Photo courtesy of Virginia Tech athletics
A gauntlet of a stretch for Virginia Tech basketball is set to continue.
Unfortunately for the Hokies (10-8, 2-5 ACC), its NCAA Tournament hopes likely will not.
Barring a heck of a few weeks for Mike Young and company, the maroon and orange will be watching March Madness from home for the first time since 2016.
A disappointment? Of course. But there’s still plenty to play for going forward.
An outside chance to qualify for the field of 64? Maybe.
An opportunity to build off of this season with an NIT run as a consolation prize? Possibly.
Just control what you can control. Pile up as many victories as possible. That’s the mindset for Virginia Tech going forward.
That starts this evening in Chapel Hill, when the Hokies make the trip to take on the North Carolina Tar Heels (12-6, 4-3 ACC) inside the Dean Dome.
Game Day Information
When: Monday, Jan. 24, 8 p.m. ET
Where: Dean E. Smith Center, Chapel Hill, NC
TV: ACC Network
PXP: Mike Monaco
Analyst: Randolph Childress
Series History: North Carolina Leads 70-15
Last Meeting: North Carolina Won 81-73 on Mar. 11, 2021
Line: North Carolina -6
Last Time Out
Just two days ago, Virginia Tech’s season took a demoralizing turn up in Chestnut Hill at the hands of the Boston College Eagles.
A win would have kept Virginia Tech’s NCAA Tournament hopes rolling forward. After controlling the opening stages of the contest, that seemed well on its way to happening. But quickly and surprisingly, it became a one-man show for the Eagles’ James Karnick, who put up a career-high 26 points.
Shooting 43% from the field, 41% from three, and committing just seven turnovers isn’t bad. But getting outrebounded 38-23 certainly is, which ultimately led to Virginia Tech’s downfall.
It simply just can’t all click at once for the Hokies. 21 points from Keve Aluma and 14 points from Hunter Cattoor proved not to be enough. With little production from Justyn Mutts and Storm Murphy, the Hokies suffered a damaging 68-63 loss.
Luckily for Virginia Tech, there’s three opportunities to right the ship this week, and that all starts with getting a massive victory in Chapel Hill.
Scouting North Carolina
When you first look at the Tar Heels under first-year head coach Hubert Davis, there’s a few first thoughts that come to mind: A potent offense, a lacking defense, a superb team at home, and a dreadful team on the road.
When it is clicking, Carolina has a chance to be as good as anyone in the ACC. The problem is, the Tar Heels have been vastly inconsistent.
When star guard Caleb Love (14.6 points per game) goes, it seems like the Tar Heels go. Forward Armando Bacot (16.9 points per game, 11.3 rebounds per game) is a massive threat down low, and always poses a tough matchup with his double-double capabilities.
RJ Davis (13.4 points per game) is a nice piece as well to help spread the floor for Carolina. Oklahoma transfer Brady Manek (12.9 points per game) adds another scorer in the paint.
The issue for the Tar Heels? Well, they haven’t necessarily been good of late. In fact, they’ve dropped the last two contests by a combined 50 points, really raising questions about the state of the program in Chapel Hill.
The good news is, they haven’t lost away from the Dean Dome, where they’ve been a completely different team.
So which North Carolina team will we get tonight? The one that’s good enough to win the league? Or the one that’s poor enough to miss the NCAA Tournament?
It’s a question fans in Carolina blue have been raising all year long.
With the way the season is now trending for Virginia Tech, and with how good the Tar Heels have been on their home floor, there seems to be a pretty logical choice in this one.
Maybe the Hokies can pick off Carolina in Blacksburg, but it won’t be tonight.
With the maroon and orange’s continued issues on the glass, and Bacot’s rebounding capabilities, they’ll be a huge matchup problem down low for Virginia Tech.
That’s a problem just enough to deny the Hokies their first win in Chapel Hill since 2007, and begin to put the Tar Heels back on track.
The Pick: North Carolina 81, Virginia Tech 70