Virginia Tech Hokies (21-12) vs #25 North Carolina Tar Heels (24-8)
ACC Tournament Semi-Finals
Friday, March 11th @ Barclay’s Center in Brooklyn, NY
How to Watch:
9:30 ET on ESPN
How to Bet:
UNC – 2.5, O/U 139.5
Va. Tech: 17-16 ATS, 2-3 ATS at a neutral site, 15-18 O/U
UNC: 16-15-1 ATS, 1-3 ATS at a neutral site, 19-13 O/U
- RPI: Va. Tech is 65th in Division I (0.5604), UNC is 29th (0.5981)
- Strength of Schedule Rank: Va. Tech (63rd), UNC (43rd)
- Strength of Record Rank: Va. Tech (57th), UNC (17th)
- Pace of play: Va. Tech is 350th in possessions per game, UNC is 71st
What to Watch For:
This is the third time these teams have met this year, with North Carolina winning both battles, 78-68 at home in January and 65-57 on the road just a few weeks ago. In fact, North Carolina is coming into this game incredibly hot, with an 8-2 record over their last two games, while scoring 82.3 points per game on 42.5% from the field while holding their opponents to 68.8 points per game.
While Virginia Tech is also 8-2 over their last ten games, they are scoring 74.2 points per game on 47.5% from the field but have allowed their opponents to score 72.9 points per game. As you could have likely guessed, that means seven of their last eight games have been decided by single digits, including a buzzer-beating three from Darius Maddox in overtime to help the Hokies avoid the upset against Clemson in their first game in the ACC tournament.
On the other hand, since losing to Pittsburgh on February 16th, North Carolina hasn’t played a game that’s been closer than seven points. Three of their last four wins have been by double-digits including the 13 point beatdown of Duke on the road in Coach K’s final home game and a 20 point throttling of Virginia in the ACC quarterfinals.
The Tar Heels have also been the more dynamic team on the season, ranking 32nd in the nation with 78.1 points per game despite being just 95th in the nation in FG%. Going up against a Virginia Tech team that ranks 168th in the nation in field goal percentage allowed at 42.9% should help North Carolina, but it will depend entirely on the pace of play. Virginia Tech is going to want to slow the ball down, there they can keep North Carolina’s offense at bay and also take advantage of a Tar Heel defense that ranks 188th in the nation, allowing 43.4% shooting from the field.
North Carolina also allows teams to shoot 34.6% from behind the arc, which is 251st in the country, which is a potential achilles heel against a Hokies team that is fourth-best in the nation with a 38.9% three-point field goal percentage. If the game is slow, and the Hokies are getting good looks from behind the arc, they can pull this one out, but if North Carolina is able to play at its pace, I’m not sure the Hokies can keep up.
Hubert Davis: 24-8 (.750) at UNC, in his first season taking over for Roy Williams
Mike Young: 52-35 (.598) at Virginia Tech, 0 ACC Reg. Season titles, 1 NCAA appearance in 2 yrs
Why it Matters:
Virginia Tech finds itself firmly on the bubble. ESPN’s Joe Lunardi has them as one of the first four teams out of the field and Bracket Matrix shows that just 16 bracket-prediction services have them in the tournament as of now. There’s a strong chance that they would miss out on the tournament if they lose this game, so the stakes couldn’t be higher for them. North Carolina seems firmly in the field but is currently penciled in to be an 8-seed, so I’m sure they would love to continue their run in the ACC tournament to try and give themselves an easier path come tournament time.
Players to Know:
Armando Bacot, UNC Forward, Junior
Per game stats: 16.4 points, 12.4 rebounds, 1.8 blocks, 58.9 FG%
As you can tell from the numbers, Bacot is a tremendous rebounder. He has plus athleticism for his 6’10” 245-pound frame and is really mobile and physical as a defender. He remains inconsistent as a player and lacks much of a face-up game, but he also excels in a fast-paced environment and can score with his back to the basket in addition to being a menace on the glass.
Caleb Love, UNC Guard, Sophomore
Per game stats: 15.6 points, 3.4 rebounds, 3.8 assists, 1.1 steals
Despite not being the leading scorer on his team, Love is the highest projected NBA pick of any player in this game; albeit, only a projected second-round pick. He’s an athletic combo guard who has a downhill, attack-first mentality. He’s a fine shooter and solid playmaker but isn’t really elite at either; however, he is a pesky defender and plays at the kind of pace that can catch defenses off guard.
Keve Aluma, Va. Tech Forward, Senior
Per game stats: 15.6 points, 6.5 rebounds, 1.8 assists, 53.3 FG%
Aluma is another strong and mobile big man, but he will certainly have his hands full with Bacot. Aluma is the much better shooter of the pair, so he could force Bacot to guard him closer to the perimeter, but Aluma is not nearly as strong of a rebounder and can be too passive at times, which is not going to work against the speed and athleticism of the Tar Heels. He’ll need to find that aggressive streak and hit his shots if Virginia Tech is going to pull off the victory.