The last meeting between the Musketeers and Hokies was one for the ages. It was the Puerto Rico Tip-Off Classic in 2008, and these teams seemed destined for a second overtime. Tied at 60 with just three seconds left in overtime, Tech’s Jeff Allen tipped in a shot to take the lead. Xavier’s Dante Jackson took the inbounds pass and sprinted up the court before firing off a desperation heave from half-court.
The ball fell through the rim, and the Musketeers came away with the win. Two days later, they would defeat Memphis to win the event.
This time around, both teams are coming into this after suffering their first loss of the season. Xavier went cold in the aforementioned loss to Iowa State, shooting 3-21 from 3-point range. Virginia Tech battled back from an early deficit to take a late lead, but the Hokies fell apart down the stretch against Memphis, who ended the game on a 14-2 run.
Virginia Tech’s defense enters Friday night as one of the best units in the nation. They ranked fourth in points allowed per game, in large part due to their perimeter defense. The Hokies allow a shooting percentage of just 18.8 percent from deep, the best mark in the country.
Senior Justyn Mutts is the primary reason for the Hokies’ success in their own end. The forward averages nearly two steals per game and is a force on defense, flying around the floor and locking down opponents. Mutts also leads the team in rebounding with 7.5 per game.
While Virginia Tech boasts elite 3-point defense, Xavier’s offense has not needed to face top tier opponents to struggle from deep. The Musketeers’ 27.5 percent shooting rate from the perimeter ranks near the bottom of Division I. Thankfully, they also haven’t needed to hit those shots to win.
Xavier’s offense thrives on offensive rebounding, collecting nearly 40 percent of rebounds off their own shots. Sophomore Colby Jones ranks in the top 50 nationally in offensive rebounding percentage per KenPom. They’ve thrived on second-chance looks and paint opportunities, with Jones, Dwon Odom, and Deionte Miles all hitting at least 60 percent of their shots from inside the arc. It’s transfer Jack Nunge that stands above them all, though. Nunge is 20-24 from 2-point range so far this season, the seventh best percentage in college basketball.
Friday night’s third place game at the NIT Season Tip-Off should be an old-fashioned, defensive battle. The team that owns the paint should come away with a victory at the Barclays Center, while the loser will head back home after Thanksgiving with back-to-back losses.
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Time: 7 p.m. ET