Ranked for the first time since 2010, the #21 Virginia Tech Hokies look to continue positive momentum on the road against NC State.
The #21 Virginia Tech Hokies (12-1, 1-0 ACC) cruise into PNC Arena in Raleigh, North Carolina on Wednesday night fresh off of their 89-75 upset win against then-fifth-ranked Duke last Saturday, to face the North Carolina State Wolfpack (11-3, 0-1 ACC).
The Hokies have won eight straight games as they enter play against Mark Gottfried’s squad, and are ranked in both major college basketball polls for the first time since the 2010 season.
While NC State is not nearly as imposing of an opponent as the Hokies’ previous opponent, Duke, the Wolfpack still present a formidable opponent to the Hokies and a tough road test early in conference play. They are looking to pick up their first conference win of the season after dropping their ACC opener 81-63 to Miami over the weekend. The ‘Pack boast one of the best young players in the ACC in freshman guard Dennis Smith Jr., who leads NC State in scoring at 19.1 points per game.
Although Smith Jr. will be one of the main scorers to watch for the Wolfpack, the bigger name to worry about for the Hokies is forward Abdul Malik-Abu. Malik-Abu has been a nightmare on the boards in past match-ups against Virginia Tech, and tonight presents another prime opportunity for him against an undersized Hokies frontcourt. He is averaging 11.6 points and 7.3 rebounds per game this season.
Virginia Tech will counter with a balanced scoring attack that has paced their strong start to date. Five Hokies average in double-figures in points entering the second conference game of the year, with Zach LeDay leading the way at 16.1 points per game.
The best all-around player for the Hokies to date has been Chris Clarke, as Inspector Gadget is averaging 11.0 points, 7.9 rebounds, 3.7 assists, and 1.3 steals per game this season. He is one of the top wings in the ACC, and nobody should be surprised if the Hokies even consider matching him up in man-to-man defense with point guard Dennis Smith Jr. tonight.
While LeDay and Clarke are crucial to the Hokies tonight, the player to watch in conference play who could be the X-Factor is junior guard Justin Bibbs. Bibbs is coming off of his most influential game of the season offensively against the Blue Devils, as he led all scorers with 18 points. If he becomes more consistent with his scoring night in and night out, Virginia Tech will be an even tougher offense to play than they are already.
Tune in to the Hokies’ game against NC State on Wednesday night at 9 PM on local television throughout the Commonwealth of Virginia, or online using ACC Network Extra.