ACC Basketball

ACC Tourney | Virginia Tech vs. Miami

Robert Mayer-USA TODAY Sports

The Hokies won only two ACC games all season long, but none of that matters once the ACC Tournament starts. Just ask Wake Forest, who lost in the final seconds to Virginia Tech in the first-round. That win ended Buzz Williams’ seven-game losing streak.

After a hot start to the season and some impressive mid-season wins over Duke, NC State and Syracuse, the Miami Hurricanes were ranked and ready to roll. Yet, the shots stopped falling and the losing began, as the Canes dropped four of five. Barely hanging onto their bubble status, Miami failed to earn signature wins over Louisville and North Carolina (both at home), but they still finished the season winning five of seven, feasting on inferior foes.

Two of those victories were over Virginia Tech and neither contest was close. Back on February 18, Miami went on a 19-8 run late in the first half and into the second to create a little space before going on a 9-0 run late to earn a 76-52 win. Neither team shot well from three, but the Hurricanes, led by Tonye Jekiri’s 15 points and 15 rebounds, dominated inside. For the Hokies, Adam Smith, Justin Bibbs and Devil Wilson combined for 37 points, hitting six threes.

In the re-match, the Hurricanes never let the Hokies in it. A 19-6 start to the game was followed up by a 13-0 run and 20 minutes in, Miami led 46-18. A 10-2 run to start the second half gave Virginia Tech a little hope, before the Canes put an end to it with their own 10-0 run, winning easily 82-61. In that last contest (which happened this weekend), Miami got points from strange places, as Manu Lecomte, James Palmer and Ivan Cruz Uceda combined for 53 points.

Both teams rely on the three ball as Miami is first in 3PA/FGA and the Hokies are second, although Virginia Tech hits them at a higher rate.

With their four guard lineup, shooting threes is what they primarily do (they were 8-for-19 against Wake). They basically spread out their opponents, with all four guards planted behind the arc. With the exception of Jalen Hudson, who doesn’t even start, none of them can really beat their man one-on-one, so their big guy, either Christian Beyer or most recently, Satchel Pierce, will come out to screen. If the opponent tries to go through the screen, they drive. If the opponent slides behind the screen, they’ll put it up.

The issue for Tech is, outside their ability to not get their pockets picked, there is little else this freshmen-heavy rotation can do. They struggle to rebound, they’re not efficient scoring in the paint and forget blocking shots or forcing turnovers.

As I’ve already pointed out, Miami also relies heavily on the deep ball, but they prefer to get their shots with the drive and kick. Angel Rodriguez is expected to miss this game and more with a wrist injury, but Lecomte is a former starter and has filled in nicely.

Sheldon McClellan is the primary scorer, but he can fall asleep in games from time-to-time, but he’s not the only threat. Miami has a trio of bigs who like to put up threes, Omar Sherman, Ivan Cruz Uceda and James Palmer (although he’s technically only 6’5).

Yet, the difference for Miami is inside with Tonye Jekiri. The ACC’s top rebounder should have little problem roaming the boards against an inexperience Pierce and he should be able to continue his recent scoring streak (five double-doubles in his last seven games).

Yet, I need to pick at least one upset, right? Teams like the Hurricanes are scary to predict, because their shooting can get hot or go south not only from game-to-game, but from TV timeout to TV timeout. The Hokies are feeling confident, clearly playing with house money at this point and are too young to understand they aren’t supposed to be beating teams like Miami

WORTHLESS PREDICTIONS: Virginia Tech, 68-65

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