The #8 by-golly unc tar heels stomp into Blacksburg Thursday night, angrier than an old man sending back soup at a deli after being trounced by 33 points at the hands of florida state on Saturday. But you know what? There should be some fire in the belly of the Hokies, too, who have now lost 3 games in a row to open the ACC slate. The Hokies took down the tar holes just 9 weeks ago in Blackburg in football on a Thursday night, so why not make that a tradition?
Normally I focus a lot on the opponent in these previews, but this time I’m going to put the spotlight on us more than usual. I mean, summarizing the heels is pretty easy:
They probably have the 2nd most talent in the country behind syracuse.
Harrison Barnes (SF) is the best player in the ACC and will be a top 5 pick in this NBA Draft.
John “Beanpole” Henson (PF) leads the ACC in rebounding and blocks, is 7th in points, and is another projected Lottery Pick this year.
Kendall Marshall (PG) leads the ACC in assists (by far — 3 more than #2), sits 2nd nationally in assists, and could be picked in the mid-teens in this NBA Draft.
Tyler Zeller (C) is also projected as a First Round Draft Pick this year. He sits at #4 in the league in rebounding, 8th in blocks, and 10th in blocks.
They have two freshmen that were McDonald’s All-Americans (P.J. Hairston and James Michael McAdoo (VA)) coming off the bench.
As I said, they are going to probably be very hostile and motivated after the whipping they took by the seminoles. The best chance at beating the heels is when they are soft and unfocused… I don’t think that will be the case Thursday.
But like I said, enough about them. Let’s look in the mirror a bit critically.
WHY WE ARE 0-3:
If you haven’t figured this out, I’m a stat guy. Maybe some day I’ll become the Billy Beane of basketball and they’ll make a movie about me where Matthew McConaughey plays me (he wishes). To me, the numbers tell it all. Let’s look side-by-side at where VT ranked in comparison to the rest of the ACC at the end of the out of conference schedule (so through the 2nd okie state game), and where VT ranks against their ACC brethren in ACC games ONLY (so a small sample size, but you’ll see what I’m getting at).
VT at the end of their OOC schedule
VT Thru 3 ACC Games
Made 3s PG
Off Reb %
Def Reb %
A few things stand out:
3-Pt% Defense (-13%): We were #1 in the nation in 3-Point % Defense for most of December. We are DEAD LAST in the ACC in this stat through 3 games. What that starts to tell me is maybe it was our level of competition pre-ACC, and that we aren’t flashing out on shooters as well.
FG% (-10%): Tech is DEAD LAST in FG%. And keep in mind, while VT played an awesome fsu defense, wake and bc were near the bottom of the league heading into ACC play. This stat scares me. The lack of offense is, has been (for years), (and will be?) a concern. But to fall that drastically?!
Robert Brown may be hitting a wall (or is adjusting to the talent in the ACC). He is just 4/14 from the field in ACC play, and started 1/7 from deep before hitting 2 late 3-pointers Saturday.
Doe Doe also is really struggling. He’s put up 2 goose eggs in 3 ACC games, and is just 6/25 with 17 total points in Tech’s last 5 games.
3-Pt Offense (-13% and -2.4 makes per game): Most of the ACC has seen their 3-point percentages drop, but Tech’s has been really bad. They are hitting just 25% from deep, and with their stagnant offense and poor transition game, this has really exposed their offensive struggles. Eddie is 6/14 on 3s in ACC play, but is just 4/15 from the field in the last 2 games. The Hokies really needed him to step up Saturday, and he didn’t have a made FG until the final 10 seconds when he nailed 2 meaningless 3-pointers.
PPG (-13.5): See above.
FTs: Still #1 in the ACC! This has been a real bright spot on O… when the Hokies are aggressive and attack the rim.
TO Margin (+5.5 and #1 in the ACC!): Wow, imagine being the best in the league at getting more turnovers than your opponent and still going 0-3. Wait, we are 0-3. That shows how bad our offense has been — we are getting 5 more possessions per game than our opponents (and 2 really bad ones) and still cannot beat them.
Clearly the bad are outweighing the good.
* We’ll see if Erick Green is able to return from his knee injury that cost him the bc game and play. Otherwise, this could get real ugly. But Erick has been practicing some this week and is expected to play.
^ This is not your typical unc team. They really only go 3 deep on their bench. Bullock and Hairston are 2 very tall guards that can also move to the ‘3’. McAdoo is really unc’s only backup post player that plays any significant minutes off the bench. unc will go small at times and play 3 guards (though with their height it isn’t an issue), and a mix of Barnes, Henson, Zeller, and McAdoo at the post spots.
All Time: unc 61-13
At VT: unc 18-6
In ACC Play: unc 8-3
At VT in ACC Play: unc 3-2 (but VT has won 2 of the last 3!)
Street Fight: unc does not like physical games. They are finesse at its best. Tech must have a lotta bit of Jeff Allen in them Thursday. Maybe save a ball and aim a bit high? Maybe watch footage of Christian Laettner walking up court? Nah, I can’t endorse dirty play. But let’s make sure they have an imprint of all our tattoos on them by the end of the game.
Pretend they are #1: Hey, unc could easily be #1 in the land. And they may be by the end of the year. Heck, they started #1. The Hokies love that underdog role, especially against #1. Well, being the favored team didn’t work (VT was favored in all 3 ACC losses). So let’s see if Seth can once again tap into his inner-underdog and inspire the boys.
Transition: The heels love to run and have a lot of great athletes that can finish on the break. Tech must get back and force them to play in the half court. Yes, they are really talented in the half court, too, but we’ll take our chances there. unc isn’t a great, or even good, 3-point shooting team so if the Hokies can avoid giving up layups, it gives VT a chance. Meanwhile, the Hokies must share the ball on the break and find some easy buckets. The heels don’t enjoy having to work on defense, so they can be exploited.
Get the Whistles: unc has a LOT of size. Yep, and another 7-footer (seems like every team but VT has one). We need this game called close, especially over-the-backs (like the ones the officials missed in the fsu game on Eddie). Plus, this unc team doesn’t have much depth. Strange to say VT can go as deep as the heels. My fear is Tech won’t be aggressive, or when they are, the ball will get swatted away with no fouls.
Monsters of the Glass: unc is #1 in the ACC at Offensive Rebounding %, collecting 40% of their misses. The Hokies must block out and limit second chance opportunities… part of that will be getting the whistles. Let’s hope Raines can stay out of foul trouble.
Shoot for a Higher 3-Pt %! Hey, 19 times in a row is more than a trend. The team that shot for a higher 3-point percentage has won Tech’s last 19 ACC games. The good news is, while VT is hitting just 25% from deep in ACC play, unc is dead last in the league at 20%. Plus, with unc’s size, the Hokies need to stretch the unc D.
Bonus: Support: This game may not be a sellout (wow). But I still expect the Hokie fans there, which may only be 67% of the crowd there (at best), will be fired up. And the students will be back. Early support could help the Hokies, who have crapped the bed to start the previous 3 games.
BORING FACTS ABOUT unc:
Founded in 1789
Stayed open during the Civil War
The Hokies own Franklin Street during football season!
Mascot is a live ram named “Rameses”
37 NCAA Championships in six different team sports (20 are women’s soccer… yawn)
unc has not won an ACC football title (or division, or even tied for a title) since 1980. Neither NC public school has won a title or tied for one since then. Tobacco Road may know basketball, but the supposed home of great BBQ sure stinks at pigskin
Bball: Michael Jordan, Vince Carter, Awtawn Jamison, Rasheed Wallace, Jerry Stackhouse, James Worthy, Larry Brown, Tyler Hansbrough, Ronald Curry
Other Sports: Lawrence Taylor (guessing he didn’t graduate), Dre Bly, Ronald Curry again (did you know he was the #1 football and bball recruit back in the late ’90s at Hampton HS? Check out his stats/their margins of victory some time – insane), Moonlight Graham, Mia Hamm, Julius Peppers, Marion Jones, B.J. Surhoff
Jim Halpert (character on the Office) supposedly went there – not the real one, the real person went to brown
Others: John Edwards, James K. Polk (11th President of the USA), Stuart Scott, Chris Matthews, Andy Griffith, Lewis Black, and Thomas Wolfe