Heel Tough Blog: Virginia Tech Preview


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After a rough 0-2 week, UNC is back in action tonight, as they host Virginia Tech, in their first of three home games this week. This game was originally scheduled after Christmas, but COVID issues in the Hokies program forced the game to be postponed. With the game being moved to tonight, means Carolina is in a stretch of 5 games in 11 days. The first two games were blowouts on the road at Miami, and recently Wake Forest, only adding pressure to the Tar Heels to win, to keep pace with other teams making their case for the NCAA Tournament.


Behind Carolina, you could make the argument that Virginia Tech is the second most disappointing team in the ACC. After finishing third in the conference last season, and an appearance in the NCAA Tournament, expectations were high around Blacksburg this season. Instead, the Hokies are just 10-8, and 2-5 in the league, as they fell to Boston College over the weekend. They are led in scoring by Keve Aluma, and his 15.7 points per game, Justyn Mutts leads them in rebounding, assists, blocks, and steals, as the Hokies rely on those two to carry the load, every night. Like Wake Forest, Tech will pose matchup issues for Carolina defensively, as they can spread the floor, and have all 5 guys, attack off the dribble. Given the struggles of Brady Manek on that end of the floor, expect more Dawson Garcia in this contest.


After another rough outing on Saturday night, the best thing for this team is to get back on the court and try to gain some confidence. While Hubert Davis won’t admit this publicly, he knows the pressure is on this week, because a loss at home to either Tech, Boston College, or NC State would put them squarely on the NCAA Tournament bubble. If they sweep the week, they’ll at least keep themselves inside the tournament field, still seeking that first Quad 1 win. The good news is that Carolina is a drastically better home team than road one, and getting back in the Smith Center, might be just what the doctor ordered to turn this season around:


  1. Energy. Effort. Toughness: It was better the other night, but not good enough to get a win on the road, against a quality opponent. At home, this hasn’t been an issue, but we haven’t seen them having to respond after back-to-back blowout losses like they suffered last week. When this team is 100% bought in, you can see this team being a legitimate threat not only in the ACC but also nationally. That’s how good they’ve looked in home wins over Michigan, Virginia, and Georgia Tech. Their confidence will be shaken, and rightfully so, but if they are bought in for 40 minutes, Virginia Tech is going to have a hard time winning in the Dean Dome.

  2. Team Offense: The offensive issues last week, were a result of lack of aggressiveness, and too much isolation basketball. UNC assisted on just 33% of their field goals in Saturday’s loss, which simply isn’t good enough. This team has good shot makers and good shot creators, but it works at its best, when the ball is moving from side to side, and inside-out. Factor in the fact that Virginia Tech allows the 14th fewest points in all of college basketball, they’ll need to be at their best to generate good offense.

  3. 3 Point Defense: For all of their offensive struggles at times this season, Mike Young’s squad shoots 39% from behind the arc, which is 15th best nationally. They create most of their looks, by spreading the floor, and having shooters spotted open on the perimeter, UNC will need to be better defending on the ball, being active in passing lanes, and closing out on shooters.

Series History: The Tar Heels are 70-15 all-time against the Hokies, including 17-5 since they joined the ACC. In Chapel Hill, Carolina is 32-6, having lost just one time in the Dean Dome.


KenPom:


UNC - 43rd overall. Adjusted Offensive Efficiency: 113.5 (27th) Adjusted Defensive Efficiency: 98.6 (80th)


Virginia Tech - 37th overall. Adjusted Offensive Efficiency: 111.2 (46th) Adjusted Defensive Efficiency: 95.6 (48th)


NET:


UNC - 51st.


Virginia Tech - 52nd.


TV Info: Tonight’s game will tip-off at 8 PM, and will be televised by the ACC Network.


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