Virginia Tech (16-6, 5-4) vs. Miami (16-6, 5-4)
Time: 2 p.m.
Winners of three straight games, Virginia Tech will return to Cassell Coliseum for two consecutive games against NCAA Tournament hopefuls vs. Miami and NC State. The Hokies have a great opportunity to add to their postseason resume, and that starts on Saturday when the Hurricanes(16-5, 5-4) comes to town for a nationally televised game on ESPN.
A lot of teams around the ACC seem to have caught the injury bug over last few weeks, and Miami is no different. It was announced earlier this week that Bruce Brown (6-foot-5, 202 pounds, So.) will most likely miss the remainder of the regular season thanks to foot surgery. That’s a big blow for the Hurricanes. Brown is one of their top players. He is second on the team in scoring (11.4 points per game), first in rebounding (7.1 rebounds per game), first in assists (76), second in steals (25) and tied for third in blocks (15).
Brown is arguably Miami’s MVP, and his loss will be felt. The Hurricanes didn’t look great without him in a 69-57 home win over a Pitt team that has yet to win an ACC game. Miami squandered a 15-point lead, and nearly lost the lead completely, before rallying in the last few minutes to win by 12.
Miami has not released game notes for the Virginia Tech game as of yet, but here was their starting lineup against Pitt…
G Chris Lykes (5-foot-7, 161 pounds, Fr.): Averaging 7.9 ppg and has 45 assists. Lykes has started two games this season, including this week’s game with Pitt. He is a much better scorer than you might think, considering his size, though he can have trouble finishing because of his height.
G DJ Vasiljevic (6-foot-3, 203 pounds, So.): Averaging 8.9 ppg and 2.5 rpg. Vasiljevic is a sophomore from Australia. He’s a 38.4 percent three-point shooter.
G Lonnie Walker IV (6-foot-5, 204 pounds, Fr.): Averaging 11 ppg and 3 rpg. Walker is a talented freshman who scored 16 points against Pitt, making a lot of critical plays down the stretch.
F Anthony Lawrence II (6-foot-7, 210 pounds, Jr.): Averaging 9 ppg and 6.6 rpg. Lawrence is a veteran who is a 48.2 percent three-point shooter. The Hokies can’t afford to give him many open looks from the outside.
F Dewan Huell (6-foot-11, 236 pounds, So.): Averaging 13.4 ppg and 6.9 rpg. Huell is a very good player down low for Miami. Kerry Blackshear will need to defend the post early and deny him the ball. If either Huell or Blackshear can get each other in foul trouble, it would create a big advantage for their team.
We could also see Ja’Quan Newton (6-foot-3, 191 pounds, Sr.) in the starting lineup. He has started all but one game this year, and that one game was against Pitt, when he came off the bench to play 15 minutes. Newton averages 26.2 minutes per game. Newton has been having a down year as a starter, and in the past he has played very good basketball off the bench. Jim Larranaga is hoping that using him in his former role will make Newton a better player, but he had just three points and two assists against Pitt.
Four of Miami’s five starters played 30-plus minutes against Pitt, which means that without Brown, they are very similar to Virginia Tech when it comes to depth. Here’s a look at some of their key numbers this season…
Offensive Efficiency: No. 93
Effective Field Goal Percentage: No. 79
Rebounding Rate: No. 101
Defensive Efficiency: No. 14
Opp. Effective FG Percentage: No. 13
Here’s how the Hokies rank in those categories…
Offensive Efficiency: No. 11
Effective Field Goal Percentage: No. 3
Rebounding Rate: No. 159
Defensive Efficiency: No. 112
Opp. Effective FG Percentage: No. 109
While the Hurricanes have made their living on the defensive end this year, Virginia Tech has been one of the best offensive teams in the country. The opposite personalities of each of these teams make Saturday’s matchup an intriguing one.