11:30PM EST on ESPN2
Head Coach Mark Pope: First season at BYU after a 77-56 record in 4 seasons at Utah Valley, winning 23 and 25 games in each of his final two seasons, respectively. Was a BYU assistant from 2011-2015.
Virginia Tech and BYU are looking to bounce back Wednesday evening as both suffered double digit losses in the semi-finals of the Maui Invitational. Virginia Tech, falling from the ranks of the unbeaten, simply didn’t have the ability to match Dayton’s Obi Toppin in the post, or really anywhere for that matter, but the Hokies do get to face this BYU team without arguably their best player, 6’8 forward, Yoeli Childs. Childs nearly averaged a double-double last season, scoring over 21 points and grabbing just under 10 rebounds per game, on about 51% shooting, and 32% from 3 on about 3 attempts per game. Childs is suspended for the first 9 games of the season due to a violation of NCAA rules. You can’t replace Childs, obviously, but the production has to come from somewhere. A trio of guards have shouldered the majority of the scoring load in Child’s absence, including two senior guards in TJ Haws and Jake Toolson. Take a look at the per game individual numbers for this BYU squad through 7 games.
TJ Haws was in a major shooting slump before finding his way against UCLA on Monday. He shot over 85% from the free throw line last year and about 35% from 3. I expect to see some positive regression (is that how you phrase it?) for Haws in the near future, but hopefully not against the Hokies. Toolson and sophomore guard, Alex Barcello, have been lethal from 3 point range so far, and the Hokies will need to be sure to contest their attempts as much as possible. Speaking of Toolson, what an interesting career it has been for him, to say the least. Toolson was originally at BYU, but he transferred to Utah Valley State to be with Mark Pope (BYU assistant). When Pope got the BYU job, Toolson, who had the opportunity to choose UVA or Duke as a graduate transfer… chose BYU. Pretty cool story if you ask me, certainly not something you see very often in college sports.
6’2 SO Guard: Alex Barcello, AGE-21
6’4 SR Guard: TJ Haws, AGE-24
6’5 SR Guard: Jake Toolson, AGE-23
6’7 SR Forward: Dalton Nixon, AGE- 23
6’9 SO Forward: Kolby Lee AGE- (19 or 20 can’t confirm)
6’6 SO: Connor Harding- shooting 57% on threes at the moment, but on only 14 attempts
6’7 SR: Zac Seljaas
Nobody else averages more than 6 minutes a game
From a talent perspective I think that this game is pretty even, but BYU will have a major experience factor in this one, plain and simple. Will that experience help? Nobody knows. It didn’t help Michigan State much. But that’s why you play the game, aint’ it? Because anything can happen when you step in between those lines under those bright lights. This isn’t a massive BYU team, and it simply isn’t the best version of their squad due to the aforementioned Childs issue. If Tech can contest shots and contain BYU’s shooters, I like Virginia Tech to win a close one. I think BYU will have trouble guarding the Hokies, especially considering the fact BYU played the late game yesterday, giving them a few less hours to recover and prepare for their next game. For the Hokies, how will they respond to their first loss of the season? Is the energy and effort going to be there? I see some similarities between these two teams in that they want shooters at all 5 spots for the most part. Forwards Nixon and Lee are a combined 10-25 from 3 this season, so Tech will have to respect them from outside, along with the trio of Barcello, Haws, and Toolson. If you are lucky enough to be on the east coast like me, good luck staying up for the 11:30PM tip off, may the force be with you! Time for me to get some coffee.
Prediction: VT 71 BYU 70