The Spartans, fresh off their 15-point win over Portland on Monday, head to the Barclays Center in Brooklyn on Friday and Saturday as part of the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic. Their first opponent is the Virginia Tech Hokies.
Let’s take a closer look at the Hokies:
Head Coach: James Johnson (16-20, 2nd season)
Last season: 13-19
This season: 3-1
Key Players: Jarell Eddie, Ben Emelogu
James Johnson’s first season as head coach of the Hokies did not go as well as planned. They finished the season with only 13 wins, including a mid-season nine-game losing streak. Virginia Tech was able to notch one impressive win during the season, defeating #15 Oklahoma State 81-71 in December.
The lone bright spot of this team was senior guard Erick Green. He was a third-team AP All-America selection and led the nation in scoring. He was named ACC Player of the Year and earned First Team All-ACC honors from both the media and coaches.
Now, they have to move on without him. They will depend on Jarell Eddie to be their main scorer. Through four games, he’s averaging over 16 points with around six rebounds per game. The senior averaged just over 12 points per game last year. Freshman Ben Emelogu has been off to a great start in his career, averaging 15.8 points per game. He should present a challenge to Gary Harris on both sides of the ball.
The Hokies are 3-1 on the season, with a bad loss to USC Upstate by one point in the season opener. They also gave up 92 points to Virginia Military Institute on Monday, so they are a bit defensively challenged. This could be a high-scoring, possibly one-sided affair.
Michigan State finally shook off the ice and knocked down some three-pointers against Portland. If they can continue their hot shooting, the Spartans could run away with this one early. Keith Appling nailed all five of his three-point attempts against Portland and could present a challenge for the Hokies defensively.
VT’s main inside presence is 6-11 Trevor Thompson. He leads the team with 7.3 rebounds per game but only plays around 18 minutes. Adreian Payne, Alex Gauna and Matt Costello should have no problem on the boards, no matter who starts where.
Prediction: Hokies will hang around for the first half, but the Spartans’ offense is firing on all cylinders. MSU runs away with this one 83-62.
If Michigan State wins, they will face the winner of Oklahoma vs. Seton Hall in the championship game. If they lose, they will face the loser in the consolation game. Friday’s game will be at 9:30 pm on TruTV. If they win, the game on Saturday will also be at 9:30. If they lose, it will be played at 7:00.
Blake Froling is a multimedia journalist for Impact Sports
Photo: David Defever