Northwestern has its lone opportunity of the non-conference portion of its schedule to go on the road and beat a Power 5 opponent Tuesday night, as the Wildcats travel to Blacksburg, Virginia to take on ACC cellar-dweller Virginia Tech in the Big Ten/ACC championship.
The Hokies sit at 4-2 on the young season, starting off the year with a home loss to Alabama State before reeling off three-straight. Buzz Williams' squad then gave up nearly triple digits in a loss to No. 4 Iowa State before finding the win column once again with an overtime victory over UAB.
The Hokies certainly have an ability to score the basketball, having put up at least 70 points in five of their first six games, but struggle defensively, ranking 184th in defensive efficiency according to Kenpom. The Wildcats have a 51% chance to pull off the victory, according to Kenpom, with the average score being 73-72 in favor of Chris Collins' bunch.
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Zach LeDay, a transfer from South Florida, leads the Hokies in both points per game (19.0) and rebounds per game (10.3), and he will be a matchup problem for the Wildcats. Maryland transfer Seth Allen is the second-leading scorer and a guy that Tre Demps has matched up with before when he was still a Terrapin. Talented youngsters Chris Clarke (true freshman) and Justin Bibbs (true sophomore) also score in double figures, and Clarke, a standout athlete, also averages over eight boards per game. The Hokies also pose a decent challenge size-wise, as Johnny Hamilton measures 7 feet tall, and Kerry Blackshear goes 6-foot-10. 7-footer Satchel Pierce is also rostered, but hasn't seen much time this year after seeing a decent amount of time as a freshman last year. For Northwestern's big men, the Hokies' length could be a challenge. With Joey Van Zegeren going back to his former program, though, there could be some extra motivation for the backup big man.
For Northwestern to win, they'll have to contain LeDay, who has led the Hokies in both scoring and rebounding on three separate occasions this season. But perhaps more importantly, they'll have to avoid fouling, something they have struggled with at times this year. Virginia Tech leads the nation in free throws attempted per field goal attempted, meaning the Hokies get to the line a lot. They shot 50 free throws against North Carolina A&T and have shot at least 25 in every game this year.
Overall, this game presents a huge opportunity for the Wildcats to get a decent win on the road and beat a team that, in some respects, is like them. Both teams are relatively young, have relatively new coaching staffs and are looking for a win on the national stage.
Press Conference Notes
- "I think we're headed in the right direction. I think there's obviously some things we need to improve upon defensively."
- "I think Virginia Tech's a really good team. They have a lot of really good athletes." Demps said there are lots of similarities between the two programs.
- Demps mentioned that he played against Allen earlier in his career and called him an aggressive guard they will have to contain.
Joey Van Zegeren
- "I've helped out a lot with the scouting report, but, I mean, every year it's a little different. Teams change. The team isn't the same as it was when I was there."
- Van Zegeren said he can help point out minor tendencies and players' personalities but praised the coaches for preparing a comprehensive scouting report.
- "I've been enjoying my time a lot. I love being around the guys and everybody in this program. Everybody at Northwestern has been great to me." He added that Northwestern's graduate program, in which he is enrolled, has been a great opportunity.
- Van Zegeren said he keeps in touch with a few of the Virginia Tech players and is especially close to walk-on Greg Donlon.
- Collins was pleased with Scottie Lindesy's recent play, going back to the CBE Classic games. "He got in a really good rhythm and shot the ball really well... I think he's been upping his energy a little bit more."
- Collins said both teams are in "building stages" with young players and relatively new staffs.
- Collins says this game means a lot because they have struggled in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge. "The last couple years, we haven't played as well in the challenge, last year in particular." He added that he thinks the two conferences are the premier conferences in the nation. "We just want to be able to do our part."
- Collins says he's trying to get Van Zegeren more and more involved. "I felt like the last couple games was more like what I'd like to see. I thought he played really well against Missouri... He can be a big help." He also noted that Van Zegeren is more of an athletic power guy while Olah is more of a skilled, finesse guy.
-Collins says Buzz Williams' team at Virginia Tech is starting to look like his typical teams at Marquette: tough, quick and skilled.
- Zach LeDay will be a challenge for the Wildcats. "It's going to present problems for sure. He's putting up numbers every night. I don't think he's a guy that can just command 'Okay, this one guy's just going to stop him.'"
Game Time: 6 p.m. CT
Mobile: WatchESPN App
Radio: ESPN 1000
Betting Line: Northwestern -2
KenPom Projection: Northwestern, 51 percent