UNC basketball returns to Chapel Hill to host Virginia Tech

Following a loss to Syracuse on Tuesday night, the UNC basketball program hopes to get back in the win column on Saturday afternoon.

Clemson v North Carolina
Clemson v North Carolina / Grant Halverson/GettyImages
facebooktwitterreddit

There's no place like home, right?

For the UNC basketball program, the Dean Smith Center has been a place of success this season, as the Tar Heels enter their Saturday afternoon clash with Virginia Tech with a 10-1 record at home.

With just a half-game lead in the ACC standings, every game the rest of the way is extremely important, as the Hokies are the Tar Heels first test along the final stretch of the regular season.

19-6. 441. 14-10. 447. ACC Network. . 2:00 PM EST. Saturday, February 17, 2024. UNC VT

Virginia Tech has lost three of its last five, but is coming off a solid victory over Florida State. North Carolina has also lost three of its last five games, but its most recent effort was a losing one on the road to Syracuse.

Can the Tar Heels shake their recent struggles and find a way to win yet another game on their home court to reach the 20-win mark?

Key to Victory for North Carolina

80.

That number might not make much sense, but let us put it into context.

Of the Tar Heels' six losses this season, four of them resulted in the Tar Heels not reaching the 80-point mark. The three recent losses are part of that equation, as North Carolina struggled to score at a high mark in each of these games.

The key to this one is simple: stop settling and start scoring.

Hubert Davis noted it in his media conference, as the Tar Heels head coach was. not pleased that the team has taken more three pointers than free throws over the last stretch of games. This must change, as North Carolina must get back to driving to the basket while forcing their opponents to foul.

Something to Watch For

Will this be the Tyler Nickel revenge game?

After spending his freshman season with the UNC basketball program, Nickel elected to transfer to Virginia Tech, a move that provided him with more of an opportunity on the court as well as being closer to home in the process.

The former Tar Heel has grown into an important player for the Hokies, as he is averaging 9 points per game. He's shooting the basketball well, connecting on 45.5% of his shot attempts while making 41.6% of his attempts from deep.

Nickel will be the first former Tar Heel from last year's squad to have an opportunity to play against them. Don't be surprised if he puts together a strong performance on Saturday afternoon.

Last Meeting

These two programs last met on December 4, 2022 in Blacksburg, Virginia, as the Hokies captured a 80-72 victory over the Tar Heels.

North Carolina, who was without big man Armando Bacot, had three players score 18 points a piece (RJ Davis, Caleb Love and Pete Nance), but struggled as a team from beyond the arc, knocking down just three of 17 attempts from deep.

The Hokies, led by Justyn Mutts' game-high 27 points, had four players in double-figures as they shot over 50% from the floor throughout the game.

Projected Starters

No. 2 Elliot Cadeau (Fr. 6-1, 180) 7.8 ppg, 1.8 rpg, 3.9 apg
No. 3 Cormac Ryan (Sr. 6-5, 195) 10.6 ppg, 3.0 rpg, 1.4 apg
No. 4 R.J. Davis (Sr. 6-0, 180) 21.4 ppg, 3.6 rpg, 3.5 apg
No. 5 Armando Bacot (Gr. 6-11, 240) 14.2 ppg, 10.2 rpg, 1.6 apg
No. 55 Harrison Ingram (Jr. 6-7, 235) 12.6 ppg, 8.8 rpg, 2.3 apg