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UNC vs. Virginia Tech: Three Things to Watch

The Tar Heels continue in their quest for an ACC title.

2022 Men’s ACC Basketball Tournament - Quarterfinals Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images

The North Carolina Tar Heels are coming off an impressive start to the ACC Tournament. Carolina’s defensive efforts held Virginia to just 13 points in the first half, the lowest scoring total in the ACC Tournament during the shot clock era.

UNC faces another Commonwealth team tonight with the winner earning a berth in the ACC Tournament championship game.

Below are three things to watch when the Tar Heels take on the Hokies tonight at 9:30 PM ET.

Compete in the Paint

Early in the game against Virginia, Armando Bacot received the ball on the block and every Cavalier dropped down on him- a quintuple team. Bacot was held to just two points in the first half against UVA, although he did pull down six rebounds.

He responded in the second half, and finished with another double-double. It was Bacot’s 24th of his career- a Carolina program record.

UNC ended with a 30-24 advantage in the paint versus Virginia, but the notable stat was a 14-2 edge in second chance points. With all the focus UVA put on Bacot, it is encouraging for him to fight for another double-double. The team also responded with the advantage in rebounding, scoring in the paint, and second chance points.

Last time out against Virginia Tech, the Tar Heels were dominated in the paint despite their victory. VT outscored UNC 34-20 in the paint and had a 10-6 advantage in second chance points. If Carolina can cut into the paint scoring advantage that Virginia Tech held in their last meeting, it will only help UNC’s chances tonight.

Team rebounding is another vital component when discussing effort in the paint. R.J. Davis was the second-leading rebounder against UVA, and his statline-stuffing performance was important to the team win even with his struggles from the field.

Keep Up the Intensity

Just with the ol’ eye test, Carolina was the quicker and more intense team versus Virginia. Especially in the first half, nearly all the UVA shots were contested and the Cavaliers managed just one second chance bucket.

Leaky Black did a great job on the defensive end, and the rest of the team matched his effort to hold Virginia to just 13 points in the first half. The Tar Heels will need this intensity against the top three-point shooting team in the ACC.

Last time in Blacksburg, UNC held VT to just 5-26 from beyond the arc. And much like last night, the first half was the difference in the last game versus Virginia Tech.

Carolina came out hot, shooting 51 percent from the floor in the first stanza. At the same time, UNC held VT to 38 percent from the field and just two of 12 from three. Their eight-point halftime lead was the final margin of victory.

We have seen what happens when the Tar Heels come out flat. If Carolina can keep up the intensity, especially in the first half, good things will happen.

Manek’s Hot Streak

Brady Manek scored 21 points versus Virginia. In fact, Manek outscored the entire UVA squad in the first half, 19-13. Manek now has 20 or more points in three straight games, and he has not scored less than 11 points in any game since January 26.

It is taken some time to get used to some of his shots, especially contested threes and fall away jumpers, but Manek is hitting them. Tournament time can be defined by a player with the hot hand. Games are changed by a player on a streak.

Give the man the rock.