Where: Cassell Coliseum, Blacksburg, VA
When: Thursday, January 19th, 9:00 PM
Records: UNC 15-3, 2-1 ACC; Virginia Tech 11-6, 0-3 ACC
I have no idea what to expect.
This game is really a mystery to me. On one side you have Virginia Tech staring the NIT square in the face after only three ACC games. The Hokies looked to be in decent position having won on the road at Oklahoma St and only tallying three losses, all of them of the acceptable variety. Then came ACC play and Virginia Tech has lost its first three league games by a total of eight points compounded by the fact two of those losses came versus KenPom 200+ teams Wake Forest and Boston College. To say the Hokies are desperate would be an understatement. They need a win period but they need a win versus a good team to try and undo the damage wrought by an 0-3 start. I also think this season might have an impact of Seth Greenberg's job status should it go off the rails.
On the other side you have UNC coming off a historically bad game. National title contenders simply do not get it handed to them by an unranked team the way UNC did on Saturday. It raises a ton of questions about this team. All the standard criticisms are in play. Effort, intensity, winning edge, perimeter shooting, toughness, c0oaching etc, etc, etc. The topic that has not been broached so far is team chemistry but I imagine if UNC loses this game we will have five different members of the media going that direction. So the questions about about how UNC responds? Do they come out angry? Will they play better? Is simply winning enough? Do they need to make small children cry in the stands to right the ship? In short it is incredibly difficult to get a grasp on exactly on this game.
Since that is the case, I am going with the the simplest equation possible. Just win. There are a variety of things UNC cannot control in a game like this. What they can control is playing the game to win. The shooting might still be off but UNC is more talented than Virginia Tech and is simply the better team provided they are focused. A loss like UNC experience is adversity of the highest order. Bad teams splinter and fall apart. Good teams take the experience, band together stronger and come out on a mission to take care of business. Eric Montross said that is how the 1993 team responded and this team needs to respond the same way.
I am not sure the margin matters as much as (1) winning the game and (2) doing it playing Carolina basketball.
UNC 82 VT 68