2009-2010 Basketball Game Preview: Virginia Tech at #9 UNC

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  • Date: Sunday, January 10, 2010
  • Time: 7:45 pm
  • TV: FSN (check local listings)



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Virginia Tech will face another significant challenge away from Cassell
Coliseum this Sunday night when they begin their ACC slate against North
Carolina. The Tar Heels are a much different team this year, but they are still
very capable. The Hokies will have to play their best basketball to win, and
they’ll probably have to do it without Malcolm Delaney.

North Carolina is 11-4 on the season. Three of Carolina’s losses are
understandable. The Tar Heels lost to Syracuse (14-1), Kentucky (15-0) and Texas
(14-0), all legitimate contenders for the Final Four. The Tar Heels were pretty
competitive with Kentucky and Texas, considering UNC is such a young team.

The disappointing loss for UNC came this past Monday, when College of
Charleston upset the Tar Heels 82-79 in overtime. UNC didn’t have the services
of starting wings Marcus Ginyard (6-5, 210, r-Sr.) and Will Graves (6-6, 240,
r-Jr.), both of whom are out with ankle injuries. Ginyard has missed the last
four games, and he’s UNC’s best perimeter defender. Graves has missed only the
College of Charleston game, but he is UNC’s best outside shooter. Their status
for Sunday night is unknown at this time.

If the Tar Heels are without Ginyard (11 ppg, 3.9 rpg) and Graves (7.8 ppg,
3.9 rpg), they will start two unknown freshmen in their place.


North Carolina Starting Lineup

Pos.

Name

Ht.

Wt.

Yr.

PPG

RPG

G

Larry Drew II

6-2

180

So.

8.4

2.5

G

Dexter Strickland

6-3

180

Fr.

5.3

1.3

F

David Wear

6-10

225

Fr.

2.8

1.5

F

Ed Davis

6-10

225

So.

15.2

10.2

F

Deon Thompson

6-9

245

Sr.

15.9

7.4

Larry Drew runs the point, and he’s done a solid job this season. He has 93
assists to just 46 turnovers. He is not the athlete that Ty Lawson was, and he’s
not a scoring point guard. However, he can knock down the open three-pointer
(43.8% on 32 attempts), and in general he’s done a good job with the UNC offense
this season.

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Drew was a question mark heading into the season, but the real reason the UNC
backcourt is the weakness of the team is the fact that they don’t have a true
scorer. At 11 points per game, Ginyard is the top scorer of all the Tar Heel
perimeter players. That’s not a good thing, because Ginyard is not a natural
scorer. He’s improved that part of his game throughout his career, but he’s on
the court for defense and energy.

The other regular starter, Will Graves, is a good outside shooter. He is
hitting 39.3% of his three-pointer attempts, and he has the green light more so
than any other Carolina player from the outside. However, Graves hasn’t been
much of a scorer inside the arc, and in general he just isn’t the type of player
that the Tar Heels are used to having on the perimeter.

If Ginyard and Graves can’t go, freshmen Dexter Strickland and David Wear
will get the start. Strickland was a McDonald’s All-American last season, but he
has struggled with his shooting so far this year. He is averaging 16.2 minutes
per game, he’s shooting 40.6% from the field, 28.6% from three-point range and
62.1% from the free throw line. In UNC’s recent loss to College of Charleston,
Strickland was just 2-of-11 from the field.

David Wear gives UNC three posts in the starting lineup, though he probably
won’t play more than 15 minutes in the game, even as a starter. He’ll be joined
on the court at times by his twin brother, Travis Wear (6-10, 235, Fr.). They
are combining to average 5.9 points and 3.4 rebounds per game.

Without Ginyard and Graves, this new Carolina lineup doesn’t provide much of
a three-point threat.


Carolina 3-point Shooting
Without Ginyard and Graves

Player

3-Pt. Made

3-Pt. Att.

3-Pt. Pct.

Larry Drew II

14

32

43.8%

Dexter Strickland

4

14

28.6%

John Henson

4

13

30.8%

David Wear

4

8

50%

Justin Watts

4

8

50%

Travis Wear

1

2

50%

Leslie McDonald

1

11

9.1%

Deon Thompson

0

1

0

Tyler Zeller

0

2

0

Totals

32

91

35.2%

That’s a pretty good percentage for this group, however none of them can be
considered prolific outside shooters at this point. These are not the type of
players to rise, fire and connect over tight defense. Outside shooting is
probably the weakness of this UNC team, with Graves and Ginyard out.

What Carolina does have is a trio of talented players who can get it done in
the post. Deon Thompson is the experienced senior, and the most powerful post
presence on the team. Ed Davis is a super sophomore from Richmond who is
averaging a double-double.


The guy no one talks about is Tyler Zeller (7-0, 240, So.), who is averaging
10.1 points and 4.4 rebounds. Zeller is connecting on 57.1% of his shot
attempts. When the ball goes inside to Davis, Thompson or Zeller, it’s usually
going in the basket. The three players have combined to go 56.5% from the floor
this year. Not many teams have been able to stop this inside trio on the year.
That’s a lot of size to match up with, and most teams in college basketball
don’t have the personnel.

It will be absolutely critical for Jeff Allen to stay out of foul trouble. If
he gets in foul trouble, then Tech’s second scoring option will spend much of
the game on the bench, and things could get ugly if that happens. Allen has
committed 46 fouls this year in 13 games, and he’s fouled out twice. Ed Davis
and Deon Thompson have combined to commit 47 fouls in UNC’s 15 games. The
UNC post players aren’t as susceptible to fouls as Allen, and he has to be
mindful of that on Sunday night.

Allen, as well as his fellow post players, must also be aware of UNC’s
offensive rebounding tenacity. The Tar Heels play at a fast pace, and they send
their inside players crashing the offensive glass. UNC is averaging 15.1
offensive rebounds per game this year, which is first in the ACC.

Another key for the Hokies will be scoring in transition. UNC likes to run,
but the Hokies showed they could do some running of their own against an
athletic Seton Hall team last week. Tech will probably struggle in their
halfcourt offense if Malcolm Delaney doesn’t play, so they will need to find
some points somewhere else. That means forcing turnovers and scoring in
transition. UNC is only 10th in the ACC in turnover margin, while Virginia Tech
is fourth. If the Hokies can pressure the young Tar Heel guards into turnovers,
then they’ll have a chance to get some easy buckets.

Here are some things Tech must do to win this game…

  1. Defend the post early. Make UNC work to get the ball inside.
  2. Box out. Don’t give the Tar Heels a lot of 2nd chance points.
  3. Force turnovers to score in transition.
  4. Limit their own turnovers, make UNC score in the halfcourt offense.

Virginia Tech has a history of losing their first conference game of the
season. The Hokies are just 1-4 in ACC openers since joining the league for the
2004-05 season. History isn’t on Tech’s side, and with Delaney out this game
will be very difficult to win. However, last week’s win against Seton Hall
proved they could win without Delaney, and sometimes confidence is half the
battle.

The Hokies may not win the basketball game, but expect to see an emotionally
charged Virginia Tech team on Sunday night.

Update: Marcus Ginyard has been ruled out for Sunday’s game. Will Graves is very questionable, as is freshman wing Leslie McDonald, according to UNC coach Roy Williams on Friday afternoon.

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