What's Changed Since Then: Virginia Tech had a rough nonconference slate, dropping four games to some less than stellar opponents - Western Michigan (6-9), Southern Illinois (12-4), George Washington (10-4), and Marshall (5-10). Coleman Collins statistically disappeared, and the team relied even more heavily on its two senior guards, Jamon Gordon and Zabian Dowdell. It was looking like a repeat of last season, but without injuries to blame on the descent. More importantly, I was beginning to look foolish for picking them to finish so high in the ACC.
Then they beat Duke. And suddenly everything was alright.
North Carolina is the Hokies' first ACC game since then, having quietly dispatched UNCG in the interim. Tech sinks or swim on the talents of the aforementioned guards, but not in the manner of their state rivals; they run a slow (second only to Duke) deliberate offense, and look for opportunities to drive. They don't turn the ball over (best in the ACC) and they're not likely to get many offensive rebounds or foul calls, so on a good day they plan their shots well and score accordingly. On defense, they're also not likely to get the rebound, so they depend on their ability to force turnovers (best in the ACC) and send their opponents to the line more than anyone else.
All of this spells an easy time for the Heels. Their perimeter defense has handled the last two guard-heavy ACC teams extremely well, and Wright and Hansbrough should have a rebounding field day against the smaller Hokies. Good defense and the ability to outrun Tech should make this one of the easier ACC matchups outside the Miami/State/Wake trifecta of futility.
But this is Virginia Tech's last real stab at greatness for a while - there's not much in the pipe to replace Gordon, Zowdell and Collins. If they're ever to get the Tar Heel monkey off their back and get that first win, now's the time, and this is the court. That's always a little dangerous.