Heel Tough Blog: Virginia Tech Preview


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There haven’t been many times in recent Carolina Basketball history, that the program was faced with a “must-win” scenario if they hope to play in the NCAA Tournament, but that’s where they find themselves, entering tomorrow’s game at Virginia Tech. UNC lost at home on Wednesday to then 10-16 Pittsburgh, which put the team squarely on the bubble for the NCAA Tournament. Up until then, Carolina had failed to lose a game it shouldn’t have, but that loss, which is identified as Quad 3 defeat, certainly qualifies. Carolina can make good with a win over the Hokies, which would be deemed a Quad 1 victory, something the team doesn’t have on its resume currently.


Mike Young’s squad is a different team than Carolina saw back in January, as they have ripped off six straight wins, to push their record to 16-10, and 8-7 in the league. They are led by Keve Aluma, and his 15.8 points per game, as he is one of four players to average double figures scoring. In addition to their balanced scoring offense, they boast a 41% percentage from behind the arc, which is second-best in all of college basketball. According to ESPN’s Joe Lunardi, he has Tech among his “Next Four Our” teams, as they try to make a case to participate in March Madness next month. A home win over Carolina would certainly help.


Virginia Tech enters playing for their NCAA hopes, just like Carolina, as they are currently among the “Last Four In” according to Joe Lunardi, meaning the team would be playing in the First Four in Dayton, something they haven’t done since the format was adopted. Wednesday’s loss was either the nail in the coffin for the team, and the season, or the final wake-up call, for a team that has lacked a consistent sense of urgency all season long. One way or another, we’ll find out which one it was later today at Virginia Tech:


  1. Desperation: Carolina has to play as if the season is on the line because in many ways it is. It’s hard to envision this team making a run, and winning the ACC Tournament in Brooklyn next month, which would earn them an automatic bid. Since the tournament committee started using the NET metrics to determine wins, no matter with zero Quad 1 wins, has ever made the tournament, as an at-large team. That means if Carolina wants to play in March, they’ll need to find a way to earn at least one of those wins before the regular season comes to a close. Their only two chances left are, at Virginia Tech today, and at Duke in two weeks. It would benefit the team, to go ahead and secure that win today, before that emotional trip to Cameron Indoor Stadium.

  2. Defend 3 Point Line: UNC got torched on Wednesday allowing Pitt to shoot 10-17 (59%) from behind the arc, in the home loss. If that happens today, not only will Carolina get beat, they will get run out of Blacksburg. The Hokies are the second-best distance shooting team in the country and have seven players shooting 36% or better from bonus territory. In the first matchup, Carolina limited Tech to 7-18 (38%) from behind the arc, they’ll need another similar effort like that today.

  3. Turnovers: In their last two games at home, UNC turned it over 29 times combined. In the first half against Pittsburgh, they coughed it up 10 times, as the Panthers turned them into 20 points. Turnovers have been a season-long issue, but even more so when away from Chapel Hill despite the recent output. The Heels will need to limit the mistakes in this game, and when they do turn it over, get back on defense, take away easy looks at the rim, or from behind the arc.

Series History: The Tar Heels are 71-15 all-time against VT, and are 18-5 since they joined the ACC. Carolina is 21-6 in Blacksburg overall, and are 8-4 in Cassell Coliseum. UNC has won 11 of the last 13 matchups but did lose the last time on the road.


KenPom:


UNC - 49th overall. Adjusted Offensive Efficiency: 113.8 (22nd) Adjusted Defensive Efficiency: 100.1 (117th)


Virginia Tech - 27th overall. Adjusted Offensive Efficiency: 114.7 (19th) Adjusted Defensive Efficiency: 98.2 (79th)


NET:


UNC - 45th.


Virginia Tech - 37th.


TV Info: Today’s matchup will start at 4 PM, on ESPN2.


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