The 2020 ACC Tournament kicks off its first round Tuesday in Greensboro. The early game features Wake Forest and Pittsburgh while the night cap will showcase North Carolina taking on Virginia Tech. These two squads will meet for the second time this season. The first game on January 22 was an epic double-overtime thriller in which Virginia Tech squeaked out a 2-point win on their home floor.
It’s important to note however, that the Tar Heels star guard Cole Anthony did not play in that game as he was still recovering from the meniscus injury he suffered in December. Brandon Robinson was also absent in their first meeting. Without Robinson or Anthony, the Tar Heels were extremely limited trying to produce any outside shooting.
Now, over a month since that meeting in Blacksburg, UNC will be looking to get some payback especially now that Anthony has been back in the lineup since February 1st and appears to have gotten right back in the groove posting some impressive stat lines in the process.
Virignia Tech has also faced struggles of their own this year, but their issues were particularly glaring down the stretch. The Hokies were just 2-10 in in the final 12 games of the regular season. Will the Hokies be able to eke out another win over the Tar Heels or will UNC take advantage of being back to full strength?
Getting Anthony and Robinson back in the lineup is clearly a significant upgrade from their previous meeting, but where the Tar Heels will really need to take advantage is in the paint. Garrison Brooks may be the unsung hero of this Tar Heels squad. He’s been an absolute beast from start to finish this season by routinely scoring 20+ points and gobbling up 7-13 boards per game.
When Brooks is paired up with his front-court colleague Armando Bacot, together they have the ability to completely dominate in the paint, not just by scoring but also controlling the rebounding battle. Keeping the Hokies off the offensive glass will provide the Tar Heels a big lift as giving up 2nd chance points is generally a reliable way to get an early trip back to Chapel Hill.
Even though UNC has had a rocky year, their record doesn’t indicate how well this team is capable of playing. With strong perimeter presence from Anthony and Robinson as well as dominant play underneath from Brooks and Bacot, this team appears to have all the pieces in place to surprise a few teams in this ACC Tournament. They also have the luxury of playing close to home in Greensboro, a nice bonus to say the least.
The Hokies will need to overcome a number of deficiencies if they plan to prevail on Tuesday night. The first and most glaring of those issues is their lack of depth and production. Believe it or not, the Hokies only have two players scoring in double digits on the year. Landers Nolley and Tyrece Radford finished the regular season with scoring averages of 15.6 and 10.4 points per game, respectively.
To add insult to injury, the Hokies are going to be at a major size disadvantage in the paint. Their most notable “big man” P.J. Horne is 6’6″ on a good day, whereas Brooks and Bacot are both 6’10”. It’s entirely possible that V.T. could get absolutely dominated on the glass and in the paint.
In order to win this game, the Hokies are going to have to hope that they can shoot the lights out from deep. As a team they attempted the 2nd most 3-pointers in the ACC with Notre Dame surpassing them by just a handful. If the Hokies can get a bunch of those three pointers to fall they may give UNC something to worry about.
North Carolina vs. Virginia Tech Betting Line & Pick
Sportsbooks opened the Tar Heels as a 2.5-point favorite with a total of 142. The spread quickly got pushed up to -3.5 as the early money came in on UNC.
The analysis of this game is pretty simple. UNC now has way too many weapons for Virginia Tech to be able take away everything. UNC should dominate down low and on the boards while Anthony and Robinson will hold a clear advantage on the perimeter. Add to that the payback that UNC would surely like to get and you have a recipe for a Tar Heel win and cover. Lay the 3.5 and don’t look back.
Pick: North Carolina -3.5
*Odds provided by VegasInisder