Virginia Tech-Kansas State: Huge Early Season Matchup With a March Madness Vibe

Justin CocchiolaCorrespondent INovember 15, 2010

WINSTON-SALEM, NC - JANUARY 21:  Jeff Allen #0 of the Virginia Tech Hokies celebrates with teammates after defeating the Wake Forest Demon Deacons 78-71 during their game at Lawrence Joel Coliseum on January 21, 2009 in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

Usually early in the season, your more powerful basketball schools are taking on weaker mid-major opponents.  Luckily for us, we have ESPN's 24 hours of hoops in the second week of the college basketball season.

The No. 23 Hokies will travel to Fred Bramlage Coliseum to take on the third-ranked Wildcats of Kansas State.  This is a great matchup between two teams that are expected to finish near the top in their conference when March comes rolling around.

The game will likely be dominated by senior guards Malcolm Delaney and Jacob Pullen.  Both are the leaders of their squads and are heavily relied upon throughout the game.  However, each team will need production from their frontcourt big men, and the team that dominates the paint will have the best chance to win.

That means the Hokies will need Jeff Allen to replicate his performance against Campbell.  Allen scored 11 points and added 14 rebounds, five assists, two steals and four blocks.  However, his most important statistic was his 31 minutes played.  Why is this important?  Well, Allen found himself in foul trouble the majority of the time last season.

If the Hokies are going to win the game, Allen has to stay on the floor.  For one, the Hokies are lacking frontcourt depth.  Offseason injuries and health concerns for J.T. Thompson and Allen Chaney are not doing the Hokies any favors, and sophomore Cadarian Raines is also out with an injury.

Basically it's Allen and Victor Davila in the frontcourt for the Hokies, and when they want to play smaller they will move Terrell Bell into that slot. 

Another frontcourt concern for the Hokies has to be Davila.  He didn't take a single shot against Campbell and went to the foul line three times, missing all of his attempts and only recording five rebounds.  Davila has to step up his game in order for the Hokies to have a successful season.

The good news for the Hokies frontcourt is that it will be facing a Kansas State frontcourt that lacks size as well.  The Wildcats start three guards and two forwards, but the wild card for them may be their seven-footer coming off the bench.

Jordan Henriquez-Roberts is a 7'0" tall sophomore who is probably K-State's biggest key to victory.  If he can give the Wildcats valuable minutes off the bench and provide a good defensive presence in the key, it's going to be hard for the Hokies to win.

Size has bothered Allen in the past, and it's really affected his rebounding ability, especially offensively.  Duke's Brian Zoubek dominated Allen on the boards last year, which was a big factor in Duke beating the Hokies.

However, all signs point to a more mature Allen.  Hokies head coach Seth Greenberg has been on record as saying that Allen has been the best player in preseason practice, and he thinks he's really matured as a player.  It showed against Campbell, but now it's time for Allen to show it on the national stage.

Delaney and Dorenzo Hudson will also need to have good games on both offense and defense.  Pullen is a tough matchup for anyone and he can single-handedly take over a game.  The Hokies can't allow this to happen.  K-State already has a big advantage playing at home and a great performance by Pullen will only get that crowd more amped.

The Hokies will also need some production from their bench in order to win this one.  Freshman forward Jarell Eddie gave the Hokies a nice boost off the bench against Campbell in his first action with six points, three boards and two assists in 15 minutes of play.

Virginia Tech will likely call on sophomore guard Erick Green to run the point a lot in this game as well.  Green's ability to facilitate and run the offense will be key, and it opens up Delaney to play off the ball and get more scoring opportunities.

If the Hokies can control the frontcourt, limit Pullen's explosiveness and get productive minutes from their bench, they will have a great chance to win.  However, it all starts in the frontcourt.  Expect K-State to go at Allen and Davila hard in the first few minutes.  If they get either one of them in early foul trouble, especially Allen, it may be too much for the Hokies to overcome at this point in the season.

This is a big game for both teams, but the Hokies need it more.  They were picked to finish second in the ACC this year, and weak out-of-conference scheduling has prevented them from going to the NCAA tournament in March.

The talent is there, and the big games are on the schedule.  All that the Hokies need to do now is win the big games and prove to the nation that they are a rising power in college basketball.  They have their chance to do so on ESPN in a hostile environment against the No. 3 team in the nation.

This game will likely go down to the wire, and foul shots down the stretch will be key.  If Delaney can get to the line 10-plus times, the Hokies will be in good shape.  Look for the Hokies to play a sound game on both sides of the ball and pull the first big upset of the college basketball season.

Virginia Tech 77, K-State 71