Ah, February in college basketball, where a lot of games begin to take on a hint of desperation. Both NC State and Virginia Tech are fighting for NCAA tournament position at this point of the season, with neither even close to a guaranteed spot in the field. The Hokies are worse off at this point, as they have the terrible non-conference slate to match NC State without the same caliber of quality wins.
Virginia Tech also has a much more difficult schedule down the stretch with games remaining against Virginia, Duke (2), Clemson, and Miami. The Hokies will need to add to their list of quality wins in there somewhere, and in the meantime they really really need a win at home on Wednesday night.
On the flip side, the Wolfpack can afford to lose this game without feeling too badly, but a win here would provide another huge boost moving forward.
— Virginia Tech’s offense has been outstanding this season, primarily because the Hokies shoot well: they rank third nationally in effective field goal percentage, and in league play, they are second in the ACC in that category. This is a perimeter-oriented team that has a lot of efficient shooters.
— To that end, VPI has four guys who have taken at least 75 threes this season, and all four are shooting better than 39% from outside. The balance on this offense is partially what makes it difficult to defend—there’s no real lead dog here, just a bunch of guys who can capably take the reins on any given night.
— The good news from State’s perspective is that the Hokies don’t rebound well at the offensive end; they make a lot out of their first opportunities, but they aren’t killing opponents with second chances. If they happen to be colder than usual, it may be a rough night. Regardless, NC State has to be good on the defensive glass.
— NC State will have a decided edge with Omer Yurtseven in the paint and also should be comfortable running a smaller lineup for as long as it wants since Virginia Tech out of necessity will do the same.
— In ACC games, Virginia Tech is allowing a little over 1.1 points per possession, which ranks 13th. The Hokies’ interior defense is not formidable, and ACC foes are hitting 41.6% of their threes. Tech’s defense isn’t particularly disruptive, either, but we should expect a dose of zone defense, and how State handles those possessions could end up proving the difference.
— The Pomeroy Predictor likes Virginia Tech by five.