2009-2010 Basketball Game Preview: North Carolina at Virginia Tech

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(home games)
  • Date: Thursday, February 4, 2010
  • Time: 9pm
  • TV: Raycom (check local listings)

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After playing four of their first six ACC games on the road, the Hokies will
finally get back to Cassell Coliseum on Thursday night when they host the North
Carolina Tar Heels. Both teams need a win for the NCAA tournament committee,
particularly UNC.

This isn’t your typical North Carolina basketball team. They beat the Hokies
78-64 in early January, but they have gone just 1-4 since, with their one win
coming over NC State, who is just 2-5 in the ACC. The Tar Heels have lost at home to Georgia
Tech, Wake Forest and Virginia, and they were blown out 83-64 at Clemson.

UNC is 13-8 overall, with a 2-4 record in the ACC. Thursday’s game is a
must-win situation for the Tar Heels if they want to make the NCAA tournament.
After the trip to Blacksburg, they still have two games against Duke, road trips
to Maryland, Georgia Tech and Wake Forest, and a home game against Florida
State. That’s a lot of games against the top half of the ACC, and you can bet on
some more losses for the Heels.

UNC’s starting lineup is big, and they gave the Hokies plenty of trouble in
the previous meeting.

Starting Lineup
Pos. Name Ht. Wt. Yr. PPG RPG
Larry Drew II
6-2 180 So. 9.1 2.8
Marcus Ginyard
6-5 210 r-Sr. 8.1 3.5
Will Graves
6-6 240 r-Jr. 9.6 4.7
Deon Thompson
6-9 245 Sr. 14.7 6.5
Ed Davis
6-10 225 So. 14 9.6


UNC’s troubles this year have come in the backcourt. Larry Drew II is the
starting point guard, and he has had his share of struggles this year. Drew has
put up solid numbers, but hasn’t performed particularly well against good
competition. He has had a number of games where he’s struggled with turnovers,
and others where he’s struggled with his shot. Sometimes he struggles in both

However, on January 10th against Virginia Tech, Drew didn’t struggle. He
didn’t play well in the first half, but he dominated the Hokies over the final
20 minutes. He was perfect from the field and perfect from the free throw line,
finishing with 14 points and eight assists, and turning the ball over just

Drew hasn’t been that good against any other decent competition this year.
The Hokies must do a better job on Drew this time around. He is generally
more of a weak link for UNC rather than a strong suit. If he gets going, the Tar
Heels are a much better team. Tech needs to shut him down.

In Drew’s defense, he hasn’t had a lot of help in the backcourt this year.
The other point guard, Dexter Strickland (6-3, 180, Fr.) is a McDonald’s
All-American, but he’s only a freshman. He’s had his bright moments, including a
solid game against the Hokies in the first meeting. A very quick player, the
Hokies need to keep Strickland out of the lane and make him beat them from the
outside. He’s only a 27.3% three-point shooter this year, and has attempted just
22 outside jumpers.

Marcus Ginyard is UNC’s best defender, but he hasn’t been healthy this season
because of a banged up ankle. He could draw the assignment of defending Malcolm
Delaney. Virginia Tech’s star guard generally doesn’t play as well against
bigger, more physical defenders, so a matchup with Ginyard would be one to

The other wing is Will Graves, who is a three-point specialist. Graves is
shooting 40% from three-point range on the year, and 40 of his 62 made field
goals have come from the outside. He’s not the type to put the ball on the floor
and take it to the hoop.

It’s pretty simple to see why UNC beat Virginia Tech in the first meeting.
The Tar Heels normally don’t get good backcourt play, but they did against the
Hokies. They were a complete team against Tech, and they haven’t been since that

Guards vs. VT
Player Points FG% 3P% Assist TO

Larry Drew II
14 100% 100% 8 2

Marcus Ginyard
2 33.3% 0% 1 3

Will Graves
13 50% 42.9% 1 0

Dexter Strickland
7 75% 0% 3 1

36 61.9% 40% 13 6


That was Marcus Ginyard’s first game back from an ankle injury, so his
performance can be overlooked. Every other guard for the Tar Heels played well
that night.

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Everyone talks about UNC’s inside players, and they are very good. But the
Tar Heels, like most ACC teams, will win or lose on their guard play. The ACC is
a guard oriented conference, and the Tar Heels haven’t had good guard play this
year, except against Virginia Tech. We can talk about shutting down Ed Davis and
Deon Thompson all day long, but what the Hokies really need to do is deny the
open looks of Will Graves, keep Dexter Strickland out of the lane and turn Larry
Drew over. If they do that, they’ve got a pretty good chance to win the game.

Ideally, the Hokies will deny Ed Davis and Deon Thompson the ball and force
UNC’s guards and wings to make plays. Davis and Thompson combined for 33 points
and 14 rebounds in the first meeting, with Davis finishing with a double-double.
Virginia whipped UNC in the Dean Dome on Sunday night largely because they
denied the ball to UNC’s post players. Davis and Thompson combined for just 10
shot attempts against the Hoos, and the Tar Heel guards couldn’t pick up the

Comparison, ACC Games Only


Category Stat Rank Stat Rank

Scoring Off.
69.8 ppg 7 69.5 ppg 8

Scoring Def.
73.3 ppg 11 70.3 ppg 9

42.8% 7 41.2% 11

FG% Def.
44.2% 8 47.3% 12

34% 4 32% 7

3Pt.% Def.
35.7% 10 31.7% 6

68.7% 8 72.6% 4

Reb. Margin
+4.3 1 -0.5 8

TO Margin
-3.33 12 +4.5 1

Assist/TO Ratio
0.8 8 0.9 6







On paper, both of these teams are middle of the pack in the ACC. They both
have their strengths (turnover margin for VT, rebounding for UNC) and weaknesses
(shooting for VT, turnover margin for UNC).

UNC has the ability to give the Hokies a lot of trouble in this game. Tech
has the worst field goal percentage defense in the ACC, largely because they
have no shot blockers on the inside. Terrell Bell, a 6-6 wing, is the team’s top
shot blocker. Victor Davila has no blocks in six ACC games, J.T. Thompson has
none, and Jeff Allen has just four. Tech lacks height on the inside, with two of
their top three post players checking in at 6-7 or shorter. UNC has plenty of
height on the inside to take advantage of that.

On the other hand, the Hokies can give UNC all sorts of trouble as well. The
backcourt combination of Malcolm Delaney and Dorenzo Hudson is one of the best
in the ACC, probably second only to Duke’s trio of Jon Scheyer, Nolan Smith and
Kyle Singler. In Cassell Coliseum, where they haven’t lost all season, the Tech
guards and wings will play much better against UNC’s perimeter players than they
did in the first meeting.

Win or lose, Virginia Tech will have a quick turnaround game following UNC. The
Hokies will finish up their game with the Tar Heels on Thursday around 11pm, and
they’ll host Clemson on Saturday at 4pm. Meanwhile, the Tigers do not play
during the week, and will have had a full week to prepare for the Hokies when
they get to town.

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