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It’s Champ Week for college basketball, and the ACC tournament gets underway today. Carolina for the first time since the tournament expanded to 5 days, will be playing on Tuesday. The Tar Heels finished the regular season with a 13-18 mark, and only 6-14 in ACC play. This team was once ranked 5th in the country, the downfall was not foreseen by anybody around the program, or the landscape of the sport. The last time we saw the Tar Heels, they came up short in Durham, losing 89-76. The loss to Duke ended a 3 game winning streak that saw the team play its best basketball of the year.
Carolina’s first opponent is one that beat the Tar Heels in January, when they were without Cole Anthony, and Brandon Robinson. Virginia Tech scored a 79-77 double overtime win in a raucous Cassell Coliseum. Garrison Brooks was exceptional in that game, scoring 28 points, and grabbing 13 rebounds, but didn’t get enough help from his teammates to earn a win. Landers Nolley II was as good as advertised, scoring 22 points. He struggled from the field, but connected on 10/11 free throws to give the Hokies a lift. That loss at the time dropped the Tar Heels to 8-10 overall, 1-6 in the ACC, and extended the losing streak to 5 games.
When Virginia Tech won back in January, there was a chance that if they continued to play well, and pull off some upsets they could’ve found its way back to the NCAA tournament. That didn't happen, as they won only 2 games the rest of the season. They are still the same team we saw 2 months ago, they’ll go as far as Nolley II takes them. He’s one of two players that averages double figures scoring, at over 15 per game. Tyrece Radford is a nice piece, a guard that scores in double figures, while leading the team in rebounding. If a guard is your teams’ leading rebounder, then that tells you the issues they have in that area. Mike Young is a quality head coach, and has done a good job in first season guiding the program, so he’ll have his guys ready to play.
This isn’t the same team we saw lose to Virginia Tech earlier this season. Cole Anthony is back, and has seemed to figure it out. Brandon Robinson will be available to play, and is a part of the success this team has. Christian Keeling has carved out a role, scoring in bunches off the bench, and Garrison Brooks has established himself as premier big man in college basketball. None of that matters though, if they don’t play with a sense of urgency, which shouldn’t be a problem because their season is on the line this week in Greensboro. Winning 5 games in 5 days won’t be easy, here’s what they got to do to get it started though:
1. Dominate the Glass: The Hokies aren’t known for their rebounding prowess, which means the Tar Heels should expose them in that facet of the game. They didn’t do that the first time, only grabbing 4 more rebounds than the smaller foe. More importantly they only grabbed 6 offensive rebounds, at times this teams best offense comes after a offensive rebound. If they can’t rebound the ball, at the level they should against this team, the result might be the same as the first.
2. Half-Court Execution: This wasn’t as sharp the other night in Cameron. A lot of it had to do with the pressure applied by the Blue Devils on the ball, that took the Tar Heels out of rhythm. Virginia Tech isn’t in the same defensive stratosphere as Duke, so they should be able to get easier offense. The offense still needs to run through Brooks, but Anthony also needs to get downhill and attack the basket, as opposed to settling for contested jumpers.
3. Transition Opportunities: Carolina needs to get some points in the open floor. Virginia Tech doesn’t want to run, so that means they need to make them uncomfortable. Whether it’s pushing after a miss or a make, the ball needs to get up the floor more quickly. It would also help to force some turnovers, and get some easy buckets that way too.
Series History: All time, the Tar Heels are 68-15 against the Hokies. Since they joined the ACC, UNC is 15-5. The two teams have met twice in the ACC tournament, both wins for Carolina.
UNC - 84th overall. Adjusted Offensive Efficiency: 108.3 ( 71st ) Adjusted Defensive Efficiency: 98.6 ( 96th )
Virginia Tech - 96th overall. Adjusted Offensive Efficiency: 104.9 ( 140th ) Adjusted Defensive Efficiency: 97.4 ( 77th )
TV Info: The ACC Network has full coverage of the Tuesday portion of the ACC tournament. This will be the second game of the day, with a scheduled 7 pm tip time.