Greensboro, N.C. – North Carolina and Virginia Tech played the last of two ACC Tournament opening round men’s basketball games here at the Greensboro Coliseum. The winner of that game would face Syracuse at approximately 9:30 Wednesday night.
North Carolina dominated the game, 78-56.
Here are a few observations to prepare you for what awaits:
- Expect the crowd to be decidedly – and I mean decidedly – pro-North Carolina. Tar Heels fans dressed in their Carolina blue and packed the place for the first game that featured Wake Forest and Pittsburgh. They stayed through the opener to the featured event. There were approximately 30 or so Virginia Tech fans here; the rest of the arena was vocally and sartorially rooting for the Heels. Every one of them believes North Carolina can win this tournament and the ACC’s automatic bid.
- Garrison Brooks, UNC’s skilled big man, started the game wearing goggles, then early in the game pitched them to the sideline. Brooks, who is 6-foot-9 and was voted the ACC’s most improved player, scored his 900th point against Syracuse in the Carrier Dome this year. It looked, in the beginning of the game, that he would be a huge factor (he was at Syracuse). But he was just 1-of-5 in that first half and played almost no role in the UNC lead. The smaller, peskier Hokies bothered him near the rim. But here’s the caveat: They also fouled him a lot. And by the second half, Brooks and Cole Anthony were executing textbook pick-and-roll plays. Brooks eventually was just too much for the Hokies to handle. He scored 20 and was 8-of-10 from the free-throw line.
- Virginia Tech got a lot of good opportunities from the 3-point line. The Hokies moved the ball and moved themselves really well against UNC’s man defense. Va Tech has a quick collection of guards capable of penetrating and kicking to open shooters. They have a bunch of guys who will take 3s and make 3s. The majority of their shots in the first half were 3s – they just didn’t make enough of them. They were 6-of-18 from distance. UNC seemed fairly content to let them shoot from there, too, even though Virginia Tech ranks second in the ACC in 3-point field goals made. (SU ranks 6th.) In the end, the Hokies could not make enough 3s to stay close. Virginia Tech shot 28 percent (10-of-36) from the 3-point line.
- The Hokies, for their obvious size disadvantage, did a credible job of clogging the middle and disrupting UNC’s effectiveness around the basket in the first half. Va Tech might not be big, but those guys are quick, athletic and were pretty determined in there. But by the second half, the UNC big guys wore down the Hokies. In the end, Brooks and Armando Bacot, who is 6-foot-10, did the bulk of the scoring for the Tar Heels — either from the floor or at the line. There was such a size differential and the Heels played both bigs for much of the game. UNC, of course, got to the free-throw line a ton because of its interest in exploiting the inside. First half free throws: UNC 11-of-14; VAT 2-of-2. End of game: UNC 19-of-25; Virginia Tech 10-of-11. Points in the paint: UNC 32, VAT 12.
- Virginia Tech didn’t really try to get to the offensive glass. As soon as one of its shots went up, everybody in a Hokies uniform sprinted back to guard against UNC’s transition game. It should be noted, though, that the Hokies are the worst offensive rebounding team in the league.
- Christian Keeling, who was huge in the Tar Heels win over Syracuse in the Dome (he scored 18), injured an ankle at the end of the first half and retreated into the UNC locker room. He did not return to the game until the 10:37 mark of the second half. You’d suppose he’s just fine, since at that point, UNC owned a substantial lead.
- The rebounds, obviously, were a problem for the Hokies. UNC dominated the glass. The Heels dominated the glass at Syracuse, too. Bacot grabbed the majority of them; the freshman big man had 11 boards. Rebounds: UNC 45-30.
- Brandon Robinson was the 3-point killer for the Tar Heels Tuesday. UNC doesn’t take a lot of 3s, but on Tuesday, Robinson made a bunch of them. Robinson, a 6-5 guard, came into the game shooting .358 from the 3-point line. He was 5-for-6 against Virginia Tech. The presence of UNC’s big guys opens so much space on the perimeter. On Tuesday, the Heels made 54 percent (7-of-13) of their 3-point attempts.
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