Big Monday brings us an ACC rivalry game as the no. 4 Virginia Cavaliers visit the no. 22 Virginia Tech Hokies. Virginia blew out their in-state rivals by 22 points in Charlottesville earlier this year, and now they’re favored by 6.5 points on the road in the rematch.
The Cavs are trying to maintain hope of a seconds straight ACC regular season title. They are 10-2 in league play, but with both losses coming to Duke, they may need to win out and get a little help in order to overtake the Blue Devils. Since their most recent loss to Duke, Virginia has won at North Carolina and survived a potential trap game against Notre Dame to get back on track.
Meanwhile, the Hokies are trying to remain in the ACC race. On the heels of back-to-back wins over Georgia Tech and Pitt, Virginia Tech is 9-4 in ACC play and 20-5 overall. They may have to win their five remaining games in order to have a shot to win the conference. The Hokies could also improve their NCAA Tournament seeding if they become the only team outside of Duke to beat Virginia this season.
There’s no getting around the fact that the Hokies are playing short-handed these days. Senior point guard Justin Robinson has missed the last five games after hurting his foot at the end of January. Virginia Tech has managed to go 3-2 without him, clearly feeling his absence. In addition to being one of their best outside shooters and averaging over 14 points per game, Robinson sets up his teammates with over five assists per game. The Hokies are also a little limited in terms of their depth with Robinson out.
On the season, Virginia Tech is averaging over 75 points per game. However, in the five games that they’ve played without Robinson, they are averaging less than 62 points. They change the way they play offensively and don’t have an experienced floor general like Robinson to keep everything running smoothly. That doesn’t bode well for the Hokies against Virginia, who’s is the best defensive team in the country.
Back on Track
Virginia had their own injury scare not too long ago, with Ty Jerome missing a game due to a back injury. Jerome is the team’s third-leading scorer and is key to their success. With just eight points against Notre Dame over the weekend, the Cavaliers found themselves in a dog fight. Kyle Guy and De’Andre Hunter have both scored 20 or more points in back-to-back games to get Virginia back on track. But the Cavs still need a little more consistency from Jerome and some of their ancillary players.
The good news for Virginia is that they lit up the Hokies the first time they met. The Cavs made 13 of their 24 3-point attempts in that game, shooting a higher percentage than their season average of 40% from the perimeter. However, Virginia Tech is far better defensively than they showed that game. The Hokies will have a chip on their shoulder after that game, especially since they know they’ll need to be strong defensively in order to have a chance.
Not Good Enough
Virginia Tech will surely avoid another humiliating 22-point loss, especially at home. However, they won’t be able to overcome Robinson’s absence against Virginia. Bet on the Cavaliers winning and covering the 6.5-point spread.