Virginia Tech takes on Oklahoma State this afternoon at 2:30pm on ESPN in the
NIT Season Tip-Off consolation game. Like Tech, the Cowboys are very young, and
the Hokies are hoping to return to Blacksburg with a 4-1 record.
Oklahoma State starts two freshmen and plays a couple of more freshmen off
the bench. Head coach Travis Ford has a young group, and they have struggled at
times thus far. The Cowboys were blown out by Stanford 82-67 on Wednesday night,
and in their previous game they barely got by UT-San Antonio 90-85 in overtime.
Ford is the head coach of a historically successful program in Oklahoma
State. After winning 24 games at UMass in 2006-07 and another 25 in 2007-08, he
was hired to coach the Cowboys. However, the talent level seems to have slipped
a bit, and the season results have dropped a little year by year since Ford’s
In his first season, the Cowboys won 23 games and advanced to the second
round of the NCAA Tournament. The next year, they won 22 games and were bounced
in the first round. Last year, they won 20 games and were knocked out of the NIT
in the second round. Ford is trying to get the program moving in the right
direction again, but he’ll have to do so with a very young team this season.
State Starting Lineup
As you can see, the Cowboys start two freshmen in the post. Michael Cobbins
hasn’t been particularly productive thus far. Le’Bryan Nash is having a good
season, but there isn’t a lot of post depth on the team. Philip Jurick (6-11,
270, Jr.) comes off the bench to average 2.3 points and 8.5 rebounds per game,
and he will be the biggest player on the court for either team on Friday.
Oklahoma State’s top scorer comes off the bench. Cezar Guerrero (6-0, 175,
Fr.) is averaging 14 points per game and is shooting 40% from three-point range.
Guerroro had 29 points in the overtime win over UTSA, and he makes a solid
backcourt partner for starters Fred Gully and Markel Brown.
Reger Dowell (6-1, 180, Jr.) and Keaton Page (5-9, 165, Sr.) also come off
the bench to play minutes in the backcourt. Page is a three-point specialist,
though a streaky one. He had just two points against Virginia Tech in the
Hokies’ 56-51 victory last season, and missed all five of his field goals.
Small forward Jean-Paul Olukemi came off the bench last year against Tech,
but he was the most effective Oklahoma State player in the box score. He led the
team with 17 points, and he also had five rebounds, two assists and two steals
in 30 minutes of action.
Virginia Tech played well against a very good Syracuse team on Wednesday
night, and overall they have steadily gotten better as the season has
progressed. However, they’ll need to get better on the boards. Of the 182 shots
that opponents have missed against the Hokies this year, VT has grabbed just 108
defensive rebounds, and opponents have a whopping 59 offensive rebounds through
The Hokies need to keep Philip Jurick off the offensive glass, and they also
need to pay close attention to starting guard Markel Brown. Despite standing
just 6-3, Brown is averaging 7.8 rebounds per game this season.
Virginia Tech has been a much better shooting team and a better defensive
team than Oklahoma State this season. The Hokies are probably the more skilled
team in this matchup. However, the Cowboys do have two big advantages. They have
taken care of the basketball much better than Virginia Tech, and they are also
the better rebounding team.
The Cowboys are always a tough out, and it will take a good effort from the
Hokies, but coming back to Blacksburg with a 4-1 record after playing Syracuse
and Oklahoma State would have to be considered a success.