Heel Tough Blog: UNC takes on Virginia Tech in Quarterfinals of ACC Tourney
BREAKING RECORDS AGAINST THE IRISH:
Largest margin of victory in an ACC tournament game
101 points-tied for most in an ACC tournament game and first time scoring 100+ since 1993
Bacot, Kessler, and Sharpe first UNC trio since 1963 to have a double-double
Sharpe leads the country in offensive rebounding at 19.4%, Bacot is 27th at 14.4% and Kessler is at 19.6% but doesnt average enough minutes to qualify
12 blocks were a program record in ACC tournament
BY THE NUMBERS:
#6 UNC is 17-9 overall (10-6 in the ACC) Coming off of a second round win against Notre Dame
#3 Virginia Tech is 15-5 overall (9-4 in the ACC) Had a double bye. Last game was a win against Wake Forest on Feb. 27
A 101-59 blow out over the not so fighting Irish will give the Heels a shot at Virginia Tech tonight at 8:30pm. The game will be on ESPN. I will admit I didn’t watch the second half of the game as I am cranky without sleep and I am much more interested in staying up for the matchup against the Hokies tonight. Last night’s win makes it 2 solid performances in a row from the Heels. Look at any of the numbers and they are pretty incredible. We had more offensive rebounds in the first half than Notre Dame had total rebounds. We put 5 players (Bacot, Sharpe, Kessler, Love and Davis) in double figures. All 3 bigs recorded double doubles and Kessler was 2 blocks away from a triple double. The irish offered very little resistance down low. We racked up 25 offensive rebounds and 27 second chance points. The minutes Sharpe and Kessler got last night in Brooks’ absence were insanely valuable at this point in the year. They are getting postseason experience and you can really see the evolution of both players’ games. Kessler reminds me a lot of Tyler Zeller and he showed off his surprisingly good handles when he got a steal and then took it coast to coast for a smooth layup.
It would be nice to see Brooks go tonight, but I don’t see our seeding drastically improving unless we win the ACC tournament so I would rather him rest up for the NCAA tournament. We are 100% in at this point. A win against Virginia Tech would improve our resume though. Something else worth noting from last night’s performance was that other players stepped up and made 3’s when Walton was struggling. Walton went 1-5 but 5 different Tar Heels hit 3’s. Love went 3-6, Harris went 2-2 and Davis went 2-5. Platek added a 3 as well. We put 101 points on a night where Brooks didn’t play and Walton had 3 points. I will take that any day of the week. Love and Davis also both had good games as both freshmen guards got into double figures.
The defensive effort was vastly improved. We had 12 blocks. Kessler had 8 of them. Notre Dame shot 6-31 in the second half and 31.1% from the field for the game. A 37-2 run in the second half put the Irish away.
Usually when teams get into their postseason tournaments they are facing opponents for a second or third time, but due to covid pauses this will be the first time we will face the Hokies. It is an opportunity at another resume boosting win. Virginia Tech has had 7 conference games canceled. They were slated to play FSU twice, but had to cancel both those games. They have big wins over Virginia and Villanova. They were slated to play UVA twice as well but the second meeting was canceled. Their last game was on February 27th against Wake Forest. It was a blowout win for the Hokies. They have only played 2 games in the last month. The big question is if Virginia Tech will be rusty after canceling their final two games against Louisville and NC State. For our sake, I hope they look a lot like Louisville when we played them after an extended covid pause. Virginia Tech is a good team, but due to the amount of canceled games I would say they are somewhat unproven. We have played 6 more games than them and that is without 2 of our canceled games getting made up. Would Virginia Tech still be the #3 seed if they didn’t have to cancel so many games? Who knows.
This will be the 1st ACC tournament game ever against an opponent UNC didn’t play during the regular season. The Hokies only have 5 players that have played in all 20 of their games. They started Aluma and Mutts in the frontcourt and Alleyne, Radford and Bede in the backcourt in their last game against Wake Forest. This starting lineup has been pretty consistent. Cone has seen time in the starting lineup as well. They play an 8-9 man rotation but have had a 10 man rotation at times. They have 7 players that average over 20 minutes per game. 5 of those 7 players are guards. Aluma and Mutts see the majority of the minutes down low as N’Guessan and Pemsl see around 10 minutes per game each. Their tallest player is 6’9”. Aluma is 6’9” and Mutts is 6’7”. That leaves us with a significant advantage down low. Aluma and Mutts have both shot the 3 some this year. Aluma has 54 attempts and Mutts has 39. Aluma shoots 37% from 3. Mutts shoots 30.8%. Their best 3 point shooter is Cattoor at 44.9%. He sees about 22 minutes per game.
The keys for this game are not dissimilar to the keys for the Notre Dame game. We must guard the 3 point line and we must get the ball down low. Limiting turnovers goes hand in hand with the last part of that statement. Sometimes our best offense is getting a missed shot (i.e last night) so just getting a shot up is crucial as it could lead to more opportunities. Virginia Tech is not a good rebounding team. We average 8 more rebounds a game than they do and they are at a significant height disadvantage. Our bigs need to guard their bigs out on the perimeter and bully them downlow on the offensive end. We proved we can be efficient down low even without Brooks. Tech is similar in size to the Irish.
The Hokies are not a team that runs the fast break nor do they get very many second chance points. This team almost lives and dies by the 3. They attempt a lot of 3’s. They average over 23 attempts per game. They go as their 3 point shot goes. In both their big wins over Villanova and Virginia they shot 50% from 3. They went 10-20 against Villanova and 9-18 against Virginia. Shut them down from 3 and you limit their effectiveness on the offense end significantly. They score a fair amount of points in the paint, but even still we probably have around a 10 point advantage in that category.
Honestly, it isn’t an unfavorable matchup as long as we can guard the 3. We are a 3.5 point favorite at the moment. Due to a positive test within Duke’s program their season is over and we would play FSU if we can continue to play Carolina basketball.