N.C. State's Braxton Beverly (10) passes to Omer Yurtseven (14) during N.C. State's 72-63 victory over Wake Forest at PNC Arena on Thursday, Jan. 18, 2018. Ethan Hyman ehyman@newsobserver.com
N.C. State's Braxton Beverly (10) passes to Omer Yurtseven (14) during N.C. State's 72-63 victory over Wake Forest at PNC Arena on Thursday, Jan. 18, 2018. Ethan Hyman ehyman@newsobserver.com

NC State

Five things to watch when NC State plays at Virginia Tech Wednesday night

By Steve Wiseman

swiseman@heraldsun.com

February 07, 2018 02:48 PM

BLACKSBURG, Va.

N.C. State continues the tough stretch of its ACC schedule that features five out of seven games on the road when it plays at Virginia Tech Wednesday night.

The game starts at 9 p.m. at Cassell Coliseum and can be seen on Fox Sports South.

Here are five things to watch as the Wolfpack (16-7, 6-4 ACC) look to continue their strong play against league foes.

No longer road kill

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N.C. State lost its first three ACC road games in lopsided fashion – 78-62 at Clemson on Dec. 30, 88-58 at Notre Dame on Jan. 3 and 68-51 at Virginia on Jan. 14.

But the Wolfpack has reversed things lately away from home, beating Pittsburgh 72-68 on Jan. 24 and North Carolina 95-91 in overtime on Jan. 27.

N.C. State can even its road record with a win Wednesday night, something that would add to the strong resume it is putting together for the NCAA tournament selection committee.

Bubble battle

N.C. State and Virginia Tech are among the teams around the country fighting to earn an NCAA tournament berth with a month to play before selection Sunday.

While this isn’t an elimination game for the Wolfpack (No. 59 RPI) and the Hokies (No. 68 RPI), the winner will deal a blow to the loser’s chances.

Virginia Tech’s position is a bit more perilous than the Wolfpack, so an N.C. State win on the Hokies’ home court will severely damage Virginia Tech’s hopes.

KenPom says…

Ken Pomeroy’s projections, using advanced statistics, gives Virginia Tech a 68 percent chance of winning Wednesday night’s game. The projected score is Virginia Tech 85, N.C. State 80.

Stay on the shooters

Virginia Tech is No. 3 in the country in effective field goal percentage at 59.2. That’s a KenPom stat that gives team’s extra credit for made 3-pointers. Only Villanova (60.2 percent) and St. Mary’s (59.8 percent) are better nationally. The average for all Division I teams is 50.2 percent. (N.C. State is 51.5 percent).

So the Wolfpack will need to contest as many Virginia Tech shots as possible. The Hokies aren’t likely to miss many open shots.

Protect the ball

N.C. State has been at its best when it keeps its turnovers low and it assists on a high percentage of its made field goals.

The Hokies are below average nationally in terms of forcing opponents into turnovers, something that should help the Wolfpack score more points in this game.

Nationally, teams are committing turnovers on 18.8 percent of their possessions. Teams playing Virginia Tech do so on 18.1 percent of their possessions, which leaves the Hokies 218th in the country as a defense.

N.C. State turns the ball over on just 16.8 percent of its offensive possessions, good for No. 61 nationally.