Dec 3, 2014; University Park, PA, USA; Penn State Nittany Lions guard John Johnson (1) drives to the basket between forward Satchel Pierce (21) and Virginia Tech Hokies guard Ahmed Hill (13) at Bryce Jordan Center. Mandatory Credit: Brett Carlsen-USA TODAY Sports
The Virginia Tech Hokies kick off the first of four games against top 25 opponents with a tough matchup on the road at the KFC Yum! Center against the Louisville Cardinals. The Hokies are huge longshots against the Cardinals, but one thing has to improve for them to have any sort of shot.
Virginia Tech must improve their rebounding against Louisville. However, that will be an extremely difficult task.
Louisville has plenty of frontcourt depth, but is a great rebounding team overall. The Cardinals are one of the top rebounding teams in the nation with five players who are averaging at least 5 rebounds per game in Montrezl Harrell, Wayne Blackshear, Terry Rozier, Chinanu Onuaku, and Mangok Mathiang.
Louisville has tremendous frontcourt depth led by Harrell who is the second best big man in the ACC behind Duke’s Jahlil Okafor. Harrell is a double-double threat every time while there is a good chance that he could be a lottery pick if he enters the 2015 NBA Draft.
Onuaku has also shined as a freshman on the glass while Mathiang has once again been a reliable rebounder for Louisville. Anas Mahmoud has also been a reliable fourth big man for the Cardinals.
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The Hokies can not afford to have to go with a lineup of five guards, and they need Shane Henry and Satchel Pierce to stay out of foul trouble in this game. Henry and Pierce have had some struggles on the glass to start ACC play, but will need to step up on the road in this tough matchup.
Henry has gone off for some big games, but Pierce is the one that Virginia Tech will need to step up the most. Pierce has the size at 7-feet tall but is only averaging 2.5 rebounds in 12.1 minutes per game. The Hokies need Pierce to surpass his career high of 5 rebounds against the Cardinals to have a slightly better chance.
The Virginia Tech backcourt will also need to do a better job on the glass especially since Louisville has two guards averaging at least 5 rebounds per game in Terry Rozier and Wayne Blackshear. The Hokies do not have a single backcourt player averaging 4 or more rebounds per game.
Justin Bibbs had a double-double against Syracuse while Ahmed Hill has had 4 games with at least 6 rebounds, and Devin Wilson and Adam Smith have three games with at least five rebounds. The Hokies have the talent to get quality rebounding in the backcourt, and the Hokies will need it in this game.
If the Hokies can somehow step up on the glass against Louisville, Virginia Tech will have a slightly better chance of pulling off the upset. If not, the Hokies will have to rely on making a lot of shots from beyond the arc to have a chance at pulling off the upset.
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