Where: Cassell Arena, Blacksburg, VA
When: January 13th, 3:30 PM
Records: UNC 15-1, 2-0 ACC, Virginia Tech 12-4, 1-0 ACC
UNC is the #1 nation and 15-1 overall so what reward do they get? Road games at the two hottest teams in the conference. Such is life in the ACC and one of the reasons it is one of the more interesting conferences to watch. Before UNC travels to Clemson for a matchup with potentially unbeaten Tigers, the Heels get a trip to Blacksburg. Undoubtedly this stretch of two games will be the stiffest test the young Heels have faced this season. Playing at St. Louis is one thing, going to Blacksburg to play against an ACC team in a high stakes conference game is quite another.
Virginia Tech is perimeter driven team with senior guards Zabin Dowdell and Jamon Gordon who have put in some tremendous efforts over the past few games. The victory at Duke was huge for the confidence of this team. Dowdell and Gordon offer up a challenge similar to what the UNC guards saw this past week with the UVa backcourt. Ty Lawson and Wayne Ellington will have their hands full guarding these two and I would not be surprised to see Roy Williams pull both of them in favor of Bobby Frasor/Quentin Thomas and Marcus Ginyard/Wes Miller. In fact it was Ginyard and his absolute clamp down defensive work on Sean Singeltary Wednesday night which was the catalyst for a second half defensive effort which held the Cavs scroreless during to long stretches. If either of the Hokie guards get off hot, they will undoubtedly be introduced to Mr. Ginyard.
Offensively speaking, someone should really put out an APB for Ellington whose shooting touch left when UNC opened ACC play. Like most shooters, Ellington is in a slump or needing to get comfortable again in the offense. At any rate, this game would be a good game to find that range again and make sure VT does not sag back in a zone around Tyler Hansbrough and Brandan Wright. VT is an athletic club but not exceptionally big. They will have their hands full guarding Wright and Hansbrough but could find foul trouble an issue against Hansbrough. I would speculate that Seth Greenberg may be willing to front the duo, play some kind of zone, and dare UNC to hit outside shots. Of course the Tar Heel depth both in terms of numbers and quality is where the separation usually occurs and there is simply not much VT can do to match the quality of UNC's bench.
This is a dangerous team and a dangerous game for UNC. It also will be a huge statement if they win and a nice trial by fire for the freshmen to get acclimated to life on the road in the ACC before heading to Littlejohn.
UNC 88 Virginia Tech 74