Previewing Virginia Tech

Payback will be on the minds of the Tar Heels as Virginia Tech comes to the Smith Center -- exactly one month after the Hokies beat UNC in Blacksburg. Tuesday's tip-off in Chapel Hill is set for 8 p.m. and will be televised by Raycom/LFN.

North Carolina (22-3, 8-2) vs. Virginia Tech (17-7, 7-3)
Chapel Hill, N.C. - Dean E. Smith Center
8 p.m., TV - Raycom/LFN


"They're a little like us. When we get people turned over and get our break going, then everything gets to be a lot easier. I think that is something that Virginia Tech does. I think it was the most significant factors in the game up there. We turned it over so many times with just not being strong enough with the ball or being careless with the ball. And the other thing is, we let them get to the offensive boards. Deron Washington is one of the best offensive rebounders in the league, and we better make sure we get a body on him, Coleman Collins, Jamon Gordon and all those guys. We've got total respect for them. They had us by 23 up there, and we remember that." -- Roy Williams

"That's the whole key - you've got to set your defense because if you're in disarray, they hurt you in transition, they hurt you with second shots, they hurt you on penetration. If you're on your heels, it's hard to defend Carolina." -- VT head coach Seth Greenberg

"Deron Washington (22 pts, 10 reb vs. UVa on Sat.) is our energizer bunny. His energy lights a fire under our guys, he's so quick ... his perimeter skills are improved, he's relentless going on the offensive glass, he runs the floor and he's a big part of what we do." -- Greenberg


The First Meeting: North Carolina got a wake up call on Jan. 13 in Blacksburg. With sloppy play and a lack of intensity, the Tar Heels fell behind by as many as 23 points, before a furious comeback came up just short for a 94-88 final. "I believe I didn't do a good job of getting the team ready or with the intensity that we had to play with," Roy Williams said afterwards. UNC committed 17 turnovers, missed 13 free throws and allowed the Hokies to shoot 52-percent from the field. Tyler Hansbrough had 19 points and 15 rebounds for Carolina, while Zabian Dowdell scored a game-high 23 points for Tech. (IC's game coverage)

Season to Date: Virginia Tech enters Tuesday's game in fourth place in the ACC, with a number of good wins -- and confusing losses -- on its record. Impressive wins over North Carolina, at Duke, at Georgia Tech and a 27-point thrashing of then-first place Virginia on Saturday have the Hokies in good position for an NCAA Tournament berth. Yet, there are also losses against Western Michigan, Southern Illinois, Marshall and NC State.

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, and are a menace on defense -- ranked first 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 (7.9 ppg, 5.0 rpg), but remains a low-post threat to score and rebound.

Defense: The Hokies are ranked No. 2 in the ACC in allowing only 63.2 points per game and have held opponents to 40.5 percent shooting. They are third in steals and lead the conference in turnover margin, while averaging more than five 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 (41.4%) and A.D. Vassallo (45.3%) are reliable long range weapons, while Nigel Munson (41.9%) aids off the bench.

Series History: The Hokies are 11-55 all-time against the Tar Heels. Tech is 5-25 in Chapel Hill, but has never played a game in the Dean E. Smith Center. UNC has won 18 of the last 19 games in the series.

Projected Starters:
22 Jamon Gordon (6-3, 215, Sr.) – 11.7 ppg, 4.0 apg
 1 Zabian Dowdell (6-3, 200, Sr.) - 17.6 ppg, 3.4 apg
13 Deron Washington (6-6, 230, Jr.) – 11.9 ppg, 5.4 rpg
21 Lewis Witcher (6-9, 220, Fr.) – 3.4 ppg, 2.9 rpg
33 Coleman Collins (6-9, 240, Sr.) – 7.9 ppg, 5.0 rpg

Key Reserves:
40 A.D. Vassallo (6-6, 215, So.) – 11.5 ppg, 3.9 rpg
 3 Nigel Munson (6-0, 175, Fr.) – 3.4 ppg, 1.3 apg
34 Cheick Diakite (6-9, 230, So.) – 3.1 ppg, 2.7 rpg
24 Markus Sailes (6-5, 210, Sr.) – 2.1 ppg

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Dowdell ....... Gordon

Collins ....... Washington

Vassallo ....... Witcher

(Photos courtesy AP/Getty)

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