Date, Time, TV: Tuesday, March 10, 7pm, The ACC Network
No. 11 seed Virginia Tech will face No. 14 seed UNC tonight in the opening round of the 2020 ACC Tournament. The Tar Heels are inexplicably the last seed in the ACC Tournament after losing the tiebreaker to Wake Forest and Pitt. However, they’ve been in good form of late, and they’ll be a much different looking team than the one the Hokies beat 79-77 in double overtime back on January 22.
Since that victory over the Tar Heels, Virginia Tech has gone just 2-10, with home victories over Pitt and Clemson. UNC has gone 5-8 in that span, though they have been playing much better recently. Before their Saturday loss to Duke, they had won three games in a row against NC State (85-79), Syracuse (92-79) and Wake Forest (93-83). The Heels have turned it up a notch offensively over the last two weeks.
Part of the reason for that turnaround is the fact that UNC is finally healthy. When the Hokies beat them back in January, the Tar Heels were missing future first round pick Cole Anthony (6-3, 190, Fr.). Anthony leads the team in scoring at 19.6 points per game, and he’s also tops in assists with 80 despite missing 11 games with an injury. Third-leading scorer Brandon Robinson (6-5, 173, Sr.) also missed that game with an injury. He averages 11.9 points per game.
In fact, UNC has been so banged up this year that only one player has appeared in all 31 games. That player is Charleston Southern graduate transfer Christian Keeling (6-3, 180) who averages 6.7 points per game and is a role player at the ACC level. Only four players have appeared in 30 of the Tar Heels’ 31 games.
UNC ranks in the top 75 in adjusted offensive efficiency and the top 100 in adjusted defensive efficiency, which makes their losing record a bit of a surprise. They’ve played some close games, going 0-3 in overtime contests, and losing three other one-possession games.
The Tar Heels rank No. 71 in adjusted offensive efficiency despite being one of the worst shooting teams in the country.
Effective FG%: No. 305
3-Pt.%: No. 308
2-Pt.%: No. 272
FT%: No. 281
UNC isn’t even that great at turnovers, ranking No. 101 in turnover percentage. How then do they rank No. 71 in offensive efficiency? The answer is offensive rebounding. The Tar Heels are a long team and they crash the glass, ranking No. 13 nationally in offensive rebound rate, which leads to second chance points. Up front they are led by Garrison Brooks (6-9, 235, Jr.) who averages 16.7 points and 8.8 rebounds per game. He had 28 points, 13 rebounds and six assists in the first meeting with the Hokies, and with Anthony and Robinson back, it’s imperative that Tech not let Brooks go off like that again.
Virginia Tech won the first meeting because they turned North Carolina’s strength into a weakness. The Tar Heels came away with just six offensive rebounds in 50 minutes of basketball, and scored only two second chance points. Meanwhile, the smaller Hokies scored 10 second chance points off eight offensive rebounds. Tech needs that kind of effort again on the glass.
If Virginia Tech beats UNC, they’ll face No. 6 seed Syracuse on Wednesday night. Tip-off would technically be at 9pm, but a 9:20 start would probably be more likely since Notre Dame and Boston College play at 7pm.