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February 28, 2014

UNC-VT Preview

Basketball Preview

The Tar Heels extended their winning streak to 10 ten games with a win over their Raleigh rivals N.C. State Wednesday night. The game ended up being an instant classic and at least one (maybe two) guys came out of that one with way more national spotlight shining on them than they had going into it.

Marcus Paige and T.J. Warren went back and forth in a dual that nearly allowed the Wolfpack to pull off the upset but ended up giving UNC one more notch in their ever-improving NCAA tournament resume.

The Heels will travel to Blacksburg, Virginia to take on the Virginia Tech Hokies Saturday and that game is a precursor to the final two games of the regular season which includes Senior Night against Notre Dame and a road finale against Duke.

A long season's schedule is littered with trap games and this another one waiting to snag a hole in the good fortunes UNC's basketball team has found lately.

Can they avoid a loss and end the season on a 13-game winning streak? Can they continue to stay focused and take care of business against the Hokies?

Let's take a look at some of the storylines heading into the next outing.

Marcus Paige

Paige was already in the discussion but he may have jumped the line a bit in the ACC Player of the Year talks after the night he had against N.C. State.

After scoring just 4 points in the first half, Paige dropped 31 in the second half and overtime including the game winner that buried N.C. State and propelled UNC to the win.

Paige has come up big when the Tar Heels have needed him. He had a bad first half, as did the rest of his teammates, against Florida State a couple games ago, but turned it around in the second half (16 points after halftime) in that one to erase a large deficit and get the victory.

He did the same against Duke (all 13 points scored in the second half) later that week in what was probably the most exciting game of the season for UNC fans until the State game.

This Carolina team isn't one that is filled with veterans that know what they're doing from years of experience. This is a group that is led by a second year player who struggled quite a bit in his first season but has, just like nearly every big game this season, shown extreme resolve in his second frame.

Paige's leadership, more than his points, and his reliability have been the determining factor in UNC's remarkable turnaround. Many believed they would eventually get back the services of their best scoring talent P.J. Hairston and when they didn't, the emotional toll clearly hit this team harder than any of them will ever let on.

But Paige has quickly gotten everyone on board, assumed the alpha dog role when it comes to putting the ball in the hoop and everyone else has been able to move on because of it.

With all the context that surrounds Paige's production during one of the more difficult off-the-court years UNC basketball has endured, it's hard not to see him as one of a handful of guys that could win ACC POY.

Better at home...

This is not a good Virginia Tech basketball team.

The Hokies have lost 13 of their last 14 games and are 2-13 in the ACC, sitting dead last in the conference standings.

However, even with all the losses, like most teams, they are much better at home than on the road and this game with UNC will serve as Virginia Tech's Senior Night. The Hokies have only lost two ACC games at home by more than 10 points (Syracuse and Maryland).

As they prepare to send off their leading scorer, Charlotte native Jarell Eddie, Virginia Tech's fans, just like the ones in the PNC Arena, should be at full throttle and ready to give every ounce of support they have against one of the ACC's blue blood schools.

Secondary Effort

Paige is clearly the first scoring option and oftentimes James Michael McAdoo is the second one to get his touches.

The Heels had real trouble finding guys, outside of those two, that could put points on the board but that issue has largely fixed itself because of two reasons.

For starters, three guys have gotten better at getting the stat sheet stuffed for varying reasons. J.P. Tokoto has simply developed a better all-around game that is built around an improved mid-range jumper, Kennedy Meeks has lost some weight and gained some athleticism that helps showcase his plethora of post moves down low more often and Brice Johnson has improved his consistency, on defense, to a point that is nowhere near where it could be, but far improved from where it was when Roy Williams was reluctant to leave him in for large stretches of games.

The second reason is the defense. Williams talked earlier in the year about getting a better effort from his guys. He has that now and he also feels like his team plays with a better sense of

Virginia Tech
(9-18, 2-13)
#19/21 North Carolina
(21-7, 11-4)

Game Day
Saturday, March 1, 2014
Time: 2:30 PM EST
Venue: Cassell Coliseum (9,847)
TV: ACC Network

Radio: Tar Heel Sports Network & SiriusXM (Sirius 117/XM 193)
Series: UNC leads the all-time series with Virginia Tech, 63-13.
Last Meeting: North Carolina beat Virginia Tech, 72-60, on February 2, 2013, in Chapel Hill.

2013-2014 ACC Standings

Virginia Tech at a glance
Location: Blacksburg, Va.
Nickname: Hokies
Colors: Chicago Maroon & Burnt Orange
Conference: ACC
Arena: Cassell Coliseum (9,847)
2012-2013 Record: 13-19 (4-14)
Last Game: Virginia Tech lost 66-48 at #6 Duke on Tuesday night.
More on the Hokies:
Schedule | Stats | Roster
Official Site | Rivals Site

Last starting line-up
(against Duke)

F - Jarrell Eddie
F - Joey Van Zegeren
F - Trevor Thompson
G - Devin Wilson

G - Will Johnston

Statistical Leaders
Scoring: Jarrell Eddie (13.3 PPG) Adam Smith (11.0 PPG)

Rebounding: Jarrell Eddie (5.3 RPG) Joey Van Zegeren (5.1 RPG)

Assists: Devin Wilson (4.7 APG) Adam Smith (2.1 APG)

Team Statistics
Points Per Game:
Rebounds Per Game: 37.5
Assist Per Game: 11.2
Field Goal Percentage: .412
3-pt Field Goal Percentage: .367

North Carolina at a glance
Last starting line-up
(against N.C. State)

F - James Michael McAdoo
F - J.P. Tokoto
F - Kennedy Meeks
G - Leslie McDonald

G - Marcus Paige

Statistical Leaders
Scoring: Marcus Paige (17.5 PPG) James Michael McAdoo (14.2 PPG)

Rebounding: James Michael McAdoo (6.9 RPG) Brice Johnson (6.3 RPG)

Assists: Marcus Paige (4.6 APG) J.P. Tokoto (3.0 APG)

Team Statistics
oints Per Game: 77.3
Rebounds Per Game: 41.0
Assist Per Game: 15.9
Field Goal Percentage: .462
3-pt Field Goal Percentage: .342

Game Notes: VT | UNC

urgency. He's talked about every possession, every moment, every loose ball, every rebound and every pass as an opportunity to make a difference in the larger moment of the game. He says it has to be the most important moment of the game, every time.

That appears to have gotten through to his players and a good majority of their offense comes from playing good defense. The zone schemes they've implemented has given them a chance against more athletic foes that can break them down off the dribble. That a team as young as UNC can stick to those zone principles pretty well is a testament to how in tune this team is with Williams and his coaching staff.

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