Jan 15, 2014; Blacksburg, VA, USA; Virginia Tech Hokies forward C.J. Barksdale (42) passes the ball against Clemson Tigers center Landry Nnoko (35) during the second half at Cassell Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Peter Casey-USA TODAY Sports
Before my prediction, I would like to send my personal congratulations to Digger Phelps on being honored at halftime tonight. As much as his actual win record was quite good, the fact that Phelps graduated 100% of his players is something that absolutely be talked about more in a time when there have been academic scandals including Derrick Rose having someone take his SAT for him to get into Memphis and the issues that North Carolina reportedly has. Phelps is a man that made sure his players were truly student-athletes and on top of that, Phelps had a great coaching career.
Now to the game at hand as the Virginia Tech Hokies and Notre Dame Fighting Irish are both looking to prove their ACC record to 2-3 today. Mike Brey has taken the Fighting Irish to the NCAA Tournament or NIT every year that he has been in South Bend which is quite impressive since Brey has been the Fighting Irish’s head coach since 2000. James Johnson has had some struggles in his second season as the Hokies’ head coach as the former Seth Greenberg assistant has been leading a rebuilding project for Virginia Tech basketball. The Hokies have lost three straight will all of those losses coming at home while Notre Dame has lost three straight since beating Duke in their first game of 2014.
Jan 11, 2014; Blacksburg, VA, USA; Virginia Tech Hokies forward Joey Van Zegeren (2) shoots the ball against Boston College Eagles center Dennis Clifford (24) during the second half at Cassell Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Peter Casey-USA TODAY Sports
Garrick Sherman is one of the best big men that no one has heard about in college basketball as the senior center has become the leading scorer after the departure of Jerian Grant. Sherman is an all-around effective center as he is averaging 14.9 points and 8.4 rebounds per game this season while also shooting over 51% from the field and just under 72% from the free throw line. Joey Van Zegeren will be matched up against Sherman a lot and while Sherman will be effective today, he won’t go for more than 15 points as Van Zegeren will have a better defensive game after having no blocks and fouling out against Clemson. Van Zegeren was solid offensively against Clemson but the Dutch big man will be shut down by the experienced senior Sherman.
The Fighting Irish have two dangerous shooters on the outside in Eric Atkins and Pat Connaughton who are both shooting over 37% from beyond the arc. The Hokies have struggled against very good three-point shooters like Boston College’s Lonnie Jackson and today could be a tough day. Jarell Eddie will likely be on Connaughton to try to limit the space he can get but Notre Dame’s inside-out attack should get Atkins and Connaughton the space they are looking for. Jarell Eddie has struggled the last few games but he will learn some of his lessons today and get others involved more. Ben Emelogu and Adam Smith will have solid games in what will be a tough environment but Devin Wilson could struggle to avoid turnovers in this hostile environment. The Hokies have also struggled at the free throw line and going into a tough environment like this could create a free throw shooting nightmare for the Hokies. Virginia Tech will challenge Notre Dame but unfortunately for the Hokies, the Fighting Irish will get the job done.
Prediction: Notre Dame 69, Virginia Tech 59
What do you think, will the Hokies pull off the upset or lose their fourth straight in the ACC?