gritty wins, and has identified Bibbs as a key player, even though he may not have top-end numbers.
“If you were to statistically to compare Bibbs’ production level in our ACC losses in comparison to Bibbs’ production level in ACC wins, it’s staggering,” Williams said after the win over Virginia. “Bibbs thinks he’s in a shooting slump. I don’t tell him those things. But yeah we need him to make baskets.”
It is evident that the Hokies have tremendous success when Bibbs is getting clean and efficient looks at the basket. He is shooting 44.6% from three this year in wins, as opposed to 23.1% in losses. When Bibbs scores in double digits this season, the Hokies have a 10-1 record. And when he scores at least 9 points, Virginia Tech is a remarkable 15-1.
Bibbs has also found a way to take his shooting up a notch in big games. Against #5 Duke, Bibbs was on fire, going 4-5 from three. On Sunday night, the junior went 4-6 from downtown, including many clutch shots as the game wore on. You want to be able to rely on your key contributors against better competition, and Bibbs has proven reliable in that category.
It is not just his shooting or scoring that makes an impact on games. In order for this team to keep winning, Bibbs must continue to contribute in all facets.
“But just as much as we need him to make baskets, he’s our best perimeter defender, and he needs to be our third leading rebounder,” Williams continued. “When he has played well, he has rebounded the ball well. I think he had 0 rebounds at halftime. He had 6 rebounds the next 30 minutes. When Bibbs has been his best, he has rebounded.”
In the past two games, Bibbs has been given the assignment to guard London Perrantes and Jamel Artis for the majority of the game, arguably the best player on their respective teams. Given the Hokies’ foul and injury trouble against those teams, Bibbs has only been given an incredibly low 6 minutes of rest total in these games. He has still been able to show tremendous effort on the defensive end despite being on the court for practically the entire game, playing a major part in holding Perrantes and Artis to a combined 13-38 from the field in the Hokies’ matchup zone.
Chris Clarke’s most valuable skill to this team was his presence on the glass, and Bibbs is in a position to get some of the loose boards. That is also very good news for the Hokies. In games Bibbs has gotten at least 3 rebounds, the Hokies have just one loss. Bibbs has very good athleticism, and can be effective in transition once he gets the defensive rebound and ignites the Hokies’ fast break offense. Often, Bibbs will get to the free throw line which helps get him in his shooting rhythm as well.
Correlation does not always equal causation, but Bibbs’ production has matched up very well with the Hokies’ success. Bibbs probably will not get the chance to be a volume scorer, as his season high is only 18 points. Nevertheless, Virginia Tech needs to get the most out of Bibbs on both ends of the floor if they want to make a run in the ACC tournament and hopefully in the NCAA’s in March.