January 24, 2012

By thomaswarters

Virginia Tech and BYU face off Wednesday night at Cassell Coliseum in a later than normal non-conference matchup that would have been a lot more compelling last year when the senior-laden Hokies were an NCAA Tournament bubble team and the Cougars were en route to a Sweet 16 appearance with National Player of the Year Jimmer Fredette.

But alas, the 2011 version of Tech (12-7 overall, 1-4 ACC) is young and still trying to define roles for inexperienced and experienced players alike, and the Cougars (17-5, 6-2 West Coast Conference), while still a quality team, no longer have the sharp-shooting Fredette, the nation’s leading scorer last year who is now playing for the NBA’s Sacramento Kings.

Still, Wednesday night’s game is big for both teams as they try to climb into contention for postseason berths.

BYU has a respectable resume and ranks 58th in the RPI, according to RealtimeRPI.com. It has beaten a couple of Pac 12 teams, Oregon and Utah, and has lost to No. 25 Wisconsin and No. 6 Baylor. It also has potential damaging losses to Utah State and Loyola Marymount on its record as well.

The Hokies (RPI 68), who broke a four-game losing streak with a win at No. 15 UVa on Sunday, have no wins over non-conference opponents ranked in the top 60. Their best non-ACC win came against Norfolk State, which was 77th in the most recent rankings.

BYU has the added burden of a cross-country flight to Blacksburg. Google Maps says BYU’s campus in Provo, Utah, is 1,687 miles (1,990 if driving) from Blacksburg. The Cougars played at Pepperdine in Malibu, Calif., on Saturday and have a game against Saint Mary’s in Provo this Saturday. That’s quite the haul for three games.

BYU hasn’t been this far east since winning at Buffalo in December of last year.

The Hokies could use a win over a name non-conference opponent. The Cougars, playing their first season in the West Coast Conference, might not be what they used to be, but they do have a healthy reputation. They’ve made the last five NCAA Tournaments and won four Mountain West regular-season championships in their last five years in the conference.

The Cougars rank 13th in the country in scoring average (80 ppg), 17th in rebounding average (39.7), fourth in assists per game (18.5) and 20th in field goal percentage (48.4).

Tech ranks 30th in the country in points allowed per game (60.1) and is coming off a strong defensive outing in its win over Virginia.

BYU is 1-3 when held to under 70 points this season. The Hokies have held their opponents to under 70 in all but one game this season – their 82-68 loss to North Carolina last Thursday.

BYU forward Brandon Davies has five double-doubles this year. He had 29 points in the Cougars’ 77-64 road win over Pepperdine on Saturday. Six different BYU players have scored 20 points or more in a game this season.

The Cougars are 4-2 on the road this year. The Hokies are 8-3 at Cassell Coliseum. 

Tech junior guard Erick Green scored 15 points against the Cavaliers on Sunday to increase his ACC-leading streak of double-figure scoring games to 20.

BYU (17-5) at Virginia Tech (12-7)

Time: 7 p.m.

Where: Cassell Coliseum (Blacksburg, Va.)

Radio: 105.9 WLNI

TV: ESPN3.com (Internet)

BYU Starting lineup

Matt Carlino (G, 6-2, 175) 12.6 ppg, 3.3 rpg

Brock Zylstra (G, 6-6, 210) 9.0, 4.3

Charles Abouo (G, 6-5, 215) 11.5, 6.1

Noah Hartsock (F, 6-8, 230) 17.5, 5.4

Brandon Davies (F, 6-9, 235) 14.1, 8.1

VIRGINIA TECH Starting lineup

Robert Brown (G, 6-5, 190) 7.8 ppg, 1.6 rpg

Erick Green (G, 6-3, 185) 16.1, 3.4

Victor Davila (C, 6-8, 242) 6.5, 3.8

Jarell Eddie (F, 6-7, 218) 9.7, 5.2

Dorian Finney-Smith (F, 6-8, 192) 6.2, 7.5 

LAST GAME: Virginia Tech beat Virginia 49-45; BYU beat Pepperdine 77-64

LAST MEETING: BYU won 97-64 on Dec. 29, 1967 in only meeting of series.

KEY FACTS: Hokies and Cougars take breaks from conference schedules to play big non-league game. Tech could use a quality non-conference victory. BYU is currently third in the West Coast Conference and ranks 58th in the RPI. The Hokies’ best non-conference win, in terms of RPI, came against No. 77 Norfolk State. Tech currently ranks 68th. The Cougars are 13th in the country in scoring average (80 ppg), 17th in rebounding average (39.7), fourth in assists per game (18.5) and 20th in field goal percentage (48.4). They face a Tech defense that ranks 30th in points allowed per game (60.1). BYU is 1-3 when held to under 70 points this season. The Hokies have held their opponents to under 70 in all but one game this season – its 82-68 loss to North Carolina last Thursday.