Blacksburg, Va. - Cassell Coliseum
3:30 p.m., TV - ABC
The Real Hokies?: Who are the real Virginia Tech Hokies? The team that won at Duke last weekend -- or the team that lost to Western Michigan and Southern Illinois in a Nov. tournament? In the overtime win over the Blue Devils, the Hokies posted a +15 turnover margin and dominated the backcourt matchups. That's the team that has a shot at home against North Carolina.
Experience: The Tech backcourt doesn't get much publicity, but seniors Jamon Gordon and Zabian Dowdell have the skill and experience to match up against any other backcourt in the conference on either end of the floor. They can shoot from the outside or penetrate (as the top two scorers on the team), and are a menace on defense -- ranked second and third, respectively, in the conference in steals. And their floor leadership is a major reason the Hokies rank second only to UNC for the ACC's best assistant-to-turnover ratio. The other starting senior is Coleman Collins, whose overall numbers are down this year (7.6 ppg, 4.7 rpg), but remains a low-post threat to score and rebound.
Defense: The Hokies are ranked No. 2 in the ACC in allowing only 57.9 points per game and have held opponents to 39.4 percent shooting. They are a close third in steals and lead the conference in turnover margin, while VT's frontcourt averages a combined near four blocks per game.
The Arc: The defensive focus against Virginia Tech centers on stopping their perimeter game, including out beyond the three-point line. Dowdell (43.4%) and A.D. Vassallo (40.8%) are reliable long range weapons, while Gordon (36.4%) hits his share of clutch threes and Nigel Munson (44.0%) aids off the bench.
Airborne: Deron Washington made just about every highlight reel with his leap over Duke's Greg Paulus, but that doesn't tell the whole story of his all-around impact on the game. The athletic junior forward had 11 points, eight rebounds, three assists and four steals against the Blue Devils and his contributions are key to Tech's success.
Series History: The Hokies are 10-55 all-time against the Tar Heels. Tech is 4-17 all-time against UNC in Blacksburg and 0-4 against Carolina in Cassell Coliseum. UNC has won 18 straight games in the series, including 64-61 victory in Blacksburg on Jan. 10 last season. In that game, the Hokies forced 25 UNC turnovers and led by double-digits early. Tyler Hansbrough had a game-high 20 points and nine rebounds.
Projected Starters: 22 Jamon Gordon (6-3, 215, Sr.) – 12.1 ppg, 4.2 apg 1 Zabian Dowdell (6-3, 200, Sr.) - 16.6 ppg, 3.4 apg 40 A.D. Vassallo (6-6, 215, So.) – 11.3 ppg, 3.9 rpg 13 Deron Washington (6-6, 230, Jr.) – 11.1 ppg, 5.2 rpg 33 Coleman Collins (6-9, 240, Sr.) – 7.6 ppg, 4.7 rpg Key Reserves: 21 Lewis Witcher (6-9, 220, Fr.) – 4.3 ppg, 3.5 rpg 3 Nigel Munson (6-0, 175, Fr.) – 3.8 ppg 34 Cheick Diakite (6-9, 230, So.) – 2.9 ppg, 3.3 rpg 24 Markus Sailes (6-5, 210, Sr.) – 1.9 ppg
Dowdell ....... Gordon
Collins ....... Washington
Vassallo ....... Witcher
(Photos courtesy AP/Getty)