After suffering back-to-back road losses at Virginia and Miami, the Virginia Tech Hokies come home looking for a win to launch a strong push to finish the season with a good record that can get them to the NIT. The Hokies are only one game ahead of Georgia Tech now, and will want to stay ahead of the Yellow Jackets to avoid playing on the opening day of the ACC Tournament.
However, the Hokies are facing a Florida State team that is on the bubble of the NCAA Tournament and wants to avoid a loss on the road. The Seminoles have three game after today's matchup against opponents that are all either certain or very likely to be playing in the NCAA Tournament this March, and would rather avoid what would be a bad loss due to Virginia Tech being outside the top 100 in the RPI.
Florida State has multiple talented scorers in their backcourt including freshmen Malik Beasley and Dwayne Bacon plus sophomore Xavier Rathan-Mays who is actually the third-leading scorer for Florida State behind Beasley and Bacon. Beasley has by far been the best shooter of the ball from all areas, but all three will be threats.
Virginia Tech's defense has been a lot better lately as the Hokies have held their last four opponents under 70 points while Florida State has only held one of their last four opponents under 70 points. The Hokies haven't been great offensively, but coming back home in front of a sellout crowd should be a boost for Virginia Tech.
The Hokies have been playing better in the post over the last couple weeks, and will need to do that again against a Florida State frontcourt that has multiple players over 7 feet. Those big men haven't been great, but Zach LeDay and Kerry Blackshear will need to be at their best on the glass and in the paint while using Johnny Hamilton some against some of Florida State's massive centers would make sense.
Having Chris Clarke back also helps the Hokies a lot in terms of rebounding the basketball, which could be very valuable against a Florida State team that lacks an elite rebounder, but has a lot of solid rebounders all over the floor. Both Bacon and Beasley are averaging over 5 rebounds per game, and Virginia Tech will have to be effective on the glass from their wings including Clarke, Justin Bibbs, and Jalen Hudson.
Justin Bibbs hasn't been shooting the basketball as well recently from beyond the arc, but the sophomore wing is still shooting over 46% from deep this season, and seems poise to have a big game very soon. No one should be surprised if Bibbs has a big game today to get out of a cold-shooting streak against a young Florida State team that could have some communication issues in what has the makings of being a tough environment.
The Hokies will be looking for another strong home win as they attempt to make a strong push at the end of the season to get in a strong position to make the NIT. Florida State knows that they can't afford a loss today, but that is what they will take out of Blacksburg as the Hokies will get the job done led by Chris Clarke, Justin Bibbs, and Zach LeDay.
Prediction: Virginia Tech 74, Florida State 69