2008-09 Basketball Game Preview: #2 UNC at Virginia Tech

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Virginia Tech (17-11, 7-7 ACC, #59 RPI) vs. #2 UNC (25-3, 11-3, #3 RPI)

Wednesday, March 4, 2009, 7pm

TV: ESPN


Special Preview Items:

The Hokies will face their biggest challenge of the year on Wednesday when #2
North Carolina invades Cassell Coliseum. The Tar Heels are the most talented
team in the ACC, and they are competing for the #1 overall seed in the NCAA
tournament. Led by Tyler Hansbrough and Ty Lawson, the Heels are an offensive
juggernaut, and the Hokies will have to keep the game low-scoring to have a
chance.

UNC is a loaded basketball team. They have five likely NBA Draft picks in
their starting lineup, as well as a future lottery pick coming off their bench.
Their star power is amazing, and any of their starters is capable of exploding
for 20+ points on any give night.

UNC
Starting Lineup
Pos. Name Ht. Wt. Yr. PPG RPG Assists
G
Ty Lawson
5-11 195 Jr. 15.8 2.6 182
G
Wayne Ellington
6-4 200 Jr. 14.9 4.9 73
F
Danny Green
6-6 210 Sr. 14.1 4.7 81
F
Deon Thompson
6-8 245 Jr. 11.2 6.2 19
F
Tyler Hansbrough
6-9 250 Jr. 21.3 7.8 21

Tyler Hansbrough was last year’s National Player of the Year. He is the first
National Player of the Year to return to school the following year since
Shaquille O’Neil did it back in 1991-92. Hansbrough has the size of a power
forward, but the heart of a center. He’s the toughest, most physical player in
the ACC. He sets the intensity level every time he steps on the court.

Hansbrough has also improved his jump shooting over his time in Chapel Hill,
but he’s most dangerous with his back to the basket, or when going after an
offensive rebound. Despite his obvious talent, he might not be the best player
on his team.

Ty Lawson has had a tremendous season for the Tar Heels, and he is a serious
contender for ACC Player of the Year honors. He leads the conference in assists,
averaging 6.3 per game in ACC play. Lawson is the quickest and fastest lead
guard in the conference. He gets to the glass easily. He has improved his
shooting tremendously this year. Lawson is shooting 49.4% from three-point range
on the season.

With Hank Thorns questionable for the game, responsibility of guarding Lawson
will fall on Malcolm Delaney’s shoulders. Remember that Delaney is only about
80% healthy according to Seth Greenberg, due to a hip injury. He will have his
work cut out for him against Lawson.

Wayne Ellington and Danny Green are excellent wing players for the Tar Heels.
Both are very good shooters, particularly Green, who is capable of filling up
the hoop even when guarded closely. Ellington doesn’t shoot it as well with a
hand in his face, but he’s deadly when left alone.

Green is also an excellent athlete. He can make plays around the rim, and his
long arms make him an ideal defender.

The final starter is Deon Thompson. Some say Thompson is playing
“soft” this year, but he is still putting up good numbers. He is
averaging 11.2 points per game, which is fifth on the team. When that number
ranks just fifth on the team, that’s a sign of an lineup that can put up a lot
of points.

UNC’s best player off the bench is freshman Ed Davis, a 6-10 forward from
Richmond who was a McDonald’s All-American last year. Davis is a very talented
player who could end up as a lottery pick in next year’s draft. With Hansbrough
and Green graduating, and Lawson and Ellington potentially declaring for the
NBA, Davis could be UNC’s star player next season.

Besides Davis, UNC doesn’t have great depth. Marcus Ginyard, the Tar Heels’
lock down defender, is out for the season. Tyler Zeller, another freshman post
player, missed most of the season with an injury. He returned recently and is
contributing, but he’s not in top-notch basketball shape yet.

Bobby Frasor is a former starter at point guard, and he is a valuable
contributor, but not a big scoring threat. Will Graves has been indefinitely
suspended, and Larry Drew II is a freshman who is still learning. The Tar Heels
get a lot of production from their starters, but their bench could be better.

VT
vs. UNC, ACC Games Only
UNC VT
Category Stat Rank Stat Rank

FG%
45.5% 3 44% 6

FG% Def.
42.8% 4 43.8% 6

3-Pt.%
37.5% 4 35.4% 5

3-Pt.% Def.
37.7% 11 35.2% 5

FT%
79.1% 1 68.2% 10

Reb. Margin
+6.6 1 0.0 6

TO Margin
+0.29 5 -0.07 6

Assist/TO Ratio
1.2 1 0.9 7

Scoring Off.
87.9 ppg 1 73.3 ppg 6

Scoring Def.
76.6 ppg 10 75.3 ppg 8

Average
4.1 6.5

UNC is an excellent offensive team that puts up a lot of points. They also
control the boards better than anyone in the conference. Virginia Tech is
basically a middle-of-the-pack team, as the conference standings and statistics
point out. VT ranks between fifth and eighth in nine of the 10 categories listed
above.

The Hokies have to keep this game in the 70s, or maybe even the 60s, to have
a chance to win. Last year they kept the game in the 60s in the ACC Tournament,
but it still wasn’t enough.

I think Tech will also need a hot night shooting, which is possible. The Tar
Heels are next-to-last in three-point defense, so A.D. Vassallo and potentially
Malcolm Delaney could have some open looks. However, if Delaney has to run the
point for all 40 minutes like he did against Duke, he won’t be able to play off
the ball and get as many good looks, and his hip injury will make him less
effective.

The Hokies’ backs are against the wall, and they (and most other ACC teams)
generally win when they are in that position. However, I think they have too
much going against them this time. If they were 100% healthy, I’d give them a
chance. But just think of what Malcolm Delaney will be asked to do, if Hank
Thorns can’t play. He’ll have to guard Ty Lawson, but fastest/quickest guard in
the ACC. He’ll be asked to score 20+ points. He’ll be asked to run the point.
He’ll be asked to be the team leader. All on a hip that is about 80%. That’s a
lot to ask of anybody, even a player as good as Delaney.

It would be nice if Tech could pick up this win, because I think it would
shoot them into the NCAA tournament. However, I think we’ll have to wait until
Sunday’s game against Florida State to have a realistic shot at that key win.

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