Where: Chapel Hill, NC
When: Saturday, Feb. 2, Noon
TV: The ACC Network
After playing Miami tough on Wednesday, the Hokies will travel south to take on UNC in the Dean Dome on Saturday afternoon. North Carolina is 14-6 overall, 4-3 in the ACC, and in general are not the team people expected them to be this year.
Carolina only has one top 50 win, a 79-73 victory over UNLV. They have four losses to top 50 teams, and they also have losses to UVA (#94) and Texas (#139). They’ve played a tough schedule overall, but the Tar Heels just don’t have enough quality wins to show for it. That said, they have plenty of opportunities down the stretch, but they’ll have to get better.
UNC has plenty of bodies, but thus far they haven’t been able to blend together as a good and efficient basketball team. Note that P.J. Hairston is not expected to play this weekend. He is UNC’s sixth man, and he averages 12.4 points per game. He is also one of his team’s best outside shooters.
G Marcus Paige (6-0, 157, Fr.): Paige is a small freshman who leads the team with 85 assists on the season. Like many freshmen, Paige is shooting poorly. He is making just 31.5% of his field goals and only 29.9% of his outside shots.
G Dexter Strickland (6-3, 180, Sr.): Strickland has 82 assists on the season, and he is averaging 8.1 points per game. He’s not a great shooter (43.4% from the field, 20% from three-point range), but he knows his limitations. He leads UNC with 30 steals.
G Reggie Bullock (6-7, 205, Jr.): Bullock averages 13.7 points per game and 5.7 rebounds per game. He is a very good three-point shooter, making his outside jumpers at a 44.9% clip. Jarell Eddie will likely be defending Bullock on Saturday.
F James McAdoo (6-9, 230, So.): McAdoo leads UNC in scoring with a 14.7 points per game average, and he also pulls down 8.5 rebounds per game. He struggles with turnovers (54), but he’s still projected to be a first round pick if he declares for the draft after this season.
F Desmond Hubert (6-9, 220, So.): Hubert has started 15 games for UNC, and only averages 1.4 points per game. He is a 21.4% free throw shooter, if you can believe it. Virginia Tech was recruiting Hubert hard at one point, but UNC came in with a late offer. He is very athletic, and he leads the Tar Heels with 21 blocked shots.
G Leslie McDonald (6-5, 215, Jr.): McDonald missed three games with an injury, and he was suspended for UNC’s last three contests. However, he is expected back for Saturday’s game with Virginia Tech. He averages 8.4 points per game off the bench, and he shoots 43.1% from three-point range.
F Brice Johnson (6-9, 187, Fr.): Johnson averages just under 13 minutes per game, though he makes those minutes count. He averages 7.5 points and 4.2 rebounds per game. The freshman will struggle against bigger bodies in the ACC until he adds some weight.
F J.P. Tokoto (6-5, 185, Fr.): Tokoto is another freshman who contributes for UNC. He plays around 11 minutes per game, and averages 4.2 points per game. At this point in his career, Tokoto isn’t a threat from the outside. He has made just one three-pointer this season.
F Joel James (6-10, 260, Fr.): James is UNC’s biggest player, though his playing time has dropped off in recent games. He played just two minutes in UNC’s recent win at Boston College.
F Jackson Simmons (6-7, 220, So.): Simmons has played more since ACC play began. He averages just 2.7 points per game overall, but against ACC competition he is averaging five points per game while shooting 13-of-14 (92.9%) from the field. No, that’s not a typo.
Though McAdoo is a very talented forward, this UNC team just doesn’t feature the star power of a normal Tar Heel squad. This team has a starter who shoots just 21.4% from the free throw line, and though Reggie Bullock is a very good outside shooter, there is no dominant guard on this team.
With P.J. Hairston out, it’s not out of the realm of possibility that Virginia Tech can steal a road win at North Carolina this weekend. This UNC team is not as good as the Miami team that the Hokies nearly knocked off on Wednesday night.
However, Virginia Tech played their best game since the Oklahoma State win on Wednesday, and considering what we’ve seen from them over the last two months, it’s difficult to picture the Hokies putting together back-to-back good games.
The Hokies will have to play good defense to win on the road against a team with the talent of UNC. However, that’s been a problem for Tech. They have slipped to #270 nationally in defensive efficiency, which ranks dead last amongst America’s major conference teams.
There are many Virginia Tech basketball teams since ACC expansion that would be very capable of going into the Dean Dome and winning this game. However, just judging by the current team’s defense, and the up and down play of guys like Jarell Eddie and Robert Brown, an upset on Saturday isn’t likely.