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Big Ten/ACC Challenge - Penn State vs Virginia Tech Preview: Extra Motivation Might Not Be Necessary

D.J. Newbill will get his chance to settle an old score with the coach who left him at the altar four years ago.

Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
Who: Virginia Tech Hokies
When: Wednesday, 7:15 p.m. ET
Where: Bryce Jordan Center
KenPom Rank: 165
Vegas Line: PSU -10
Enemy Blog: Gobbler Country

Maybe Penn State fans should be thanking their lucky stars that Virginia Tech coach Buzz Williams acted like a slimeball four and a half years ago. D.J. Newbill, Penn State's star guard who currently averages 25 points per game, signed a letter of intent to play for Williams at Marquette in 2010. Everything seemed hunky dory until Jamil Wilson, a top-100 high schooler from Wisconsin, decided to transfer from Oregon after his freshman season. Williams pursued and eventually received a commitment from Wilson, but the Golden Eagles were out of scholarships. The solution? Release Newbill from his letter of intent on a flimsy technicality. A year later after playing his freshman season at Southern Miss, Newbill had this to say in an interview with the Philadelphia Inquirer:

"I'll always think about what could have happened," Newbill said Thursday in a phone interview. "I watch them play all the time."

Wilson went on to average 9.4 points per game during his time at Marquette, and Penn State ended up with one of their best players in school history, a player who doesn't seem to hold the slightest of grudges anymore. Which is fine, and a very professional and mature attitude to have. But that doesn't mean we can't root for D.J. to drop 50 points on Buzz's sorry ass.

Scouting The Opposition

The Hokies are an intriguing team at their best, and a pretty terrible team at their worst. On the positive side, Va Tech has two players shooting 50% from three-point range in Justin Bibbs and Adam Smith. Bibbs, a freshman, has started his career behind the arc at a blistering 12-17, while Smith leads the team in scoring at 14 ppg.

On the negative side, VT might be really bad. Other than Northern Iowa (KenPom: 63), who beat the Hokies by 20 in Mexico, Virginia Tech haven't played a team ranked higher than 271st in KenPom. One of those teams, Appalachian State, beat them on their home floor. The two portions of the game the Hokes struggle with the most are rebounding and ball security. They're only grabbing 28% of possible offensive rebounds while allowing their opponents to snag 35.7% of their possible offensive boards. In the turnover department, VT coughs it up on 23% of possessions. Chalk those up to inexperience and vertical deficiencies - Williams gives significant playing time to six freshmen, and only two players on the roster stand 6-9 or taller.

What To Watch For

Tech's lack of depth of front should give Donovon Jack and Jordan Dickerson another chance to prove their worth to Pat Chambers. Jack got schooled repeatedly by former high school teammate Nana Foulland at Bucknell and Dickerson can't seem to stay out of foul trouble at the moment. Against Joey Van Zegeren, the only Hokie big who plays more than 12 minutes a game, Penn State's struggling centers have quite an opportunity to assert themselves and assuage some fears.


Virginia Tech hasn't played much quality competition this season, and the only time they did it ended poorly. Northern Iowa was able to limit the Hokies' shooters and they won the game with ease because of VT's reliance on the jumper. So will Virginia Tech be the latest in a long line of teams to come to the Bryce Jordan Center and shoot the lights out? Yeah, probably. Can this Penn State team survive that kind of barrage? Yeah, probably, if they can take care of everything else, which they should. I'll take Penn State in another unnecessarily close game, 76-73. Hell, I'll say Newbill makes a game winning three right in front of Williams. Might as well get some good narrative in there.