On Tuesday night, we will get a chance to see what Virginia Tech will look like going forward without sophomore forward, Chris Clarke.
Hokie basketball fans and players alike have been experiencing a whirlwind of emotions over the last 48 hours. A big double overtime win over #12 Virginia solidified their tournament resume for the time being. Blacksburg was rocking and all of Hokie Nation was going crazy.
The excitement was short lived, however, as the disheartening news of Chris Clarke’s season ending injury took the wind from their sails.
The Hokies found a way to pull out the win against Virginia without Clarke for some of the second half and both overtimes. It was a very gritty effort, but what will be done to replace Clarke for the long run remains to be seen.
Virginia Tech’s number one problem all season has been rebounding. The loss of Clarke, the team’s top rebounder, only figures to make that problem worse. The Hokie’s are going to need bigger efforts, mainly on the boards, from forwards Ty Outlaw and Khadim Sy.
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As far as the offensive load goes, the Hokies are going to have to replace Clarke’s 11.4 ppg. It will most likely have to come from the usual suspects: Seth Allen, Zach LeDay, and Justin Bibbs. This also wouldn’t be a bad time for Ahmed Hill to regain his shooting stroke.
As for tonight’s game against the Pitt Panthers, there are a couple causes for concern. Those two causes are forwards Michael Young (20.8 ppg) and Jamel Artis (19.9 ppg). Tech’s defense has never been anything to write home about, so these two guys could make it a long night for Tech’s depleted front court.
Pitt is not a tournament team this season, but I do see them as a dangerous opponent for the Hokies. The Panthers have been a Jekyll and Hyde group this season. Wins against Virginia, Maryland, and Syracuse showed a team that could play with anyone. Their loss against Duquesne and recently ended eight game ACC losing streak, conversely, tell a different story.
For the Hokies to win tonight, our guards must win their match ups. The two star forwards for Pitt are going to get theirs in all likely hood. Seth Allen, Justin Bibbs, and Justin Robinson will have to make plays for themselves and others on offense, while keeping the ball from leaving the perimeter as much as possible on defense.
Had this Chris Clarke injury not happened, I would have been concerned about a flat performance coming off of such a dramatic win. After the loss of one of their leaders, however, I do not expect that to happen. Buzz Williams will have the team focused and ready to go.
The Hokies and Panthers tip off tonight at 7 pm at the Petersen Events Center. The game can be seen live on ESPN2.