Virginia Tech Looks to Close Strong Against #7 Miami

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Satchel Pierce
Satchel Pierce

Time: 4pm
TV: The ACC Network

The Hokies are looking to close the regular season in style by winning their fifth consecutive game.  Owners of the longest current winning streak in the ACC, they’ll have to go through #7 Miami to extend that streak.

The Hurricanes are fighting for the #1 seed in the ACC Tournament, and they must go through Virginia Tech to reach that goal.  Jim Larranaga’s team is 24-5 overall and 13-4 in ACC play.  What makes Miami so good?  Here’s the tale of the tape…

Offensive Efficiency: #18
Defensive Efficiency: #71
Offensive Rebound Rate: #126
Total Rebound Rate: #75
Turnovers per Possession: #34
Opp. Turnovers per Possession: #215

Miami is a solid rebounding team, but they don’t force many turnovers.  What makes this team good is their offensive efficiency, and their lack of turnovers.  Here’s how Tech compares…

Offensive Efficiency: #175
Defensive Efficiency: #119
Offensive Rebound Rate: #168
Total Rebound Rate: #217
Turnovers per Possession: #191
Opp. Turnovers per Possession: #138

The comparison isn’t pretty, but as the Hokies have shown in ACC play this year, it might be a good idea to go ahead and throw the stats out the window.  Tech’s defensive has improved remarkably since February 1, and it’s starting to show up in the win-loss column.

Here’s a look at the likely Miami starting lineup…

G Angel Rodriguez (5-11, 185, r-Sr.): 11.8 ppg, 4.4 apg
G Sheldon McClellan (6-5, 200, r-Sr.): 15.6 ppg, 50.4% FG, 40.2% 3-Pt.%
G Davon Reed (6-6, 210, Jr.): 11.1 ppg, 4.2 rpg
F Kamari Murphy (6-8, 220, r-Jr.): 5.3 ppg, 5.9 rpg
C Tonye Jekiri (7-0, 248, Sr.): 8.3 ppg, 9.2 rpg

Four of Miami’s five starters are fourth-year or fifth-year players.  Davon Reed is in his third year.  The Hurricanes obviously have plenty of talent on their roster, but it’s their experience level that is setting them apart from the field.  This group won 25 games a year ago and advanced to the NIT Championship Game, so it was obvious they were poised to do big things this season.  However, I don’t believe many would have predicted that they would have a chance to be the #1 seed in the ACC Tournament.  Jim Larranaga has done another great job.

Miami is also a hot team.  Take a look at their last three games…

64-61 win vs. #3 UVA
73-65 win vs. #11 Louisville
68-50 win at Notre Dame

Of those three games, the blowout win at Notre Dame was perhaps the most impressive.  The Hurricanes had not been a particularly good road team before that game…

66-58 L at UVA
76-65 L at Clemson
67-53 W at BC
85-69 L at NC State
75-68 W at Georgia Tech
67-65 W at FSU
96-71 L at North Carolina
68-50 W at Notre Dame

Miami hadn’t had the decisive road win that you would expect from a top 10 team until they played Notre Dame this past Wednesday.  Overall, the Canes have won eight of their last nine basketball games.

Virginia Tech was leading Miami 22-21 at halftime of the first meeting back on February 17.  However, the Hokies could never get going offensively and eventually lost the game 65-49.  Still, Pitt beat Tech 90-71 back on January 31, and then lost in Blacksburg this past week.  Anything can happen in college basketball, especially on the road.  The Hokies haven’t lost a game since they were beaten that night in Coral Gables.

Also of note: Saturday marks the return of former VT head coach James Johnson to Cassell Coliseum.  Johnson is serving as Jim Larranaga’s Director of Basketball Operations.  He was previously on Larranaga’s staff at George Mason.

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