UNC vs. Virginia Tech Preview

North Carolina (18-8, 10-5 ACC) vs Virginia Tech (16-10, 8-7 ACC)
Blacksburg, Virginia – Castle Coliseum
Saturday February 19 – 4:00 PM ET
ESPN2 (Wes Durham, Corey Alexander)


“It was a very competitive battle the first time we played. We threw the ball to the post to Armando and Brady and they threw the ball to the big players, and neither of us cooperated. We created top players who could score consistently low at the post. And both of our top players are also excellent passers. And ready to pass to be able to make shots for their open teammates.” – UNC coach Hubert Davis in the front game with hockey

“We play the way I imagined playing. I have good players.” – Mike Young, head coach of Virginia Tech, on his team’s six-game winning streak

Pre-match notes

Outlook is not good enough: Losing to Pittsburgh on Wednesday put North Carolina on the verge of not participating in the NCAA Championship for the first time since the 2009-10 season (the NCAA Championship was canceled in 2020 due to COVID-19 but UNC was 14-19). The Tar Heels are ranked 45th in the net with a 0-7 record against Q1 opponents. A win in Blacksburg would go a long way in helping Al Kaaban hear his name on Selection Sunday.

Test away from home: North Carolina State has had mixed success playing away from the Smith Center. UNC is 5-6 in matches played outside Chapel Hill (0-3 at neutral locations). Tar heels are 4-3 in team play on the road and 6-2 in ACC home play. The Tar Heels had two double-digit wins on the road against ACC opponents but suffered two double-digit losses against ACC opponents outside the Smith Center. VT outperformed its other four competitors in the conference on its home turf with a total of 63 points. VT has also won their last two matches with the Tar Heels in Blacksburg.

Hokie Overview: Virginia Tech is in tatters. Since losing to the Tar Heels on January 24, the Hokies have fallen by one game and are on a six-game winning streak. It’s hockey’s longest winning streak since the 5-0 season opener. Over the course of the streak, the VT averages 74.8 points per game and allows opponents to score 61.3 points per game. Four Hokies novices average scoring. Kev Aluma leads the team, joined by Justin Mots, Hunter Cator, and Nahim Allen. Mutts is the captain in rebounds per game (7.5), assists in every match (3.3) and steals in every game (1.2). The Hokies have the second-best team-of-three hit percentage in the country at 41%. VT also has effective offense, ranking 19th in adjusted offensive efficiency with a rating of 114.5, according to kenpom.com. The Hokies’ 55.8% effective field goal percentage is 14th in the country, according to kenpom.com. Virginia Tech is ranked 37th in the NCAA NET Rankings.

Justin Mutts and Armando Bakut (Photo: Bob Donnan, USA TODAY Sports)

ACC standing: The Hokies are seventh in the ACC standings, with a score of 8-7. They were expected to take fifth place. After starting play 2-7 in the conference, the Hokies found their groove by defeating Florida State, Georgia Tech, Pittsburgh (twice), Syracuse and Virginia. The Hokies are ranked 10th in the ACC for points per game, scoring 70.6 and giving away the second-lowest number of points per game to the opponent, allowing 61.5.

All ACC output: There is a strong chance for striker Kiv Aluma to find himself in the All-ACC team at the end of the season. The first is nine points per game (15.8), 19 in rebounds per game (6.2) and 13 in blocks per game (0.9). Aluma is third in the ACC with a field goal percentage of 53.5% and ranks 12th in free throw percentage, shooting 77.8%.

Deadline: Hockey beat Virginia 62-53 on Monday. Aluma dominated with 24 points, eight rebounds in shooting 10 of 14. Aluma also had four blocks. Naim Allen joined Aluma with a double number and scored 11 points. VT 5-20 (25%) shot from three and 43.5% from the ground. The Hokies played great defense around the perimeter and shot the Cavs to 0 for 9 out of three.

last meeting: The Tar Heels defeated the Hokies, 78-68, on January 24. All five UNC Novices scored in double figures with Caleb Love leading the way with 22 points. Armando Bacot had a solid shooting run, but he scored 14 points and 19 double rebounds. RG Davis and Brady Mannick each scored 15 points and Lakey Black had two 3-pointers on his 10-point run. It was a mixed shooting night for Tar Heels, who went 10-25 (40%) from downtown but shot 23-63 (36.5%) overall.

Series date: UNC leads the all-time series, 71-15.

Expected UNC beginners:
1 Leaky Black (Sr., 6-8 200) – 4.9 ppg, 4.4 rpg
2 Caleb Love (So., 6-4, 195) – 15.1 ppg, 3.6 apg
4 RJ Davis (So., 6-0, 175) – 13.5 ppg, 3.4 apg
5 Armando Bacot (Junior, 6-10, 240) – 16.2 ppg, 12.1 rpg
45 Brady Manic (range 6-9, 230) – 13.7ppg, 5.7rpm

Virginia Tech Beginners Expected:
0 Hunter Cator (Junior, 6-3, 200) – 10.3 ppg, 4.1 rpg
4 Nahim Allen (Jr., 6-4, 195) – 10.3 ppg, 3.0 rpg
5 Storm Murphy (Gr., 6-0, 185) – 8.3 ppg, 2.7 apg
22 How Aluma (Sr., 6-9, 235) – 15.8 ppg, 6.2 rpm
25 Justyn Mutts (Gr., 6-7, 230) – 10.3 ppg, 7.5 rpg

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