The Hokies are set to host arguably the hottest college basketball team in the nation tonight as the No. 14 Miami Hurricanes make the trip north to Blacksburg.
The Hurricanes have started the ACC season a perfect 6-0 and haven’t lost since Christmas Day. They recently blew out the Florida State Seminoles in front of a sold out crowd, only the third time that has happened at the Bank United Center.
To cap off the recent success, the Hurricanes defeated a No. 1 team for the first time in school history when they dismantled former No. 1 Duke on Jan. 23 at home. Jim Larranaga has the team rolling in his second year at the helm of the Hurricanes program.
The Hokies are trending in the opposite direction, having lost their last two games against Virginia and Clemson.
Erick Green is still playing at an incredibly high level, having scored 20 or more points in 18 of 19 games and leading the nation in scoring, but he isn’t getting the same kind of help he got earlier in the year.
Jarell Eddie, the second leading scorer for the Hokies at 14.4 points per game, is shooting just 26 percent from three-point range in ACC games after he shot 41 percent from distance in non-conference action this season. His scoring in conference games hasn’t dipped too much, only down to 13.3 points per game, but the drop in three-point percentage is significant because 46 percent of Eddie’s field goal attempts come from behind the arc.
Robert Brown has also struggled recently, though he has shown signs of turning it around in recent games. Brown is just 12-53 from the floor in conference play, including just 1-18 from three-point range in that span.
Another area for concern for Virginia Tech is the turnover category. In ACC games, the Hokies are turning the ball over 11 times per game while only creating eight per game.
On the other side, the Hurricanes are off to a hot ACC start thanks to their stingy defense. Miami is allowing just 54.0 points per game since the calendar turned to 2013 and have posted an average margin of victory of 13.5.
Balance has been the key for the Hurricanes on offense, with five players averaging double figure points, led by ACC Player of the Week Durand Scott with 14.3.
The other member of the stellar backcourt is Shane Larkin, son of Major League Baseball Hall of Fame member Barry Larkin. Shane Larkin is making a name of his own, averaging 10.4 points, almost 4.5 rebounds and better than four assists per game on the year while leading the Hurricanes in minutes played.
While the backcourt has been great for Miami, the frontcourt deserves equal attention, touting a starting lineup of seniors Kenny Kadji, Reggie Johnson and Julian Gamble, who stand 6-foot-11, 6-foot-10 and 6-foot-10, respectively. The height inside for the Hurricanes is going to test the rebounding ability of the Hokies, which doesn’t have much depth up front.
On the sidelines, it will be a matchup of mentor and student. James Johnson was an assistant under Larranaga at George Mason for two seasons, including their miraculous run to the 2006 Final Four. Now Johnson will get his first shot at his former boss.
This will be the second time this season that the Hokies host a top-15 opponent in Cassell Coliseum. The Hokies knocked off the No. 15 and then-undefeated Oklahoma State Cowboys 81-71 in what is certainly the highlight of the season so far. The Hokies will be looking for their second upset of a top-15 team this year.
Tip off this evening is set for 9 p.m. and will be broadcast on ESPNU.