North Carolina vs Virginia Tech, 6:30 PM, ESPNU
The Tar Heels begin what should be a "easier" stretch of three out of four at home before going on a four out of five stretch on the road. First up for the Tar Heels is Virginia Tech under the direction of former Marquette coach Buzz Williams who is attempting to rebuild a program that has hit rock bottom.
While KenPom gives UNC a 97% chance of winning this game and all the numbers trend in UNC's direction, there is a bit of danger here for the Tar Heels. That danger lies with the fact UNC isn't necessarily trustworthy in bringing a focused effort in games of this nature. UNC has had three straight games decided by two points or less for the first time since 1976. The possibility of a letdown is very real after three games which were highly charged from an emotional standpoint.
The other issue UNC needs to work out is the sudden shortage of point guards. Prior to the season, UNC was looking at the possibility of having five point guards. Thanks to injury the Tar Heels are down to two. Luke Davis and Stilman White are both out longer term due to injury and now Joel Berry will miss 2-3 weeks with a groin injury. Based on the schedule Berry's injury isn't ill-timed however it is more minutes for Marcus Paige when it might be possible to get him more rest. The loss of Berry puts more pressure on J.P. Tokoto to help facilitate the offense even more, especially when Paige is off the court.
Speaking of Paige, the junior guard joked after the win over Louisville that he was "back." He followed that up by looking "back" with 23 points and nine assists versus NC State which included 5-5 shooting from three. After struggling for most of the first half of the season, Paige showed some signs of his last season on Wednesday against NC State. Now the question is whether Paige can play at that level consistently again.
As for what UNC faces in Virginia Tech, the Hokies do shoot 40% from three as a team. The bulk of that shooting comes from 6-5 Justin Bibbs and 6-1 Adam Smith which have hit 47% and 46% respectively. In three ACC games Bibbs is 9-19 and Smith 11-25 and 10-17 in the past two contests. Bibbs leads the Hokies with 13.6 ppg and will likely have J.P. Tokoto guarding him. Smith is the only other double figures scorer for the Hokies at 13.1.
Joey Van Zegeren is just under the double figures mark at 9.8 ppg and is the Hokies' best interior player.(Update: Van Zegeren is presently suspended.) Devin Wilson is Virginia Tech's top assist man dishing out 4.6 apg.
This is very much a "take care of business game" and after three very tough games, one that UNC would very much like to cruise through.That being said, there are not many easy nights in the ACC.
UNC 96 Virginia Tech 68