ACC Hoops Preview: Tuesday’s Two-Game Slate

With an exciting game on Monday night that saw 13th-ranked Notre Dame win a thriller on the road against #18 North Carolina now behind us, there are two more ACC games on the docket for Tuesday night. While these two match-ups may not have the same levity as the primetime game in Chapel Hill on Monday, they are conference games nonetheless. Without further a do, let’s get to it.

The Match-Up

Virginia Tech Hokies (8-6, 0-1, RPI: 255) Vs. Florida State Seminoles (8-6, 0-1, RPI: 183)

Their Last Game

Virginia Tech

The Hokies last played on Saturday afternoon against Jim Boeheim’s Syracuse Orange, losing to them in a heartbreaker at home at Cassell Coliseum by a score of 68-66.

Florida State

The ‘Noles last contest was a non-conference loss this past Friday on the road against Mississippi State, 62-55.

Players To Watch

F Justin Bibbs, Virginia Tech

The Hokies have been dreadful offensively, as their 69.0 points per game ranks 157th in the country. However, true freshman Justin Bibbs is the player that you want to keep an eye on in this Virginia Tech offense, as he has been a pleasant addition to the Hokie squad this year. Bibbs is averaging 12.7 points per game over the team’s first 14 games, while shooting just over 50% from the field overall, to go with a respectable 48% from beyond the arc.

On a team with very few game-changers, Bibbs is the closest thing the Hokies have to it, and can pour them in if he gets hot. Bibbs tied his career-high with 22 against Syracuse and led a furious second half comeback that fell just short. He also notched 11 rebounds, but that was largely due to Syracuse Trevor Cooney’s 6-for-21 clankfest and longish rebounds that leaked out. Anyone counting on him for double-digit rebounds will likely be disappointed. But Saturday proved that he can get on the glass when the Hokies need it.

G Montay Brandon, Florida State

When junior guard Aaron Thomas was suspended for the remainder of the season due to academic ineligibility, the Seminoles turned much of their scoring to their three-guard lineup led by Xavier Rathan-Mayes, Devon Bookert, and most importantly, junior guard Montay Brandon. Brandon leads the Seminoles active roster by averaging 13.7 points per game and 5.4 rebounds per game. He is not a guy that is going to kill you from 3-point land, as he is only making about a quarter of his shots from deep, but he still manages to shoot 59% from the field overall, so he is still a guy that the Hokies still want to keep an eye on tonight.

The Game and Prediction:

The big story in this game tonight is going to be the size advantage that Florida State will have over the Hokies. Virginia Tech’s only true experienced big-man, Joey Van Zegeren, is suspended from this game tonight due to an incident that occurred in practice last week. Tech was already ranked 269th nationally in rebounding, and this loss of JVZ will not help their chances tonight. In order for Tech to overcome the size advantage down-low, the Hokies will need to try to force some turnovers, which they haven’t done too well this season to begin with, averaging 4.6 steals per game as a team, which ranks them 339th in the country in that category…Ouch.

Additionally, the Hokies backcourt absolutely needs to shoot the basketball better. In their last game against Syracuse, starting guards Adam Smith and Devin Wilson went 6-23 from the floor, and a meager 1-9 from three. Want to throw in back-up point guard Malik Mueller? The line for the guards ends up being 7-26 from the field, and 2-12 from three, which is in a word, putrid. The Hokies will be in for it throughout conference play if their guards don’t shoot better, because it is pretty apparent that Tech will struggle in the paint with the size differential that they will face no matter who they play in the ACC.

Florida State meanwhile has had plenty of nagging issues in their own right. The Seminoles allow nearly 68 points per game, good for the 218th ranked scoring defense in D1. They, much like the Hokies, cannot force turnovers either, with their 6.2 steals per contest ranking them 207th in the nation. While they are without their leading scorer, Aaron Thomas, for the forseeable future and perhaps the rest of the season, coach Leonard Hamilton has employed a three-guard lineup that is being run into the ground. Rathan-Mayes, Brandon, and Bookert played all but five minutes combined in their last game against Mississippi State, a usage rate that is simply unsustainable long-term when playing in the best conference in the country.

The Seminoles are 8-4 at home this season, as they stumbled continuously throughout the non-conference schedule. The Donald C Tucker Civic Center has always provided poor sight lines for shooters, and Virginia Tech struggles on the road there, as they have not won in that arena in their last three attempts, with the last opportunity being just a year ago.

When looking at the Vegas line tonight, Florida State is pegged as a 10 point home favorite over Tech, which is unfathomable to me, as I don’t see either of these teams being favored by 10 over anyone on the rest of their respective schedules. I’ll take the points again, for the second game in a row, but I think Florida State finds a way at home in an ugly one.

FSU 58    Virginia Tech 53

The Match-Up

Pittsburgh Panthers (10-4, 0-1, RPI: 87) Vs. Boston College Eagles (7-5, 0-1, RPI: 136)

Their Last Game

Pittsburgh

The Panthers got smoked in their conference opener on Saturday against NC State, losing by an embarrassing score of 68-50 on the road.

Boston College

The Eagles were placed with the unenviable task of opening up ACC play on the road against #2 Duke. As you may have guessed, the game did not go as well as Boston College would have hoped, as they got throttled to the tune of an 85-62 loss to the Blue Devils.

Players To Watch

F Michael Young, Pittsburgh

Sophomore forward Michael Young is the Panthers’ leading scorer at 13.6 points per game, and averages 8.0 rebounds per contest to go along with it. He’s a fun player to watch on Jamie Dixon’s squad, and is playing like he wants to make a statement that he is one of the top frontcourt players in a loaded ACC.

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F Jamel Artis, Pittsburgh

This sophomore forward has the opportunity to become a game-changer by the time he leaves Pitt. He is currently averaging 9.5 points per game and 5.1 rebounds per contest, but he leaves much to be desired, especially on the defensive end. He is marred by offensive inconsistency, scoring 20 points in only one game this season, and putting up less than 5 points on four different occasions. If he has a solid first half tonight, the Panthers should be in good shape. However, if he does not shoot the ball well early, it could be a long night for the Panthers and a closer game than they would bargain for otherwise.

G Olivier Hanlan, Boston College

Could Hanlan be an all-conference player this season? Potentially, but the ACC is stacked in the backcourt when looking across the conference. Olivier Hanlan can score the ball as well as any guard in the ACC, but he is not shooting the ball particularly well, making just shy of 43% of his shots, which is a career-low from the junior guard. He has been able to put up about 16.0 points per game, and has been relied upon to carry much of the Eagles scoring load this season, thus making him BC’s player to watch.

The Game and Prediction:

Pittsburgh is not a very good team this year by their usual high standards, but they are extremely young, and Jamie Dixon has proved over time that he is a very good coach, both in the regular season, and in the NCAA tournament. When looking at Pittsburgh, sophomore forward Michael Young carries a bulk of the scoring load, with help from junior guard James Robinson, who is second on the team in scoring at 11.3 points per game. Pitt plays a ton of guys, so depth never seems to be an issue, as they have 11 players averaging at least 7 minutes per game, with 10 of the 11 players averaging more than 10 minutes per contest. Whether or not this will continue to be the case in ACC play remains to be seen, but I’d expect a healthy amount of bodies taking the floor tonight for the Panthers, especially if there is any early foul trouble.

Meanwhile, Boston College seems to be the same as they are every year: Near the bottom of the ACC conference, with one very good player that will give you a headache on an otherwise un-watchable team. All-ACC Olivier Hanlan is the premier player on BC’s roster this season, and expect him to score at least 20 tonight to try to keep the Eagles competitive in this one at home. Ultimately, for the Eagles to win, a strong contribution will have to be made by the team’s second leading scorer, senior guard Aaron Brown. He’s averaging 15.7 points per game, but has been inconsistent of late, only shooting 38% against Duke over the weekend en route to an 11 point performance.

Vegas marks BC as a 2.5 point home underdog in this one, which seems to be conservative to me. I think Pittsburgh has more talent, and has the ability to make this a runaway win if they contain Olivier Hanlan. I’ll take Pittsburgh on the road, and they’ll cover.

Pittsburgh 67     BC 55

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