Peter Casey-USA TODAY Sports
Leonard Hamilton and James Johnson go head to head for the 1st time
A little more than a year ago, this was looking like it could be Virginia Tech's year. They had one of the best players in the nation in Erick Green, and they would be returning Dorian Finney-Smith, the highest rated recruit in Virginia Tech history, for his all important freshman-to-sophomore leap, and bringing in highly regarded Montrezl Harrell. Instead, the Hokies completely collapsed once ACC play began and Seth Greenberg was let go. Dorian Finney-Smith followed him out the door and transferred to Florida, while Harrell reneged on his commitment and ended up at Louisville. Virginia Tech had to scramble to lure James Johnson back to Blacksburg after he had already moved in to his office as a Clemson assistant. And now Johnson is struggling through his first season as a head coach.
At one point Virginia Tech was playing really well. They were 7-0 and fresh off of back-to-back wins over Iowa and Oklahoma State. Since then they've gone 4-15 and have needed overtime for two of those wins.
The Hokies are the Erick Green show. The 6-3 senior leads the nation in scoring at 25.2 points per game, and has scored more than 20 in 24 of 26 games. He makes 51% of his 2s, 38% of his 3s, 82% of his free throws. He's the only player in the ACC to take more than 30% of his teams shots when he's on the floor (33.1%) and he still has the fifth highest offensive rating in the conference. He draws more fouls than any player in the conference, and he has the 5th best assist rate. If the ACC Player of the Year Award weren't really a team honor, then he'd be taking home that trophy in March.
6-7 Junior Jerrell Eddie, a former consensus top-100 recruit, is the only other Hokie in double figures. He scores 12.7 per game, though he has a problem falling in love with the 3-pointer. He takes almost half his shots from the arc but only converts on 34%.
These two combine to give Virginia Tech an average ACC offense (No. 105 nationally).
The problem is on the other end of the court, where VT has the worst defense in the ACC, and the 2nd worst defense of any BCS conference team (thanks, Texas Tech!). They're 341st nationally at forcing turnovers, and 263rd at giving up offensive rebounds, so they're getting demolished in the hidden game of possessions. Every game their opponents get far more chances to score than they do.
For FSU this means that the Noles need to limit their turnovers to "smart" turnovers - charges, missed connections on run outs, etc... and do a good job crashing the offensive glass. If they do those two things and knock down 36% or more of their perimeter shots, then this is a game FSU could win easily. If not, expect another ACC dog fight.
With a win FSU will keep pace with Maryland in 6th in the conference. With a loss FSU will be all alone in 7th.
The game tips at 6pm and will be broadcast on ESPNU. The Noles are a 2-point favorite in Vegas, while Pomeroy has Virginia Tech -1.