Virginia Tech vs Miami NCAAM Pick – January 28th

After taking a 103-82 blowout loss at North Carolina, No. 12 Virginia Tech (16-3, 5-2 ACC) would rebound magnificently last weekend with a blowout victory themselves — a 22-point steamroll fest over the Syracuse Orange. And what a perfect time to get your act together if you’re the Hokies, they’re entering a two-game road trip — starting in South Beach.

There’s also some motivation for the Hokies coming into tonight as well: They’ll be looking to end a two-game losing streak against Miami (9-10, 1-6 ACC), who by the way are currently on a three-game losing streak and off to their worst start in ACC play under head coach Jim Larranaga.

‘The U’ currently sits with a 1-6 record in the Atlantic Coast Conference, and that feat hasn’t been accomplished since the 2010-11 season — Frank Haith was the head coach of Miami at the time, and in his last season in Coral Gables as well.

Here’s even more bad news for the Hurricanes: They’ve lost their star forward Dewan Hernandez (11.4 PPG, 6.7 RPG in 2017-18) for the season (as well as 40% of next year) due to accepting benefits from an agent. The NCAA made this ruling on Monday.

Hernandez responded, however: He would announce that he’s withdrawing from the University of Miami and entering this year’s NBA Draft. Hernandez would go on to say on social media, “I do not believe that the NCAA treated me fairly.”

Despite the three losses on their resume, it’s been nothing but positivity on the side of Virginia Tech. They’re off to their best start under fifth-year head coach Buzz Williams sitting at 16-3 for the season.

For the Hurricanes, it’s just been an overall rough experience throughout the current campaign. A load of personnel issues have given Miami just a seven-man rotation — yes, a two-man bench. In their defense, they have been a bit competitive despite their problems. They would get an ACC win over Wake Forest, while losing three other conference games by just single digits. They’ve played seven ACC games up until this point.

In those remaining three games outside of the Canes being competitive, it hasn’t been so pretty for Miami. It includes a 20-point blowout loss at Syracuse, as well as a 12-point loss to rival Florida State this past Sunday — a game that the Hurricanes were mever in.

Miami’s leading scorer Chris Lykes has also struggled in that stretch — he’s only scored nine points combined against both the Orange and Seminoles. From the field in those contests, he would also shoot an incredibly weak 4-for-27 — as well as a bucket-less 0-for-20 in three-point shots. For the season, Lykes is averaging 16.6 PPG.

Collectively as a team in the past two games, the Hurricanes are 15-for-58 in their three-point opportunities. And it gets worse for Miami’s defense: Their opposition has hit season-highs in three-pointers, going for a combined 26-for-50 from behind the arc — VT may be able to join the party as well, they come in as the conference’s top three-point shooting team. They’ve tallied 42.4% from the three-point line. As a matter of fact, their guard Justin Robinson set a record over the weekend hitting nine three-pointers in 13 attempts in the game against Syracuse.

Also for the Hokies, they’ll be determined to not get upset to Miami after taking a loss to North Carolina just two games ago — this due to playing a huge game against Top 25-ranked NC State this weekend.

INJURY REPORT

VIRGINIA TECH

  • P.J. HORNE: Undisclosed (Out Indefinitely)
  • CHRIS CLARKE: Suspension (Out For Season)
  • LANDERS NOLLEY II: Eligibility (Out For Season)

MIAMI

  • EBUKA IZUNDU: Illness (Probable — Day-to-Day)
  • ZACH JOHNSON: Ankle (Questionable — Day-to-Day)
  • DENG GAK: Knee (Out For Season)
  • DEWAN HERNANDEZ: Eligibility (Out For Season)


PLAYERS TO WATCH

VIRGINIA TECH

NICKEIL ALEXANDER-WALKER
The sophomore from Toronto has been a force for the Virginia Tech Hokies this year, and effective in each scoring, rebounding and ball movement — most notably his team-leading points production. For the season, Alexander-Walker has posted a tally of 17.5 PPG. and the shooting has been elite as well hitting 53.2% of his shots. In other effective numbers, he also posts an average of 4.2 RPG with the battle on the glass. And he’s also adding points to the scoreboard with his 3.8 APG. Also effective on ‘D’, he has 2.0 STLPG.
KERRY BLACKSHEAR JR.
Leading the team in rebounding, Kerry Blackshear Jr. has been a key piece for Virginia Tech to go along with the scoring of Nickeil Alexander-Walker — and he’s also solid in points production himself. For the season, Blackshear Jr. is currently averaging 13.3 PPG, and like his teammate Alexander-Walker, the shooting has been elite at 52.2 FG%. On the glass is where he makes his mark the most though: He leads the team contributing a tally of 6.3 RPG. Alexander-Walker and Blackshear Jr. are such a deadly combination.

MIAMI

CHRIS LYKES
Miami’s sophomore has been solid this season for the Hurricanes, but he’s struggled quite a bit in the past two losses against Syracuse and Florida State — he’ll be looking to get back on track against the Hokies tonight. In scoring, he leads the team with a tally of 16.6 PPG, but he needs to get the scoring up from 42.7 FG%. Lykes also contributes in other ways to put points on the scoreboard: He posts 3.5 APG, which is another team-leading statistic. He also adds 2.6 RPG and 1.5 STLPG to the stat sheet.
EBUKA IZUNDU
Listed ‘probable’ on the injury report with an illness, it’s looking like it’s a green light for Ebuka Izundu to play against Virginia Tech tonight — and Miami will need him. The 6’10” big-man has been fantastic this season nearly averaging a double-double. In the scoring department, that’s where he hits double figures averaging 11.5 PPG. On the rebounding end, that’s where he makes his mark the most: A team-leading 9.1 RPG, -0.9 away from the 10 mark that would have him average a double-double. He also averages 1.5 BLKPG.

CHECK THE NUMBERS

VIRGINIA TECH

As expected, the Hokies come in with the advantages in three out of the four main statistical categories — they lead in points-per-game, field goal percentage and points against. In offensive production, they’re +4 putting up a number of 78.6 PPG. They’re also +4 in field goal percentage as well hitting a great 49.8% of their shots. On rebounding, that’s where they fall behind, but it’s only -1 sitting at 32.5 RPG — Hokies need to get that up to beat top-tier teams. On defense, it’s another Hokie advantage: +10 averaging 61.6 PA.

MIAMI

For the Hurricanes, they come in with a losing 9-10 record, but they are fortunate enough to grab one of the statistical categories: Rebounding, though it’s very narrow. On the offensive side of the ball, Miami is sitting with a -4 disadvantage averaging out at 74.7 PPG. In field goal percentage, it’s another -4 with the Canes hitting 45.2 FG%. On the glass, Miami has their only edge — it being +1 over Virginia Tech with 33.9 RPG. But then when you look on defense, it goes back in the red: A drastic -10 difference with the Canes averaging 71.4 PA.

POWELL’S PREDICTION

I won’t put the Hurricanes on blowout alert, but I’ll put them on semi-blowout alert. I’ll tell you right off of the bat that Virginia Tech will win this game. The Hokies are so much better than the Hurricanes, Miami lacks depth at a dramatic level only having seven players on their roster, and on top of that, their star Chris Lykes has been struggling as of late.

I do expect Miami to keep it under 15, but they won’t meet the +7.5 spread that is expected of them. And the only reason I have the Hurricanes keeping it under 15 is due to the game being at Watsco Center. I love the city of Miami and the University of Miami, but I just have a strong feeling it’s going to be a long night for them tonight. Take the Hokies to cover the -7.5.

Virginia Tech has solid defense, but the Hurricanes should be able to eclipse their 61.6 PA average with the game being at Coral Gables. And of course the Hokies will do their thing in the scoring department hitting an average of 78.6 PPG — -1.4 away from the 80 mark. As a result, I’d go ahead and take the over at 142.5.

PREDICTION: Virginia Tech 81, Miami 68

My Pick
VIRGINIA TECH -8
Andrew Powell / Author

Andrew Powell has been working with The Sports Geek since November 2018 providing analysis and predictions in both the realms of sports and politics. Studying journalism through the University of Michigan, Powell's experience in sports includes tenures at mainstream newspapers The Williamsport Sun-Gazette and The Lock Haven Express, and he would also be affiliated with FOX Sports Radio 1340 AM in Hopewell, Virginia. In politics, it would include a stint with Mad World News and multiple with the Republican Party. From the Super Bowl to The Kentucky Derby to President Donald Trump's hair, Powell has you covered at The Sports Geek.