With the exception of #1 St. Bonaventure being upset by #8 Wagner, every higher-seeded team in the NIT has won thus far. The Hokies hope to change that tonight when they take on #2 seed BYU in Provo. The Cougars blew out #7 seed UAB 97-79 on Wednesday night despite a 29-point effort from former VT player Robert Brown.
Unfortunately, Tech didn’t have much time to prepare for a very good BYU team. After playing an overtime game on Wednesday night, the Hokies flew to Provo on Thursday, and they’ll play tonight. They changed altitudes and time zones, and they are going to be facing a very good team with one of the nation’s best players.
Florida State faced a similar situation this week. After beating Davidson on Tuesday, the Seminoles had to play at Valparaiso last night. FSU lost by 12, and they were never really in the game. Every other team in the NIT has being given at least three days between their first and second round games, with the exception of Florida State and Virginia Tech. That’s unfair to the Hokies and the Seminoles, but there’s nothing they can do about it.
BYU (24-10) is pretty similar to Virginia Tech, according to Ken Pomeroy’s ratings. Here are the numbers for the Cougars…
Here’s how the Hokies compare…
BYU has been more efficient offensively, while Virginia Tech has been slightly better on the defensive end of the court.
Here is BYU’s projected starting lineup…
G Nick Emery (6-2, 185, Fr.): 16.4 ppg, 3.3 rpg, 2.5 apg
G Chase Fischer (6-3, 190, Sr.): 18.2 ppg
G Kyle Collinsworth (6-6, 215, Sr.): 15.3 ppg, 8.4 rpg, 7.5 apg
F Kyle Davis (6-8, 225, Jr.): 12 ppg, 7.6 rpg
C Corbin Kaufusi (6-10, 255, So.): 5.7 ppg, 4.4 rpb
Chase Fischer is a West Virginia native who transferred to BYU from Wake Forest. He’s developed into an excellent scorer, and he’s been utilized much better in Provo than he ever would have been with the bad coaching situations that Wake has had recently. Nick Emery is playing at a high level as a freshman, while Kyle Davis is a skilled power forward.
However, the best overall player is Kyle Collinsworth. His six triple-doubles this year lead the nation. Denzel Valentine of Michigan State has two triple-doubles, but no other player has more than one. Collinsworth has 12 career triple-doubles, which is an NCAA record. Because he plays on the west coast, you might not have heard of him, but he’s one of the best players in the country.
BYU’s experience level is impressive. Collinsworth is 24 years old because he went on a 2-year mission. Kyle Davis began playing college basketball in 2010 at Southern Utah, but he’s only a junior because he transferred twice and went on a 2-year mission. Corbin Kaufusi also served a 2-year mission, and Nick Emery also went on a mission to Germany. These guys have a definite age and experience advantage over Virginia Tech.
The Cougars are also an excellent three-point shooting team. They are 38.2% from beyond the arc this season, and are averaging exactly 84 points per game. The Hokies will have to show up and play a great defensive game to have a chance. BYU was held to fewer than 80 points in seven of their 10 losses. Virginia Tech must keep this game in the 70s, because they probably won’t win a scoring competition against the Cougars on the road just two days after playing an overtime game.
If the Hokies manage to upset BYU, they’ll return to Cassell Coliseum for a quarterfinal game with either #4 seed Creighton or #8 seed Wagner. That game would be held on either Tuesday, March 22 or Wednesday, March 23.