College Basketball Pick
It’s only taken a couple years for Buzz Williams to make Virginia Tech a talking point in the ACC. The Hokies have gone from nine wins to 11 wins to the NIT and now sport a 15-4 record in Williams’s third season at the helm. It’s been quite the turnaround for this team, which could very well make the NCAA Tournament this year.
That said, the Hokies are still a ways off in beating teams like North Carolina on the road. They just beat Clemson on the road on Sunday, but had struggled in their previous road Conference Games. North Carolina is a completely different test and on a six-Game winning streak itself. The Tar Heels got Theo Pinson back and they haven’t let up with him in the lineup. Their three home ACC wins have been by 51, 13 and 17 points. While the Hokies are improved, expecting them to win this one in Chapel Hill is a bit far-fetched, as they’ve already lost big to teams like NC State and Florida State on the road.
That said, Virginia Tech has the resume of a Tourney team with wins over Duke and Syracuse as well as Michigan and Nebraska in non-Conference play. The problem for VT in this Game is evident. North Carolina is the best rebounding team in the conference, while Virginia Tech is extremely lacking in that department. The Hokies are severely undersized with their only guy listed above 6-7 being Khadim Sy, who averages a little more than 10 minutes per Game. Zach LeDay is a good center, but when he has to deal with the bigs of Kennedy Meeks, Isaiah Hicks and Tony Bradley, he’s at a bit of a disadvantage.
UNC won this Game by just five points last year at Virginia Tech, but won the rebounding battle by 15 and all signs point to that happening again, but with a bigger winning margin. The Hokies have struggled on the defensive end mainly due to their size and that will continue here. To have a shot, they’ll need to stick to their guns and make their easy baskets. Virginia Tech leads the Conference shooting a solid 54.3% from two-point range in ACC play. Getting to that number will be the difficult part against a bigger team. LeDay will have a big load on his shoulders, but also the other Four starters that average double-digit points have to produce.
To pull upsets on the road, a team usually has to win down low or hit shots from deep. That means Ahmed Hill and Seth Allen will be called upon to catch fire. Allen has hit three threes in the last three Games, but the team’s leading shooter, Hill, has just one in the last three Games. If that doesn’t happen, there probably will be trouble because this Tar Heels team is averaging close to 90 points per Game and Virginia Tech doesn’t have the tools to stop them from doing that.
Whether it’s the bigs down low or Justin Jackson in the mid-range Game or Joel Berry and Nate Britt on the perimeter, the Heels will find ways to score, especially at home. So while the Hokies are playing well at the moment, this simply isn’t a Game that they’re expected to have much success in and could result in yet another Chapel Hill blowout.
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