UNC vs. Virginia Tech Preview

No. 6 North Carolina (17-9, 10-6 ACC) vs. No. 3 Virginia Tech (15-5, 9-4 ACC)
Greensboro, N.C. — Greensboro Coliseum
Thursday, March 11, 8:30 p.m. ET
ESPN (Dan Shulman, Jay Bilas)

Quotables

“I do feel better going into our league tournament, having had the opportunity to continue to practice. It’s March and kids want to play. I think to not have played in 10 days, whomever we play on Thursday, we’re look forward to it.” – Va. Tech head coach Mike Young

“It’s strange because I haven’t seen them nearly as much as I’ve seen some of the other teams in our league, and it’s because we didn’t play them at all… They’re a little bit of a mystery. I have seen them play some but not nearly as much as I have the other teams. They’ll be even more rested than we are, and we understand that. Michael does a great job. I saw their game against Virginia and they were off-the-charts good in that game.” — UNC head coach Roy Williams on Virginia Tech

Pregame Notes

A Perfect Start: With Garrison Brooks sidelined due to an ankle injury, UNC’s trio of bigs – Armando Bacot, Day’Ron Sharpe and Walker Kessler – filled the void without any trouble. They combined for 50 points on 21-of-31 shooting, 35 rebounds and 10 blocks. The Tar Heels won, 101-59, fueled by a 47-4 run in the second half. Kessler set a ACC Tournament freshman record with eight blocks. UNC became the first team to score 100 points in regulation during an ACC Tournament game since 1999.

Two Games, 33 Days: The Hokies have played two games in 33 days due to COVID-19. On Feb. 23, they lost to Georgia Tech, 69-53. On Feb. 27, they beat Wake Forest, 84-46. Before those two games, Tech had not played since Feb. 6 in Miami. It has not played a game since the win over the Demon Deacons, making this a 12-day pause for Mike Young’s squad. Six of its nine conference wins came against the bottom third of the ACC (2x Wake Forest, 2x Miami, 2x Notre Dame). 

Virginia Tech forward Keve Aluma (Photo: Twitter: @HokiesMBB)

All-ACC Aluma: Wofford transfer Keve Aluma was named second-team All-ACC on Monday. The 6-foot-9 forward is averaging 15.9 points and 8.0 rebounds on 50 percent shooting. He is averaging 22 points with 11 made threes (11-of-22) the last five games. Aluma uses his size and athleticism to attack from the wing, but he has the touch of a shooter as well. He earned 277 All-ACC votes and was four shy of making the first team. If Virginia Tech played more games, it’s almost a given Aluma would have been named one of the five best players in the conference.

Efficient Radford: He has missed four games, but redshirt sophomore Tyrese Radford has been Virginia Tech’s most efficient offensive player this season. He holds an offensive rating of 126.1 (35th nation), a 58.3 percent effective field goal percentage (145th) and a 61.6 percent true shooting percentage (111th). Radford averages 11.4 points, 6.1 rebounds and has a 2.1 assist-turnover ratio.

Cone Out; Brooks Questionable: Virginia Tech sophomore guard Jalen Cone (9.2 ppg) will not play in the ACC Tournament due to a lingering ankle injury, while Roy Williams did not have an update on Brooks’s status following the win over Notre Dame. Brooks was not deemed officially out on Wednesday, which suggests that he may be able to play sooner than later.

Size Advantage: It will be another chance for UNC to assert its dominance down low and take advantage of its size. Virginia Tech doesn’t have a player taller than 6-foot-9. Brooks is questionable, so it may be up to Bacot, Kessler and Sharpe to replicate their performance on Wednesday night against the Irish. The Hokies play an aggressive style of defense that could frustrate the Tar Heel bigs with double teams in the low post.

Last Meeting: The Tar Heels defeated the Hokies, 78-56, in the first round of the ACC Tournament on March 10, 2020. Garrison Brooks led all scorers with 20 points. Brandon Robinson added 17 points with a hot shooting night, going 5-of-6 from three-point range.

Series History: UNC leads the all-time series, 33-8, and is 3-0 against Virginia Tech in the ACC Tournament.

UNC Projected Starters:
1 Leaky Black (Jr., 6-8, 195) – 5.6 ppg, 5.2 rpg
2 Caleb Love (Fr., 6-4, 195) – 10.4 ppg, 3.8 apg
5 Armando Bacot (So., 6-10, 240) – 11.8 ppg, 7.6 rpg
15 Garrison Brooks* (Sr., 6-10, 240) – 10.6 ppg, 6.9 rpg
24 Kerwin Walton (Fr., 6-5, 205) – 8.3 ppg, 1.5 rpg

* Brooks did not play against Notre Dame with an ankle injury. If he cannot play on Thursday, Sharpe would again start in his place.

Virginia Tech Projected Starters:
3 Wabissa Bede (Gr., 6-1, 195) – 4.3 ppg, 3.1 apg
4 Nahiem Alleyne (So., 6-4, 195) – 10.2 ppg, 2.7 rpg
22 Keve Aluma (R-Jr., 6-9, 235) – 15.9 ppg, 8.0 rpg
23 Tyrese Radford (R-So., 6-2, 200) – 11.4 ppg, 6.1 rpg
25 Justyn Mutts (R-Jr., 6-7, 230) – 8.9 ppg, 6.4 rpg

Key Virginia Tech Reserves:
0 Hunter Cattoor (So., 6-3, 200) – 8.5 ppg, 1.9 rpg
1 Joe Bamisile (Fr., 6-4, 195) – 3.8 ppg, 1.6 rpg
5 David N’Guessan (Fr., 6-9, 205) – 2.8 ppg, 2.5 rpg

UNC Info
Schedule/Results
Roster & Bios
Stats

Virginia Tech Info
Schedule
Roster & Bios
Stats