Photo courtesy of Virginia Tech athletics
Well, hello there.
We have 2020 college basketball at it’s finest.
After the Virginia Tech Hokies were originally scheduled to square off against the Temple Owls this evening in “Bubbleville” as part of the Air Force Reserve Basketball Hall of Fame Tip-Off Tournament, COVID-19 had other plans. The virus found its way inside the Owls’ program, and has resulted in Temple having to quarantine for two weeks.
So who were the Hokies going to play Saturday night? Towson? San Francisco, who went on to upset fourth-ranked Virginia, instead? It was a no to both.
Instead, Virginia Tech had a little higher-profile opponent knocking on Mike Young’s hotel room door in the wee hours of Friday morning. When he answered, it was Jay Wright and the No. 3 team in the country — the Villanova Wildcats.
Game Day Information
When: Saturday, Nov. 28, 8 p.m. ET
Where: Mohegan Sun Arena, Uncasville, CT
PXP: Kevin Brown
Analyst: Jon Crispin
Series History: Villanova Leads 9-1
Last Meeting: Villanova Won 80-68 on Feb. 18, 2004
Line: Villanova -7.5
An Early Test
A year removed from Virginia Tech knocking off third-ranked Michigan State at the Maui Invitational in 2019, the Hokies will try to follow suit against the Wildcats by taking down the third-ranked team in a Thanksgiving week tournament for the second year in a row.
Virginia Tech was able to shake some rust off before arriving at the bubble Wednesday afternoon by knocking off nearby Radford, 77-62, at Cassell Coliseum. Wofford transfer Keve Aluma led the way for the Hokies with 19 points in his Virginia Tech debut, posing a threat from in the paint and the outside. Sophomore guard Naheim Alleyne also added 14 points for the Hokies, while fellow outside shooter Hunter Cattoor tallied 12, making a three-pointer on four straight attempts within just five possessions.
Young was also able to get transfers Cartier Diarra and Justyn Mutts a little bit more into the system, and the three-star freshman trio Joseph Bamisile, David N’Guessan, and Darius Mattox were also able to get meaningful reps.
The Villanova Wildcats just didn’t want to leave Connecticut.
Just hours after winning the 2K Empire Classic, 20th-year head coach Jay Wright and the Wildcats agreed to play the Hokies, hoping to go 3-0 between two invitationals after beating Boston College and Arizona State earlier this week.
Villanova is always an outstanding team year in and year out, and has won two national championships in the last four NCAA Tournaments. Wright’s team should be right in the thick of things again this year, and boasts some players who could be a problem for the Hokies.
The Wildcats advertise two preseason Big East first-team selections in Jeremiah Robinson-Earl, who is nearly averaging a double-double and leads the team in points averaged at 23 per game and Collin Gillespie, who is already averaging 13 points per game in his fourth year with the program.
The Hokies are going to be tested. But that isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
Playing a team like this, early in the season, can help groom Virginia Tech for what it’ll see in the ACC.
But in the end, the Wildcats are the No. 3 team in the country for a reason and they’ll find a way to make some shots behind the three-point line and beat the Hokies in a competitive one in the bubble.
Prediction: (3) Villanova 77, Virginia Tech 70
After tonight’s game, the Hokies will remain in the bubble for one more match-up against South Florida on Sunday evening.
That game will tip at 8 p.m. ET, and will be broadcasted on ESPN2.