UNC Basketball: Things to Watch for vs. Virginia Tech


It was a great week for the Tar Heels with a statement win over Louisville followed by a road win over rival N.C. State. The Heels will return to the Smith Center this Sunday to take on Virginia Tech at 6:30 on ESPNU. The Hokies from Virginia Tech have struggled under first-year head coach Buzz Williams, they are 8-8 overall and 0-3 so far in conference play. This will be the 2nd of 4 straight games against ranked opponents for Virginia Tech who has not won a game since December 27th.

Here are a few things to watch for that game between VT and UNC.

The Tar Heels effort

On paper, this is a game that the Heels should dominate. They average 11 more points per game than the Hokies and 12 more rebounds per game. The Hokies have also suffered some ugly losses so far this season including losing at home to Radford and Appalachian State and a 31-point beat down from West Virginia.

Will the Heels be able to get up for this game after the win over Louisville and an emotional slugfest with N.C. State? In the past few seasons, the Heels have struggled to get up for games against lesser opponents, which this appears to be. It will be interesting to see if the Heels will have their foot on the gas from the opening tip and be able to take out the Hokies early.

Paige’s minutes

In this past Wednesday’s win over N.C. State, the Tar Heels star point guard Marcus Paige played his best game so far this season with 23 points, 9 assists and 5 rebounds. He also played a season high 36 minutes due to an injury to freshman point guard Joel Berry. The junior guard revealed earlier this week that he has dealt with plantar fasciitis, calling it some of the worst pain he has ever been in.

With the list of injuries that North Carolina has at the point guard, it is important that the Heels put away Virginia Tech early so Paige does not have to play major minutes in this game. The Heels will play 3 games in 6 days this week, which means little time to rest and recover after each game for the point guard. It is very important that the Heels jump out to an early lead so that Coach Williams can rest his star player.

Will the Hokies will be able to compete with UNC on the glass?

More from North Carolina Tar Heels

This game will pit the best rebounding team in the ACC against the worst. The Tar Heels average 44 rebounds a game while the Hokies only grab 32 rebounds a game. The Heels almost double the Hokies in offensive rebounding grabbing 16 offensive rebounds per game compared to only 9 for Virginia Tech.

The Hokies leading rebounder Joey Van Zegeren is only averaging 5 rebounds a game, the Heels have 3 players in their starting lineup that average five or more rebounds. If the Hokies are going to pull off the upset, they must have their best rebounding effort of this season which seems like a tall task for the struggling Hokies.