Penn State and Virginia Tech played a pretty similar game in the first round of the Charleston Classic, one where they saw their respective teams open up a huge lead in the first half, only to see it evaporate almost entirely in the second, leading each team to sweat out a victory in the end. The Nittany lions led Furman by as many as 21 points in the game, while the Hokies were up 18 on Old Dominion as the first half started to wind up. Both the Paladins and the Monarchs were able to close out the game, leading to the nail biters each winning fanbase had to experience.
Now, the Hokies and the Lions look to learn from that experience and make it to the championship game, where they’ll await the winner of Charleston and Colorado State. Both squads enter the game at 4-0, looking to pick up a win that will hopefully boost their resumes early. A number of Penn State players should be familiar with the Hokies, as Penn State played Virginia tech in the Big Ten/ACC challenge two seasons ago, under coach Mike Young’s second season at the helm.
Scouting the Opposition
Like the rest of college basketball, Virginia Tech is being boosted this year by the transfer portal, with Grant Basile (from Wright State) and Mylyjael Poteat (from Rice) complement a returning cast of previous transfers Justyn Mutts (Delaware), Lynn Kidd (Clemson), and recruited players in Sean Pedulla, and Darius Maddox. These six, along with Hunter Cattoor and MJ Collins, take the bulk of the minutes for the Hokies, with Mutts, Kidd, Pedulla, Cattoor, and Maddox getting the starting nod.
Like Penn State, Virginia Tech has several players that can shoot from outside, and complement it well with having three players at 6-foot-9 or taller (Basile, Poteat, and Kidd). They play at a similar tempo as the Lions, with a similar inside-out mentality to get their shooters in good scoring positions.
What to Watch For
First and foremost, how is Virginia Tech’s height going to affect the Lions? We’ve seen in two games now that an effective inside presence can give the Lions problems, so having three players that all get good playing time potentially posing problems for Penn State inside is not an ideal situation to be. Kebba Njie, Caleb Dorsey, and whoever else takes the job of guarding the inside player (likely Myles Dread) will need to stay out of foul trouble, as one can almost guarantee the Hokies will look to win this game in the paint.
If the Lions happen to find themselves in good position with the game closing out, will we see what we saw in the past two games, where Penn State seemingly stopped playing its brand of basketball, letting the opponent right into it? The game against Butler saw a ton of turnovers, leading to a double-digit lead evaporating almost instantly. Against Furman, the Lions kept taking bad shots, which, unsurprisingly, did not go in. Both times, the intention was to run as much clock as possible, which in theory is a good idea, but in practice, is going to cost Penn State if they don’t execute.
Penn State is a 1-point underdog for a reason. Everyone believes this game will be pretty close, and I am one of those folks. That said, I’m going to take Penn State as the team to go 5-0. Penn State 68, Virginia Tech 65.