Virginia Tech men’s basketball announced it will face Memphis in the 2021 NIT Season Tip-Off in the Barclays Center in Brooklyn on Wed., Nov. 24.
The 31st meeting between the Hokies and Tigers is a 9:30 p.m. ET tip on ESPN2 on Thanksgiving Eve that follows Xavier-Iowa State. The last time the two programs met in March of 2005, Tech lost 83-62 in Memphis in the Second Round of the NIT.
Adversaries in the Metro Conference from 1979 to 1991, Memphis leads the all-time series 18-12. Virginia Tech won the lone meeting on a neutral court at the Metro Conference Tournament in Louisville in March of 1981.
Penny Hardaway’s Tigers finished 20-8 (11-4 AAC) last season and won the 2021 NIT Championship, defeating Mississippi State 77-64. Barely left out of the Big Dance, Memphis won 11 of its last 13 games. Its two losses came at the hands of Houston, a Final Four team, by a combined five points.
A familiar face led the Tigers in scoring in 2020-21: Former Hokie Landers Nolley. The 6-foot-7 guard averaged 13.1 points and 4.1 rebounds per game. For comparison, he averaged 15.5 and 5.8 in 2019-20 in Blacksburg. Nolley played the most minutes on the team and shot 38.7% from behind the arc.
DeAndre Williams is the other big threat for Hardaway & Co. The 6-foot-9 senior from Houston averaged 11.7 points and 5.8 rebounds per game last season while tallying the second-most assists on the team. A 49.7% shooter from the field, he’ll post a tough interior threat for the Hokies.
Outside of Nolley and Williams, only three players who started a game for Memphis last season return: Lester Quinones, Alex Lomax and Jayden Hardaway.
Quinones started all 28 games for the Tigers last year, averaging 9.5 points and 5.8 rebounds per game. The 6-foot-5 junior from Brentwood, N.Y. played on the wing alongside star point guard Boogie Ellis, who transferred to USC in the offseason.
The six-foot Lomax had the most assists on the team with 79 and started four games in 2020-21. A role player, the Memphis native averaged six points and 2.9 rebounds per game. Lastly, Hardaway averaged 2.6 points and ten minutes a game, starting five games and playing in all 28.
Memphis is a young team this year with four incoming freshmen and two transfers. Ellis, D.J. Jeffries and Moussa Cisse, three players from the core of last year’s Tigers team, transferred.
It’s a bit different from Virginia Tech’s build, which is full of experience with Storm Murphy (and potentially Wabissa Bede) and the four starters from last season (assuming Tyrece Radford returns).
The most important thing to note about Memphis is its defense. Here are the Tigers’ defensive ranks from last year, per Ken Pomeroy:
Adj. Efficiency: 1
Effective FG%: 5
Memphis was fantastic defensively last season, but just couldn’t put things together completely on offense. Yes, the Tigers are young, but they’ll pose a solid November test for Mike Young & Co. in Brooklyn, especially defensively.
Full release from Virginia Tech: Link
The Remaining Non-Conference Schedule
Regardless of the result against Memphis, the Hokies will play a second game in the Barclays Center on Friday, Nov. 26 against Iowa State or Xavier. The third-place game is at 7 p.m. ET with the championship game following.
Here’s a look at Virginia Tech’s updated non-conference schedule with the game against Memphis set in stone.
Chris Coleman thoroughly analyzed the schedule back on July 8, and I encourage everyone to give it a read.
The main takeaway: The Hokies will play four, if not five, top-100 teams from last season, all on the road or at neutral sites. Tech will still add two or three games, most likely be against low-major programs at home. Overall, it’s a difficult gauntlet that will have Young’s squad prepared for the intensity of the ACC when conference play rolls around after Christmas.