Three Things to Watch for No. 15 Virginia Tech vs Miami
It’s Senior Night in Blacksburg as No. 15 Virginia Tech hosts Miami in the final game of the regular season. This will be the second meeting of the season between these two teams, with the Hokies winning the first matchup 82-70.
Miami has struggled this season, currently standing at 13-16 with a 5-12 record in the ACC. Both records are the most losses in a season for Miami under Coach Jim Larranaga.
The Hokies are coming off a tough loss on the road against No. 14 Florida State that eliminated them from contention for a double-bye in the ACC Tournament. They will be looking to bounce back against the Hurricanes to regain momentum heading into the postseason.
Here are three things to watch tonight:
1. Will Justin Robinson play?
The story for the Hokies lately has been when or if senior point guard Justin Robinson will return from injury. He has been out of the lineup since January 30.
Tech struggled initially to adjust to his injury, as Robinson for years has been the engine that drives Virginia Tech basketball. The Hokies had to learn to look elsewhere, and though they found success using Kerry Blackshear, Jr. as the centerpiece of the offense, their average points per game fell by over 11 points.
It would be fitting for Robinson to come back for this game. For starters, his injury was sustained in that first matchup against Miami. It would be poetic for his return to come against the same team.
More importantly, this is Senior Night. Robinson has been a starter all four seasons that he has been here, and he deserves the opportunity to play in Cassell one last time.
The contributions Robinson has made to the program cannot be put into words. He was there from the beginning of this turnaround, from the first loss against Alabama State in 2015.
He has been a leader, a floor general, a clutch shot hitter, an all-time assists leader, and now since his injury, a coach. Virginia Tech is a top 15 team, and so much credit has to be given to Robinson.
He deserves for his No. 5 to be retired by the school, and a banner hanging in Cassell right next to Dell Curry, Bimbo Coles, Ace Custis, and Allen Bristow.
Anyone who has watched VT basketball knows that this team is at its best when Robinson is on the floor. Fans will be on their toes to see if he will come back tonight.
2. Can Kerry Blackshear bounce back?
The Hokies previous game against Florida State was a frustrating one for Kerry Blackshear. He ended up fouling out of the game for the first time since February 9 on some questionable-at-best foul calls.
He finished with just nine points and five rebounds. For a player that had been dominating opponents, that was perhaps the most frustrating possible outcome.
Blackshear has had bad games before and he has bounced back every time, but can he do the same thing against Miami? He went from playing the best basketball of his career to being a non-factor at the end of a high intensity came. That can be hard to recover from.
The Hokies will need Blackshear to recover, especially if Robinson is unable to play. The Hokies finished the season by losing three straight games last year, and they do not want that to happen again.
A locked-in Blackshear will help the Hokies prevent themselves from going into the postseason cold and having early ACC and NCAA Tournament exits.
3. Can the Hokies keep their emotions in check?
Over the past two seasons, the Hokies have had senior classes with monumental impacts on the program. In 2016-17 it was Seth Allen and Zach LeDay, and in 2017-18 it was Justin Bibbs and Devin Wilson.
For each of those year’s Senior Nights, emotions ran very high. VT basketball is a family, and when a family member is about to leave, the whole team feels it.
For the 2018 class, their Senior Night was as successful as possible, as they rallied together to upset then No. 5 Duke.
However, for the 2017 class, their Senior Night ended on a sour note, as the Hokies were upset at home by Wake Forest. Looking back, this was a game the Hokies should have won, but emotions were perhaps too out of control and it led to back-breaking mistakes.
This 2019 class has been as influential as any for the Hokies. Robinson, along with Ahmed Hill and Ty Outlaw have each faced their own set of struggles, setbacks, injuries, missed shots, and losses.
All of this has been a crucial part of Virginia Tech reaching its current level. Robinson, Hill, and Outlaw have done more for this program than anyone, and their last game in Cassell is sure to be emotional.
Head coach Buzz Williams will need to use this emotion as a rallying point while also helping the team keep their composure. They will need that composure in order to avoid a heartbreaking upset.
I think Robinson comes back tonight, and the Hokies come emotional and ready to send the seniors out on a high note. Tech will step on the gas pedal early and it will not be close. Miami will finish the season with zero road wins.
Pick: No. 15 Virginia Tech 80, Miami 60
Photo Credit: Bobby Murray