North Carolina(17-8, 7-5 ACC) vs Georgia Tech(14-10, 4-8 ACC), 9:00 PM, ACC Network
I am half tempted to simply write,
"UNC is playing in Atlanta. Heaven help us all."
and let that be the preview. Seriously, is there anything I can write that matches up against the inexplicable weirdness of the Tar Heels playing in Atlanta? This is something that defies normal analysis. In fact I am not sure the first priority is even winning the game. I would think the first order of business is everyone leaving Atlanta with their appendages still attached and everyone's lungs still properly inflated. In 2011, UNC went down there and lost by 20(!) points to a bad Yellow Jacket team. Last season the ACC Tournament was in Atlanta and the Tar Heels were not on the court 15 minutes before John Henson nearly broke his wrist and was lost for the remainder of the weekend. The Heels ultimately lost in the ACC Championship to FSU. The history of UNC in Atlanta is a long and painful one and tonight cannot be another chapter in that saga.
UNC's win over Virginia was the first step in getting off the mat for the NCAA Tournament. A loss to Georgia Tech, which is ranked 128th in the RPI, would be plenty damaging. As it stands, the loss to Texas is UNC's only bad loss and the Heels can ill-afford a second one at this stage of the season. The win over Virginia both in terms of it being a quality win of sorts and the way UNC played has things trending in the right direction. Screwing that up with a loss now would be problematic.
As for the actual basketball, this game provides the first real test of the "small lineup" since Georgia Tech has an actual frontline to be contended with with four players 6-8 or more. The Yellow Jackets are the fourth straight Tar Heel opponent to boast a solid defense. This game will be a tough match-up for a variety of reasons and a real test of what the small lineup can handle. It should be noted that when UNC defeated Georgia Tech in Chapel Hill nearly a month ago Desmond Hubert played 22 minutes collecting six rebounds and five blocks. The size Georgia Tech brings to the table and the absence of Joel James means there could be more playing time for Hubert in this game but only if it becomes clear the small lineup is having issues.
UNC 65 GT 60