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The Big Preview: Virginia Tech

With just one day of rest, the Hoos head to Blacksburg to face the Hokies at Cassell Coliseum. The Hoos have won 5 straight there, but the past 2 have been tight games. The Hoos are on an 11 game winning streak, with big wins over teams much better than the Hokies. But we know that any road conference game is tough, so the Hoos should not be over-confident.

AG and the Hoos frontcourt should have a big advantage against the Hokies.
AG and the Hoos frontcourt should have a big advantage against the Hokies.
Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

With little time to rest, the Hoos return to action tonight in Blacksburg. The Hokies are also on a quick turnaround, but they played earlier Saturday and also haven't had to travel. So certainly the ACC has not done the Hoos any favors with this schedule.

Still, the Hokies are not a particularly good team, ranked 126th on KenPom.com's rankings. The Hoos have beaten the Hokies 7 times in a row, and have won 5 in a row in Blacksburg. The Hokies are coming off a big overtime win against NC State on Saturday. The Wolfpack were up by double digits in the first half, and led by 14 at the first media timeout in the 2nd half. The Hokies were dominant after that and completely shut down State in overtime. The Hokies have 2 top-100 wins, and both came at home, in OT. They also lost, at home, to #274 Alabama St in their season opener.

The Hokies are led this year by Seth Allen, who Wahoo fans will remember from his days at Maryland. He had some big games against the Hoos, including 20 points in the 2014 regular season finale, Maryland's final ACC contest, a win over the Hoos. This year, Allen leads the Hokies with 14.6 ppg, but is shooting under 40% from the field and just 27% from 3. He's a 33% career 3 point shooter, but was often surrounded by better players at Maryland. He's also averaging over 3 turnovers per game. He was big against the Wolfpack, with 23 points including 3-5 from 3.

Though Allen is usually the main ballhandler for the Hokies, he's really more of a scoring guard. The Hokies have two more traditional PGs in Devin Wilson and Justin Robinson. Wilson had been the starter for the past 2 years and was developing into one of the top pass-first PGs in the ACC. Robinson, however, was a highly touted PG prospect from Manassas who has been getting a majority of the PG minutes. He and Wilson are similar players. Neither can shoot, but both are quick PGs who can get into the lane and find the open man.

Though Buzz Williams has a pair of 7 footers, neither of them get consistent minutes. Both Satchel Pierce and Johnny Hamilton are good shot blockers, but neither provide much of an offensive threat. Freshman Kerry Blackshear has been getting most of the minutes at center. He's a big body who can face up and score, though he isn't nearly the defensive presence of the other two. The Hoos may see more of the 7 footers because of their size up front.

The other interior player for the Hokies is South Florida transfer Zach LeDay. In 2 seasons at USF, LeDay didn't do much, averaging less than 5 points and 3 rebounds in around 15 minutes per game. So far this year, LeDay is averaging 14 points and 10 rebounds for the Hokies. Some of that is due to increased playing time, but he's certainly improved during his redshirt year. He has yet to face a frontcourt as good as Virginia's, nor a defense like the pack line. He did play well against Iowa St (19 and 8) and West Virginia (11 and 9), though the Hokies were crushed in both of those games. They are missing freshman Chris Clarke, a 6'6" banger who was playing very well before fracturing his foot. He is likely out for the remainder of the season.

The wings alongside Allen are Justin Bibbs and Jalen Hudson. Both are sophomore and both are 6'5", but the similarity ends there. Bibbs is one of the top 3 point shooters in the nation, hitting nearly 57% of his outside shots. He doesn't do much else though. Hudson is an athletic slasher who excels in transition. He gets to the line, but shoots FTs poorly. He's also the best (only?) perimeter defender the Hokies have.

This year, Buzz Williams is favoring a fairly up-tempo system. He's got a lot of perimeter players, often going without a true big. Still, they've been one of the top offensive rebounding teams in the nation, though again, the level of competition has not been very high. At 6'7", LeDay has been one of the best offensive rebounders in the country, and that isn't likely to continue against ACC front lines.

A year ago, the Hoos trailed nearly the entire way in Blacksburg before a late comeback led to a 3 point win. The problem wasn't defense, it was offense as the Hoos simply could not buy a bucket. They have had similar problems this year on a few occasions, most against more physical teams. Though the Hokies will certainly try to be physical, they aren't a particularly big team and the Hoos won't be intimidated, especially with Clarke out.

As everybody knows, any conference game on the road is tough. NC State learned that the hard way on Saturday. The Hoos have struggled at Cassell the past two years, though they've come away with wins.

The Hoos have won 11 in a row, and nearly all of them have come against teams that are better than Virginia Tech. In fact, this will be the easiest opponent the Hoos have faced in a month. Does that mean anything? Not really, although it does mean the Hoos should be confident.