After nearly a week off, the Tar Heels return to action this afternoon, when they host Georgia Tech, in their ACC home opener. This will be the first time that Carolina has played in the Smith Center, since beating James Madison the Sunday before the Thanksgiving holiday. Since turkey day, the Tar Heels have lost four straight, its longest losing streak since losing seven in a row during the disastrous 2019-20 season. As a result of four straight losses, Carolina has fallen completely outside of the AP top 25, after being ranked #1 less than two weeks ago. It's now back to the basics, as the team seeks to get its season back on track.
Georgia Tech enters with a 6-3 record overall, having just secured their most impressive win of the year so far, a 79-77 decision against Georgia earlier in the week. Josh Pastner has done a really good job, breathing life back into the program, as he’s only two years removed from winning the ACC Tournament, and taking the program back to the NCAA Tournament, for the first time since Paul Hewitt. Tech currently has three guys averaging double figures scoring, led by Miles Kelly, and his 13.4 points per contest. He’s followed behind by Dallan Coleman (10.3 PPG), and Deivon Smith (10.1 PPG). This is the ACC opener for Georgia Tech and only their second true road game of the season. In their previous road contest, they lost at Iowa 81-65 during the final ACC/Big 10 Challenge.
The week off was important for UNC, to first off get healthy, as Armando Bacot seeks to return today, after missing the Virginia Tech game with a sore shoulder, and a sprained ankle. Also, the time off allowed Carolina some time to get some things corrected during practice, something they haven’t had much time to do since heading out west for the Phil Knight Invitational.
Despite a four-game losing streak, Hubert Davis isn’t panicking, and rightfully so as there is much basketball still left to be played. Also, he’s only a season removed from his team starting slow, before figuring things out and going on a run that captivated the fan base. Here’s how they can start to right the ship, and in the process earn their first win over a Power 5 school this season:
Energy. Effort. Toughness: Last season it was “Energy, Effort, Toughness”, while the first two have stayed the same, the change at the end is quite noticeable. This season hasn’t been very fun for the Tar Heels, and as a result, there isn’t a lot of joy being displayed on the court. This team needs to find joy in doing the little things like diving for a loose ball or finishing a defensive possession with a box out. Once that starts to happen, you’ll this team play a lot more freely, and when that happens, it usually leads to wins.
Play With Patience: Georgia Tech is going to throw a lot of different defensive looks at UNC today, including a foul court press, ¾ court trap, zone, matchup zone, etc. Carolina needs to start getting into its offense much quicker, but they also need to be patient and make the Jackets work on that end of the court. The good news is that UNC has seen a lot of different looks defensively, so they should be prepared for it all. They’ll just have to display a level of maturity required to properly attack a multiple defensive minded team like GT.
Rebounding: UNC has lost the rebounding margin 5 out of the 9 games so. Simply put, that’s inexcusable for a program that values that aspect of the game, as much as any. Even if Bacot can go, Carolina needs to commit to sending at minimum 3 or 4 guys to the offensive and defensive glass. Georgia Tech rebounds the basketball by committee, so that means every player needs to be accounted for. If Carolina can control the backboard, it only increases their chances of winning.
Series History: UNC is 71-27 all-time against Georgia Tech while being 31-6 in Chapel Hill, and 25-6 in the Smith Center. UNC swept the season series last year.
North Carolina - 24th overall. Adjusted Offensive Efficiency: 114.7 (10th) Adjusted Defensive Efficiency: 95.7 (59th)
Georgia Tech - 119th overall. Adjusted Offensive Efficiency: 103.4 (143rd) Adjusted Defensive Efficiency: 98.8 (102nd)
North Carolina - 46th
Georgia Tech - 134th
TV Info: Today’s game will tip at 3:15 on ESPN.
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