Virginia Tech at North Carolina: 2021-22 college basketball game preview, TV schedule

Wednesday night the North Carolina Tar Heels host the Virginia Tech Hokies in a key ACC battle. Who is the second-best team in the league is a question both teams think they’re the answer to, who is right?

TV Schedule: Wednesday, December 29, 2021, 7:00 PM ET, ESPN2

Arena: Dean E. Smith Center, Chapel Hill, North Carolina

Before we turn the calendar to 2022, ACC play gets underway in earnest and for a league that has been hard to figure out and struggled relative to its expectations, it is time to find out how good this league is and what the hierarchy looks behind Duke. An important game in helping shake these things out takes place on Tuesday night in Dean Dome when Virginia Tech (8-5, 0-2) takes on the North Carolina Tar Heels (9-3, 1-0).

UNC has been the hotter of the two teams coming into the game, going 4-1 in their last five games, but the loss was a 29-point loss to Kentucky in the revamped CBS Sports Classic in Las Vegas. The visiting Hokies stumble into Chapel Hill, going just 2-3 over their last five, they beat St. Bonaventure by 37 at home before traveling to Duke last time out for a game that was a tight contest in the first half before the Blue Devils pulled away in the second half.

Mike Young’s Virginia Tech squad is a balanced one with four different guys averaging double figures, led by Keve Aluma’s 15, but on any given night it could be anyone leading the team offensively as they have had five different players lead the team in scoring so far this season, including 10-point scorers Justyn Mutts and Nahiem Alleyne.

One guy that has been hot coming into this game is junior guard Hunter Cattoor who is averaging 14 points over his last four games and is shooting over 63% from three-point land over that time. Offensively the Hokies average just 71 points per game, they are one of the best three-point shooting teams in the country at 39% and are efficient on the offensive end, ranking 31st in efficiency and 56th in effective field-goal percentage according to KenPom.

On the defensive end, the analytics say they have been just as good, giving up over 65 points just twice, both losses, and held opponents under 60 nine times. As good as the Hokies have been shooting the three, they have been even better defending it, allowing opponents to hit just 25% of their shots.

North Carolina has been the hotter of the two teams coming into this one, having won six of their last seven including a 21-point win over the No. 24 Michigan. Junior forward Armando Bacot has been a force for Hubert Davis’ squad. He leads the team in scoring at 15 points per game and rebounding with 9.8 boards per contest but, as of late he has been really strong, registering six double-doubles in his last seven, averaging 12.4 points and 9.4 rebounds over that time.

The Tar Heels have four other players averaging double figures, Caleb Love, R.J. Davis, Brady Manek, and Dawson Garcia for a team that nets 78 points per game and shoots 39% from deep. Defensively, the Tar Heels have been very strong during their recent run, surrendering just 56 points per game in their last six wins.

It’s time to try and figure out who the second-best team in the ACC is, and both these teams can stake a claim. While the individual matchup of Aluma vs. Bacot will be fun to watch, I think the three-point line is where this game will be decided. Virginia Tech averages 22 attempts per game and UNC puts up 19 and even though they both shoot it at a 39% clip, the long ball accounts for nearly 37% of the Hokies offense, compared to just 29% for the Tar Heels.

Both teams are going to shoot it from deep, but I think it will be Virginia Tech’s ability to defend the three with Mutts and Aluma being able to limit UNC’s frontcourt that will give the Hokies a close win.

Prediction: Virginia Tech 76, North Carolina 72