Virginia Tech Hokies (10-4, 1-1) at North Carolina Tar Heels (11-4, 1-0)
Time: 9 p.m. EST
Date: Thursday, Jan. 13, 2011
Place: Dean E. Smith Center (21,800), Chapel Hill, NC
Radio: VT IMG, XM 141, Sirius 121
Spread: Virginia Tech +5.5
Game Info: Stats | VT Notes | UNC Notes
Matchup: The Hokies have won six in a row and the Heels have won four in a row and seven of their last eight. UNC struggled its last time out against UVa, but played well enough down the stretch to avoid an upset. Meanwhile, the Hokies looked about as good as they've looked all year in a win at home over FSU, which just knocked off Duke. If you look at the efficiency ratings, you'll see two teams with very contrasting styles. Roy Williams has always liked to push the ball up the floor and this year is no different as the Heels play at the 9th-highest tempo in the country. The Hokies, meanwhile, are No. 210 out of 345 D1 teams.
What UNC doesn't get enough credit for is the way it plays defense. The Heels rank 12th in the country in defensive efficiency and do it without getting called for a lot of fouls. A little under 16 percent of their opponents' points come from the foul line, which I think will hurt Virginia Tech. Nearly a quarter of Virginia Tech's points come at the line and a lot of our guards' game is driving to the rim and drawing contact. I don't see that happening tonight because UNC has avoided sending teams to the line and on top of that this game is in Chapel Hill.
I think the Hokies are also going to struggle with UNC's size. A lot is made about 7-0 Tyler Zeller, but the Heels' best player might be 6-10 John Henson. He's a good shot blocker and both he and Zeller are matchup problems for Tech because of their athleticism. Neither of these teams get much scoring from behind the arc, so it's going to come down to whether or not Tech can handle UNC's bigs. Unfortunately, I don't see that happening, so Tech is going to have to get some kind of production from the guards.
If no one is connecting from behind the arc, this could be a long game for the Hokies. They'll have a chance if they can shoot well from outside and force turnovers in their 1-3-1 trap. Tech's zone will help against UNC's frontcourt, but it will also cost them in the form of offensive rebounds for the Heels. To keep this from being a factor, the Hokies are going to have to pressure UNC's guards and get the same amount of turnovers they've been forcing lately.
Game Thread: Discuss the game in the comments section as Tech tries to get a big road win in conference play.