Dec 22, 2014; Blacksburg, VA, USA; Virginia Tech Hokies head coach Buzz Williams instructs guard Justin Bibbs (10) during a time out in the second half against the Virginia Military Keydets at Cassell Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Michael Shroyer-USA TODAY Sports
The Virginia Tech Hokies ended the non-conference schedule in a very disappointing way with a 31-point loss at West Virginia. The Hokies were only down by 3 at halftime in Morgantown, but the Mountaineers absolutely destroyed the Hokies in the second half on their way to blowing out the Hokies by 31.
Today, the Hokies kick off ACC play against the Syracuse Orange at home in Cassell Coliseum.
This matchup will not be an easy one as Syracuse still is a very good basketball team despite being 9-4 with their losses coming against Villanova, California, Michigan, and St. John’s. The Orange have started to hit their stride over the last few weeks, and will look to extend their winning streak to four.
The loss of Joey van Zegeren hurts a lot today as Syracuse has two dangerous big men in Rakeem Christmas and Chris McCullough. Christmas is averaging 17.3 points, 8.8 rebounds, and 2.2. blocks per game while McCullough is averaging 10.8 points, 7.5 rebounds, and 2.2 blocks per game.
This will be a very tough matchup especially with the Hokies only having three true big men in Satchel Pierce, Shane Henry, and Christian Beyer. Pierce seems very likely to get a lot of playing time as the only player above 7’0” while the Hokies could start two big men in Henry and Pierce.
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Pierce, Henry, and Beyer will be challenge by this very tough duo of big men, and if the Hokies can slow them down just a little, that will help. The Hokies also need to effectively box out today, and not give up too many offensive rebounds like they did against West Virginia.
Virginia Tech may have a scoring advantage in the backcourt with Justin Bibbs and Adam Smith compared to Trevor Cooney and Kaleb Joseph. Devin Wilson will likely be matched up on Joseph a lot and Wilson should be able to slow down Joseph a lot.
Meanwhile, the Hokies need to avoid allowing Cooney to get open shots. Even though Cooney is only shooting 37.2% from beyond the arc so far this season, Cooney is definitely a guy that can’t be left open or he will do a lot of damage.
The Hokies will need very good ball movement against the dangerous Syracuse 2-3 zone defense if they are going to be able to have an effective offensive day. Devin Wilson will be critical to finding ways to create open shots on the outside for Bibbs, Smith, Ahmed Hill, and Jalen Hudson.
This will be a very tricky matchup for the Hokies and Syracuse will be able to dominate the post with Christmas and McCullough. The Hokies will do a decent job shooting the basketball, but Syracuse will hand the Hokies a loss today 71-60.
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