Hurricanes men’s basketball prepares to face Virginia Tech in ACC Tournament quarterfinals

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The No. 11 Hurricanes (24-6, 13-5) will look to avenge its regular season finale loss to the Virginia Tech Hokies in Thursday night’s ACC Tournament quarterfinal matchup in Washington D.C. The Canes have been preparing all week long at Head Coach Jim Larrañaga’s former school George Mason, which he led to the Final Four 10 years ago.

The third-seeded Canes finished an impressive 13-5 in the ACC this regular season, but the team will be hungry to beat VT, as the Canes would have had a share of the regular season ACC title if it had beaten the Hokies last time out.

Although the Canes are the favorites to win over the sixth-seeded Hokies with a nine-point line, VT poses a serious threat to Miami. The Hokies have been an up-and-down streaky team all season long, but the team is on a hot streak right now, winning the last six games. The Hokies have been sharp from beyond the arc recently, led by sophomore guard Justin Bibbs who is second in the ACC in three-point percentage at 47 percent.

The Canes will need its perimeter wing defenders like junior guard Davon Reed and redshirt senior guard Sheldon McClellan to be aggressive and contest every jump shot. Both Reed and McCllelan, along with sophomore guard Ja’Quan Newton off the bench, are all extremely athletic guards.

The Hokies (19-13, 10-8) are a smaller team with three guards, two forwards and no true center. The only true threat on the boards is junior forward Zach Leday, who averages 7.7 rebounds per game. The Canes should be able to dominate the paint, as both senior center Tonye Jekiri and redshirt junior forward Kamari Murphy are an imposing presence near the basket. Jekiri, who stands at seven feet, averages 9.1 rebounds a game, and VT has no real option to defend him in the post.

The Hokies will likely switch to a 2-3 zone defense to deal with Miami’s post-game at certain junctures throughout the game. Over the course of the season, the Canes have consistently shown that it can beat the zone, led by redshirt senior point guard Angel Rodriguez’s dribble penetration.

The Canes will be well-rested heading into the game, as the team has been off since March 5, but one Cane will be particularly fresh. Newton was suspended the final three game of the regular season. The Canes will welcome his return, as they have lacked depth at the point guard position in his absence.

Tip-off is set for 9 p.m., but the game could start late if the preceding Virginia-Georgia Tech matchup runs long.

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