It’s about time.
Ole Miss has had the luxury of playing five of its first eight games of the 2016 college basketball season in front of its home crowd inside The Pavilion. Head coach Andy Kennedy’s Rebels (6-2) will now step away from the friendly confines of home for their first true road game of the season (outside of tournament play) on Sunday against Virginia Tech (11:00 a.m. CST, ESPNU).
The Hokies have protected their home floor, winning all four of their contests against Maine, High Point, Virginia Military Institute, and Maryland-Eastern Shore, by an average of 17.8 points per game. Virginia Tech has won three in a row, with its most notable victory of the season coming against Michigan on the road, a victory that marked the Hokies’ first Top 50 RPI win of the season.
Scouting the Hokies
Virginia Tech (7-1) has a balanced offense, led by senior forward Zach LeDay, who’s averaging 17.4 points and 7.3 rebounds per game. The Hokies have a total of four players averaging in double figures. Junior guard Ahmed Hill is averaging 12.4 points, while sophomore guard Justin Robinson is adding 11.4 points and senior guard Seth Allen, 10.9 points.
Defensively, Virginia Tech is holding its opponents to an average of 66.8 points per game while shooting 42.3 percent from the field.
“They are a good basketball team,” Kennedy said of the Hokies, a team whose only loss this season came against Texas A&M in the Wooden Legacy semifinal round.
“It’s typical Buzz Williams. They’re going to be tough. They’re not going to give you anything easy. And he’s doing it in a variety of ways through versatility. They got a lot of different weapons.”
Andy Kennedy on Buzz Williams’ Hokies
Outside of Virginia Tech’s top four scorers, it has two players in junior guard Justin Bibbs and sophomore guard Chris Clarke who are averaging 8.6 points and 8.3 points per game, respectively. The Hokies are shooting 48.5 percent from the field, including 38.9 percent from three.
Sunday’s road game offers opportunity for Rebels to grow as a team
Kennedy has seen his team be proficient on both sides of the basketball in spurts this season, but he has yet to see a complete performance that gives him total confidence before conference play starts after Christmas.
The Rebels are averaging 82.8 points per contest but are giving up 81 points per game. Kennedy sees that his team’s weakness lies on the defensive side, most specifically in the area of communication, and he is hopeful improvements will come–starting in an Atlantic Coast Conference arena like Cassell Coliseum that seats 10,052 people.
“I think they are looking forward to it,” Kennedy said about his team’s mindset for the road game against Virginia Tech. “It’s going to be a big test for us.”
“It’s one that will give us the opportunity to learn more about ourselves, and now that we have eight games under our belt, it’s time for a lot of our guys to take that next step in consistency and take that next step in really forming brotherhood on the court, being an ultimate team.”
Kennedy on what his team can learn from game against Virginia Tech
Meaningful game for RPI rankings
Ole Miss heads into Sunday’s matchup ranked 27th in the RPI rankings, one of six Southeastern Conference programs to be ranked in the RPI Top 30. Virginia Tech has an RPI of 75. The Rebels are 3-2 this season against the RPI Top 100.