Liberty Flames vs. Virginia Tech Hokies Pick
Liberty Flames (29-6 SU, 17-14-1 ATS) vs. Virginia Tech Hokies (25-8 SU, 18-14-1 ATS)
When: Sunday, March 24, 2019 – 7:10 p.m. ET
Where: SAP Center, San Jose, California
Point Spread: LIB +8.5 / VT -8.5 (MyBookie Sportsbook)
Total: O/U 125
Last Time Out: Liberty beat Mississippi State 80-76 in the round of 64; Oregon beat Wisconsin 72-54 in the round of 64
Scouting the Flames:
The Flames used a strong second half to erase their small halftime deficit and upset the 5th-seeded Mississippi State Bulldogs. It should also be noted that this win was their first NCAA tournament win in school history. The Flames are now riding a 6-game winning streak and will hope to advance to the Sweet 16 for the first time ever.
Scouting the Hokies:
The Hokies welcomed back Justin Robinson, who has not played in a game since January 30th. Luckily, he was not needed all that much as the Hokies controlled this game throughout and got an easy win over Saint Louis. He will, however, need to be much more productive in the second round if the Hokies are going to book their spot in the Sweet 16.
Notable Betting Trends:
The Flames come into this contest 4-1 against the spread in their last 5 games overall. They have also covered in both games this season when they are a dog of 7.5 to 9.5 points. However, when Virginia Tech is a favorite in the same point category, they have won all 5 games against the spread. Both the Hokies and the Flames also play extremely well when they get their offense going and score 70 points or more. The Flames have posted a 25-4 record straight up, and the Hokies have gone 21-1 straight up in these situations.
Liberty Will Cover the Spread If:
They heat up from 3-point range again. Not generally known for their three-point shooting, the Flames shot lights out from behind the arc in their first-round win. Especially when their season average is 37.1%, and then they go and shoot 48% from long range against the Bulldogs, it will give them an excellent opportunity to hang with almost any team in the country. The real question remains if they can have this kind of shooting night in back to back games. Their best three-point shooter, Lovell Cabbil Jr., shot 4 of 7 from long range and the Flames will look to him again to hit those clutch shots when the time comes.
The Flames may have allowed well over their season average of 61.2 points to the Bulldogs, but a couple key defensive stands allowed them to pull away just enough to survive an advance. Now faced with Virginia Tech, who is less effective on the offensive end, they will still need to improve their defensive efficiency. Whether this means forcing more turnovers or just defending the three-point line against the 8th best three-point shooting team, the Flames must find a way to slow down the several Hokies players that can light it up.
Virginia Tech Will Cover the Spread If:
Justin Robinson has a bounce-back game. Yes, I mentioned Robinson earlier, but what he brings to the table for this Hokies squad is just that important. Robinson has now played in 22 games this season, and when not on the court the Hokies went a mediocre 6-5. In the games he has played, he has averaged 13.5 points and is among the top scoring threats for the Hokies.
Another guy to keep an eye on is both Kerry Blackshear Jr. and Nickeil Alexander-Walker. Both guys scored 10+ points against the Billikens, but Blackshear Jr. struggled considerably from the field. A positive sign however was he knocked down 11 of his 12 free throw attempts.
As for the Hokies’ defense, they were stellar against the Billikens. They defended the three-point line extremely tightly and allowed Saint Louis to make only 4 of their 17 long-range shots. This defensive effort shows us why the Hokies are 10th in the country in points allowed per game. Now Liberty is a much better offensive team than the Billikens so the Hokies will need to ramp up the pressure, even more, to slow them down considering they just hung 80 on Mississippi State.
Matt’s Pick for Liberty vs. Virginia Tech:
5Dimes has the Hokies laying 8.5 points in this round of 32 matchups. While both teams have solid defenses, the Hokies have too many playmakers on the offensive side of the ball and will pull away late. I am backing Virginia Tech to advance to the Sweet 16 and laying the 8.5.