Photo courtesy of Virginia Tech athletics
Battle-tested, beaten, and in disbelief, Virginia Tech (5-2) all of a sudden needs a big non-conference win.
When the Hokies went to Brooklyn last week to compete in the NIT Season Tip-Off, you would think at the very worst, they would finish 1-1.
First, it was a top-10 Memphis team. You lose that one? OK, you likely get what seemed to be a lowly Iowa State team.
The Cyclones had other plans. They steamrolled their way through the tournament, and left Virginia Tech to face another ranked opponent on Friday evening, eventually falling to then-No. 25 Xavier, 59-58.
It doesn’t get any easier for Mike Young and company in Blacksburg either. The gauntlet of a schedule continues on Wednesday night in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge, as the Hokies travel to College Park to face Maryland (5-2), an old ACC foe.
Game Day Information
When: Wednesday, Dec. 1, 7:15 p.m. ET
Where: Xfinity Center, College Park, MD
PXP: Doug Sherman
Analyst: Jordan Cornette
Series History: Maryland Leads 32-10
Last Meeting: Maryland Won 64-47 on March 4, 2014
Line: Maryland -1
A Learning Experience
This Virginia Tech team has a chance to be extremely dangerous, but not if the Hokies play how they did during Thanksgiving week at the Barclays Center.
In Virginia Tech’s two losses to Memphis and Xavier, it lacked physicality down low, strong point guard play, and the ability to knock down uncontested shots.
It was a wake-up call for Young’s team. It was a learning experience, and most importantly, it was an identity check on where the Hokies stand just seven games into the 2021-22 campaign.
Friday night was an improvement from Wednesday, but in the narrow loss to Xavier, Virginia Tech shot just 41% from the field, and got nothing from Wofford transfer Storm Murphy. Murphy didn’t score for the first time since early in his Terrier career.
Fellow former Wofford star Keve Aluma didn’t have the tournament he would have liked, either. The Maryland native still put up double-figures in both of last week’s losses, but the physicality and strength down low likely isn’t where Aluma would want it to be.
On the flip side, Nahiem Alleyne had a strong showing in the “Big Apple.” The junior guard led the Hokies in scoring both nights with 21 points on Wednesday, and 18 points on Friday. The Georgia native provided a spark that this Virginia Tech team desperately needed.
Good To See You, Old Friend
When the Hokies and Terrapins square off right outside the nation’s capital on Wednesday evening, it’ll be the first time these two squads have met since the Terps left the ACC back in July 2014.
The program has continued to remain in the NCAA Tournament picture ever since they joined the Big Ten. A lot of that credit goes to 11th-year head coach Mark Turgeon.
Turgeon has been around to see the transition from the ACC to the aforementioned Big Ten and has done a solid job since taking over in College Park prior to the 2011-12 season.
There’s high hopes for this Terps team and a lot of that has to do with the return of last season’s leading scorer Eric Ayala. Ayala has continued to lead the team in scoring by averaging 15.1 points per game.
He’s not alone either. The trio of Fatts Russell (12.9 points per game), Qudus Wahab (10.7 points per game), and Donta Scott (10.3 points per game) each average in double-figures and create a solid nucleus for Turgeon’s team.
It hasn’t exactly been the start that Maryland had hoped for in terms of quality of play either. Narrow victories over George Washington, Hofstra, and Vermont and an upset loss to George Mason signifies just that.
It’ll look to make a statement on Wednesday against a quality ACC opponent.
This just seems to be a game where Virginia Tech, Murphy, and Aluma find their rhythm.
The Hokies are the better team on paper. They just have to play like it, and they will in College Park.
Virginia Tech will pick up a quality road victory over the Terrapins and close the gap just a tad in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge.
Prediction: Virginia Tech 67, Maryland 64