Spread: VT by 3.5.
Stat: The Hokies are 4-4 in ACC home openers. They’ve only opened the ACC slate at home 3 times in 9 years in the league.
This is a critical game for the Hokies to win in conference play. I’m not talking about in terms of making the NCAA Tournament, that ship set sail after the georgia southern loss. I’m not talking in terms of finishing near .500 in the ACC, because that likely isn’t a realistic goal for the Hokies, either. I’m saying that if Tech wants to avoid possibly going 3-15, or 2-16, or (gasp) 0-18 in the ACC, they need to win this game.
Do I really think VT could go 0-18 in an ACC that is not very good at all this year (with just two teams ranked and only one team higher than #23)? No. But this is the worst team in the ACC coming to our floor, who were picked to finish dead last in the league, and are off to just an 8-6 start on the season. They have the least individual talent in the league. And this is the only shot the Hokies get at the eagles this regular season. Between this game and wake home game in a few weeks, those might be the only times VT is favored the rest of the way.
Will I guarantee a win?! NO!!! I’ve learned my lesson with betting against eagles. I had to wear homemade uva gear to the VT@uva game last year because I had guaranteed a VT win at bc (I was wrong), and I had to donate $5 to an eagle fund because I had guaranteed a win over the eagles of georgia southern a month ago. No bets this time.
Don’t forget the eagles always give the Hokies fits. Tech had lost four straight to the eagles before pulling a win out of their rear on a Doo-Doo tip-in with 2 seconds left last February in Blacksburg. Tech had trailed most of the game and needed 7 points in the final 3 minutes from Doo-Doo to overcome a 6-point deficit.
Tech suffered an extremely embarrassing loss in Chestnut Hill in the first meeting last year, falling 61-59 after I had guaranteed a win, forcing me to wear uva gear to the VT/uva game a week later as my humiliation. Erick Green was out with an injury in that first meeting.
bc was led by Matt Humphrey, Dennis “The Big Red Zit” Clifford, and Ryan “Pass the Proactiv” Anderson. Those three scored in double digits in both games and return this year. Seriously, this team has more pimples than fans at most home games (granted they only draw 3,600 to their home games but you get the point). I wonder if one of their coach’s philosophies is rubbing bacon grease and Crisco on their faces before practices and games.
For the second year in a row, the eagles are extremely young. They might be the youngest team in the nation – with their top 8 all freshmen or sophomores. And for the second year in a row, bc had a rough out of conference slate. They lost to quality teams in baylor, dayton, and college of charleston in their Thanksgiving tournament, but they lost to bryant university at home, and later getting blown out by harvard also in the Conte Forum.
But, the eagles have turned it around since starting 3-5. They had won five in a row before dropping a heartbreaker to #23 nc state on Saturday in the ACC opener. They led most of the 2nd half before nc state went ahead with 6 minutes to go and held on for a 78-73 win. Ryan Anderson, their best player, had 22 points and 13 rebounds for his fourth double-double of the season. He’s averaging 16.4 ppg and 9.8 rebounds.
bc coach Steve Donahue has not been a very strong recruiter. He signed lightly regarded Olivier Hanlan and Joe Rahon last year. The 3-star guards have been surprisingly good, averaging double digits in points. Donahue seems to be a guy that gets the most out of his players and teaches great team basketball.
Clifford, who would be on my all-ugly team, is 7-foot and will provide the Hokies challenges in the post. But he’s averaging just 5.3 ppg this year and has taken a step back as a player. In fact, the eagles really struggle with their post play. They’ll likely start four guards (since losing 6’10″ Andrew Van Nest) and have as many as four guards on the floor a majority of the time.
Look for the eagles to slow down the pace and make this a boring game (so maybe VT won’t lose by 20+?). They don’t have the athleticism to get into an up-tempo game and rank near the bottom of the NCAA in terms of pace. Both teams are awful in terms of defensive efficiency, ranking in the mid-200s nationally giving up more than a point per possession on average.
The eagles also slow it because, if you thought VT had a short bench, bc’s is just as bad. Only six guys played more than six minutes against nc state. Foul trouble or an up-tempo pace by VT could be devastating to the eagles.
And 3-point shooting? bc isn’t a great 3-point shooting, but if you read my recent posts, you know that doesn’t matter. But they do shoot a lot of 3s and average 7.1 makes per game (4th most in the ACC). So if the trend of the last seven games holds up of VT allowing teams to shoot a blisteringly high 3-point percentage well above their normal pace in terms of % and makes, the Hokies could be in real trouble Tech must avoid doubling in the post, especially given Clifford’s struggles this year and bc’s lack of post players, and play straight up man to avoid open looks from deep. If bc wins this game via dribble penetration and points in the paint, so be it. But the Hokies must try and slow the tsunami of 3-pointers they’ve been giving up, especially against this team.
Note: Erick Green is back on top of the NCAA D1 scoring list. C.J. McCollum of lehigh suffered a broken foot and will be out 8-10 weeks (he fell to #2 on Saturday). Not sure what the rules are on number of games needed to qualify. Who’s #5? Momo Jones of iona.