Who: Virginia Tech Hokies (13-6, 3-3 ACC) vs Miami Hurricanes (12-8, 1-5 ACC)
When: Sunday, January 30 @ 5:30 p.m.
TV: Fox Sports Net
Where: Cassell Coliseum, Blacksburg, VA
The Opponent: The Hurricanes blow into town losers of five of this last six, including their last three. However, that stat is a little misleading as the ‘Canes last three losses (FSU by 2, NC State by 2, UNC by 3) have been decided by a total of seven points. Miami had a 14-points lead against Carolina due to some hot three-point shooting only to see the Heels come back and win on a Harrison Barnes shot in the final seconds.
Despite what their record indicates, the Canes are a pretty good team despite their relative youth. Miami is 57th in the RPI and could easily be higher than that. The Hokies should know not to underestimate these guys, as they did in the ACC Tournament last year when the 12th-seeded Hurricanes knocked 4th-seeded Tech out of the tourney and most likely the NCAA Tournament as well.
Here’s a look at Miami’s projected starting five:
The ‘Canes are led by their dynamic duo of Malcolm Grant and Durand Scott. The two complement each other very well, with one able to play point and the other play off the ball interchangeably. Both guys shoot over 42% from three, but Grant (123 attempts) takes about three times as many as Scott (42 attempts). In addition, both Scott and Grant are exceptional free throw shooters, with each making over 87% of his free throws.
Inside, Miami utilizes the mountain of a man known as Reggie Johnson. The sophomore is a force inside at 6-10, 303, averaging a double-double per game. Johnson has lost 40 pounds since coming to Miami, but still is a tad out of shape and averages less than 24 minutes per game. The Hokies will use their 2-3 zone to try and limit Johnson’s touches inside.
Lanky wing Garrius Adams and forward Julian Gamble fill out the Miami starting five. Adams fills the Terrell Bell role for the Canes while Gamble provides an extra big body down low despite not filling up the stat sheet. Adrian Thomas (6-7, 226) is Miami’s sixth man in his sixth year at the program. He’s the Canes main three-point threat, with 119 of his 140 shots this year coming from beyond the arc. Thomas has connected on 39% of those trey’s.
Keys to VicTory:
- Guards vs Guards
- This game will more than likely come down to which team gets the best guard play. Durand Scott tore apart the Hokies in the ACC Tournament last year to the tune of 17 points. Malcolm Delaney had just seven points in that game and struggled, much like he did against Georgia Tech on Wednesday. It will be interesting to see how he and Erick Green, who struggled mightily in Atlanta, respond after their poor performances.
- Zone vs Zone
- Miami will use a 2-3 matchup zone against the Hokies, which Tech has struggled against this year. The Hokies will need to hit some outside shots and create motion on offense to get around the Canes zone. On the flip side, Tech’s 2-3 zone was gashed by Georgia Tech on Wednesday. Seth Greenberg has said he’ll mix up defenses Sunday to slow down Miami’s outside game while also controlling Reggie Johnson.
- Desperation vs Necessity
- Plain and simple, Miami is desperate for a victory after losing three straight contests by one possession. However, the Hokies need to win this one, unable to afford another loss at home. The Canes put a lot of effort into their game against Carolina, while Tech couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn in the second half against the Jackets. Whichever team comes out with more urgency will most likely win this game.
The Hokies dominated the Hurricanes last year in Cassell, opening up a 35-point first half advantage en route to a 15-point victory. Tech needs to come out a similar urgency to last year after losing to Georgia Tech on Wednesday. Malcolm Delaney seemed to force things on Wednesday, and it will be interesting to see how he changes his game after such a poor performance. Also, if Reggie Johnson gets into foul trouble, watch for Jeff Allen to have a big game as the Canes don’t really have another post threat.