NCAA Tournament Round Two Pick: #12 Liberty vs #4 Virginia Tech
Can Hokie Defense Contain Red Hot Flames?
Our Liberty vs Virginia Tech preview for this 2019 NCAA Tournament matchup has the Hokies listed from between -8.0 and -9.0. This Round Two East Region game will start at 7:10 pm ET and be played at the SAP Center in San Jose, CA. Featuring the 12th- seed Liberty Flames (29-6) and fourth-seed and 16th-ranked nationally Virginia Tech Hokies (25-8), this Round Two contest will decide which of these two teams will push forward to next week’s Sweet 16. We expect a lot of outside shooting, with Virginia Tech using its tough defense to force the Flames into taking low-percentage shots. Here’s how these two teams look.
The Flames made it to Round Two by beating a very tough, fifth-seed Mississippi State Bulldogs team. The victory marked Liberty’s first-ever NCAA Tournament win. The battle between the Flames and Bulldogs was back and forth, with MSU going into the locker room at halftime ahead 37-35. In the second half, with 1:37 left in the game, Liberty was down to Mississippi State 70-69. But then at 1:21, a three-pointer by guard Lovell Cabbil Jr. put the Flames ahead 72-70, and after that, they never gave up the lead. In that game, the Flames certainly proved that they are capable of rising to the occasion.
Against the Bulldogs, Liberty shot 46.2% from the floor, 48.0% from downtown, and 80.0% from the free throw line. Those are all top-notch stats. Guard Caleb Homesley led all scorers with 30 points. Cabbil put up 18 points and was three-of-four on three-pointers. He also posted five of the Flames’ 14 assists. Inside, forward Myo Baxter-Bell scored 13 points, grabbed four rebounds, and dished off four assists. He was the playmaker in the paint. Forward Scottie James, who nailed six points and six rebounds in the game, can be a bull. However, our Liberty vs Virginia Tech preview notes that the Flames could use some additional depth upfront.
Virginia Tech Hokies
In their initial 2019 NCAA Tournament game, Virginia Tech made short work of the 13th-seed St. Louis Billikens. About four minutes into the game, the Hokies went ahead 6-4, and they led the rest of the way. At halftime, it was VT 40 and St. Louis 18. In the second-half, the Billikens never got closer than within 10 points. The final score was 66-52. Our Liberty vs Virginia Tech preview notes that against the Billikens, the Hokies hit 40.0% of their threes and 81.5% of their frees. They were also good on 41.7% of their field goals.
In the game with St. Louis, VT guard Nickeil Alexander-Walker hit for 20 points, grabbed six rebounds, and made three steals. Guards Ahmed Hill and Justin Robinson put up 10 and nine points respectively. They each gathered in three rebounds and made two steals. Also, guard Ty Outlaw, who scored seven points, was good for seven rebounds. Inside, forward Kerry Blackshear Jr. led all VT players in the paint with 15 points.
NCAA Tournament Round One – Liberty vs Virginia Tech Preview Pick
In their first-round games, both Liberty and Virginia Tech were challenged around the hoop, and we think that rebounding could be an issue in this contest. We expect to see a battle in the paint, but more so, we think the outside game will be important. That being the case, the Hokies do hold an edge over the Flames. Plus, VT’s defense is very tough and seasoned. That means our Liberty vs Virginia Tech preview has to give the edge to the Hokies. They should be able to keep the Flames in check. In this one, we’re taking Virginia Tech at -8.0.
Summary East Region, Round Two – Liberty vs Virginia Tech Preview & Pick: Virginia Tech Hokies at -8.0