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Raleigh Road Trip

NC State Wolfpack

Virginia travels to Raleigh to face a successful Wolfpack team on Tuesday night. NC State has climbed into the Top 25, but still is searching for a big ACC win. They'll approach Virginia as a big resume-making opportunity. The Hoos have been road warriors in January, this trip their 5th away date in the last 3 weeks, will the Hoos be up to the task with all the recent mileage?

Game Details:

Date/Time:Tuesday, January 29th, 7:00 pm ET
Location:PNC Arena, Raleigh, NC


What 'They' Say

Vegas:Virginia -8.5, O/U 138, equates to ~73-65 UVA win
TAPE:Ranks NCSU #33, predicts a 74-65 UVA win, 80% confidence
KenPom:Ranks NCSU #32, predicts a 75-65 UVA win, 82% confidence


Depth Chart:

PG#11 Markell Johnson, 6'1" 175, JR
21.4 mpg, 11.8 ppg, 4.0 apg, .464 3P%
SG#10 Braxton Beverly, 6'0" 180, SO
27.8 mpg, 9.7 ppg, 3.1 apg, .389 3P%
SF#13 C.J. Bryce, 6'5" 195, JR
26.8 mpg, 12.5 ppg, 5.3 rpg, .517 FG%
PF#2 Torin Dorn, 6'5" 210, SR
27.4 mpg, 14.3 ppg, 6.9 rpg, .489 FG%
C#33 Wyatt Walker, 6'9" 240, SR
19.2 mpg, 5.5 ppg, 4.3 rpg, .605 FG%
Key Reserves
G#5 Eric Lockett, 6'5" 193, SR
17.3 mpg, 5.6 ppg, 1.5 apg, .500 3P%
G/F#24 Devon Daniels, 6'5" 200, SO
23.3 mpg, 10.3 ppg, 1.6 apg, .306 3P%
F#4 Jericole Hellems, 6'7" 198, FR
15.0 mpg, 6.4 ppg, 3.0 rpg, .392 FG%
F/C#0 DJ Funderburk, 6'10" 210, SO
18.7 mpg, 8.8 ppg, 4.3 rpg, .596 FG%


The ABC's of NC State:

A) They start with two really good PGs. The Wolfpack only brought back three players from last year's team this season, but two of them are their dynamic starting duo of point guards. The two combine for 21.5 ppg, 7.1 apg vs 3.8 TOpg, 44% from 2 and about 42% from 3. They're fast, aggressive, equally comfortable with the ball and off it, and enable the entire offense to hum. Johnson missed a few games recently and his importance was evident when they were upset by the worst team in the ACC, Wake Forest. On defense, they fluster opposing guards with withering press coverage.

B) They want to play small and fast. We all recall our struggles vs UNC-Wilmington's small lineup in the 2017 NCAA Tournament. Keatts brought his small-ball philosophies with him from UNC-W, and while his inherited roster last season forced him to play more traditional 2-big than he was used to, this year he's brought in enough guard talent to play his preferred style. This means that in addition to the two PGs up top, he's got a pair of 6'5" G/F's at the 3 and 4 spot in 5th year veteran Torin Dorn (with the two PGs, one of only 3 returners from last year's team) and UNC-W transfer CJ Bryce (played against UVA for Keatts in the 2017 tourney). They're State's two leading scorers, both efficient slashers, and Bryce a competent 3 point shooter (45%). They're backed up by more 6'5" transfer wings in Daniels (Utah) and Lockett (FIU). They have the bodies to spread teams out and attack all 40 minutes, sporting the ACC's 2nd fastest tempo and using tight perimeter defense to attack ball handlers and passing lanes.

C) They want to turn you over. NC State has the 10th ranked defense in ACC play, struggling to suppress opponent shooting percentages and fouling way too often. But there is a strength in there, and that's their ability to turn over opponents. On the season they're 14th nationally in percentage of TOs forced (23.3%), and 79th in live-ball steals (10.2%). In ACC play those percentages drop to 18.9% and 9.0%, respectively, though still 5th in the conference in both. They forced 23 turnovers (12 live) from Carolina in the near-upset, though the steady guards from Notre Dame limited the damage to merely 9 TOs (4 live). They will run intense press coverage all over the court, both on-ball and off-, to try to disrupt ball movement and force guards into errant passes. Virginia's guards will have to be very disciplined, though in our favor we haven't committed double-digit turnovers since the 10 we gave up at Boston College. We are 10th in ACC play in rate of live ball steals given up, however.


Their Season To Date

NC State is 16-4 on the season, 4-3 in the ACC. In the non-conference they own a good home win over Auburn and a narrow loss at Wisconsin. In ACC play they have respectable losses to UNC and at Louisville, and one inexplicable loss at Wake Forest (though they were without starting PG Markell Johnson). Their ACC wins are unremarkable: Miami, Pitt, Notre Dame, and most recently a buzzer beater vs Clemson (combined ACC record of 5-22).


Keys to getting the win:

1) Don't get beat by small ball. Virginia's shown increased commitment to a 2-big lineup since Clark was injured, starting Mamadi in the 4-spot alongside Salt and going with two traditional bigs (Huff being the third) on the floor for about 25% of the game. This yields its advantages with paint defense and rebounding (both ends), but in years past we've seen this be a defensive liability when facing teams with athletic wings playing at the 4. The spread sets stretch the Pack, and put guys like Mamadi in a tough spot, covering in space against guys quicker than they are. We'll go with Key as the 4 for about half the game, and occasionally even Hunter (playing about 8 minutes a game in the small lineup), which should negate NC State's advantages. But when we do go 2-big, we'll want to see State's small-4 Dorn adequately checked... I expect they'll look to have him attack Mamadi whenever he draws that assignment.

2) Keep them off the offensive glass. For a small team, NC State hits the offensive glass with surprising effectiveness. They're the 9th best team in the country per KenPom in OR%, and tops in the ACC in the conference season, recovering 36% of their misses. It's a team effort, with 7 different players averaging at least 1 offensive rebound a game (everyone except the two PGs). The entire team crashes the glass to get 2nd looks, and will feel even more free to do so against a UVA team not known for leaking outlets for a fast break. Virginia will have to limit the damage here. This isn't a case where NC State is doing it with extensive height/length, but instead by sending wings crashing from the perimeter or on the secondary break. Hoo guards and wings will all have to be focused on bodying up their rebounding assignments on every shot.

3) Attack the paint relentlessly. Once you beat NC State's ball pressure, their defense practically begs you to drive the paint. Their guards press all the way out to the perimeter to attack passes and harass shooters, and there's minimal size on the interior with their 4-guard lineups. Once you get into the paint on them, they're 12th in the ACC in 2p% allowed (52%), dead last in committing fouls and giving up FTAs, and merely average in shot blocking. We may see Keatts try to steal from the Buzz Williams playbook here and pull in his defenders into their own pack line a little, in which case we should still look to utilize our size advantage in the post and use that to set up jump shooters, but either way, the Hoos should refuse to settle for 3PAs (even as good as we are) until we soften up the paint by sheer force of will first.




Other than the Duke game, this is probably the toughest draw UVA's had in the ACC slate's first half. NC State's got 3 tough losses to 3 very good teams in Wisconsin (away), UNC, and Louisville (away). Even without Johnson, the loss to Wake was inexcusable though, as they put a bad Deacon team on the line for 28 FTAs. This team is good but inconsistent, and it's clear Keatts is still working hard to make all the pieces work in his 2nd year. The Wolfpack will likely win enough to make the NCAAT; KenPom projects them to finish 22-9 (10-8), which should be 8/9 seed territory.

But given the growth curve they're still on as a team (remember, only 3 returners from last year's squad), there's little expectation the Wolfpack are ready to beat the league's elite unless they simply catch fire shooting the ball and catch their opponent on a cold, sloppy night. NC State relies on creating turnovers and offensive rebounding. Well, Virginia leads the league in fewest turnovers and preventing O-Rebs. On paper, this is just a bad matchup for the Wolfpack, especially with Virginia's still-improving offensive confidence and efficiency.

Expect a few NC State hot-stretches to make the game interesting at times, but in the end the good guys will head back to Charlottesville with another road pelt.

Hoos Win 73-64