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StLouHoo's Preview:

Title Defense Begins

NC State Wolfpack

Virginia opens up its 2019 ACC Tournament appearance with an early 1/8 tipoff against the NC State Wolfpack. State used a huge second half to overcome a big deficit against Clemson on Wednesday, while UVA is enjoying the benefit of the double-bye. Will State be the sharper team out the gate, having had 40 minutes on the court and rims to acclimate, or will UVA's fresher legs carry the day? The Hoos' ACC Title defense begins here.

Game Details:

Date/Time:Thursday, March 14th, 12:00 am ET
Location:Spectrum Center, Charlotte, NC
TV:ESPN

 

What 'They' Say

Vegas:Virginia -10.5, O/U 132.5, equates to ~72-61 UVA win
TAPE:Ranks NC State #31, predicts a 73-62 UVA win, 78% confidence
KenPom:Ranks NC State #32, predicts a 73-61 UVA win, 87% confidence

 

Depth Chart:

Starters
PG#10 Braxton Beverly, 6'0" 180, SO
No stats for this player
SG#11 Markell Johnson, 6'1" 175, JR
No stats for this player
SF#13 C.J. Bryce, 6'5" 195, JR
No stats for this player
PF#2 Torin Dorn, 6'5" 210, SR
No stats for this player
C#33 Wyatt Walker, 6'9" 240, SR
No stats for this player
Key Reserves
G#55 Blake Harris, 6'3" 190, SO
No stats for this player
G/F#24 Devon Daniels, 6'5" 200, SO
No stats for this player
F#4 Jericole Hellems, 6'7" 198, FR
No stats for this player
C#0 DJ Funderburk, 6'10" 210, SO
No stats for this player

 

The ABC's of NC State:

A) This team is streaky as hell. Never was this more evident than in their opening game against Clemson, where they went down 16 points at halftime only to storm back and win by 1 behind a 33-16 second half. Granted, they needed some mind-numbingly dumb play from Clemson to pull it off, but still. This is also a team that, in early February, scored just 24 points in a game vs VT (a good team, but not THAT good), only to put up 96 (in a loss, ahem) to UNC just 3 days later. Some nights their offense straight craps the bed, other nights their defense fails to get off the bus. What it all means is that State has failed to achieve the consistency to beat any of the ACC's top teams, a single home win over Syracuse their only top-half victory, which has left them squarely on the NCAAT bubble.

B) State runs a very small lineup. 6'5" Torin Dorn plays the bulk of state's minutes at the 4-spot, and his backup at that spot, Hellems, is a Nolte-ish combo forward. They run a pair of true point guards in the backup, both Beverly and Johnson are true 1's who are at their best with the ball in their hands. They're going to look to spread UVA out and use a combination of shooting and drive/dish offense to attack the much bigger Cavaliers.

C) DJ Funderburk is an underrated asset in the post. He's not starting at the 5, but he's earned the most minutes at the spot with his combination of size, athleticism, strength, and touch. The sophomore will be a terror in the ACC for another two years. He shoots a highly effective 60% from close in, and ranks in the top 10 in the ACC in offensive rebounding rate, block rate, and fouls drawn. He'll prove a challenging cover for Jack Salt, Jay Huff, and Mamadi alike, each in different ways depending how Keatts chooses to scheme and deploy him.

 

Their Season To Date

NC State is 22-10 on the season, 9-9 in ACC regular season play, and 1-0 in the ACC tournament. They played the nation's 352nd-ranked non-conference strength of schedule, though did nab a good win over Auburn in that stretch. In ACC play they failed to beat a top-third team, have one good win over Syracuse, and have two bad losses to Wake Forest (Markell Johnson was injured) and to Georgia Tech last week. Most recently they beat Clemson 59-58 in the ACC Tournament's 8/9 game.

 

Keys to getting the win:

1) Don't give up second chance points. Offensive rebounding is a schematic strength for the Wolfpack, who lead the ACC in offensive rebounding rate (35%). Funderburk leads the charge, as discussed above, but Dorn, Hellems, and Walker are all strong as well. In the first matchup, the Hoos gave up 16 ORs to the Wolfpack, 5 to Walker, and a frustrating 6 to out-of-bounds and whistles. Those second chances were a big part to State staying in the tight game, and the Hoos (usually the ACC's 3rd best team on the defensive glass at 74%) have to have a more characteristic game here, holding State to single digits in this stat area.

2) Ball security. Turnovers killed us in Raleigh in January, 16 total, 8 live ball, that not only stalled our offense but fueled State's. Granted, in that game, Jerome was playing hurt, but that doesn't explain Hunter's 4 TOs, or 2 apiece by Key and Kyle. The Hoos are usually excellent in this regard, 2nd in the ACC in offensive turnover rate, though 12th in live ball TO rate (or steal rate allowed), meaning we're susceptible against defenses that really heat up our ball handling. UVA can't let the turnovers be a reason the Wolfpack keep this one close.

3) Pound the lane. The Wolfpack are not a good defensive team overall, 10th in the ACC per KenPom, but most of that is due to an inability to protect the paint. Opponents score an effective 52% on 2's, and they've largely abandoned the 3-point shot to target the paint against the Wolfpack each night. NC State's defensive 3pA/FGA ratio is the lowest in the league, opponents taking only 32% of their shots from behind the arc, so our trio of sharpshooters should pay attention to what the rest of the ACC knows... beat the Pack in the lane.

 

 

Predictions:

The double byes are a very real advantage. It's hard for a team to come back strong for 40 minutes after having played less than 24 hours prior when their opponent got the day off. This really manifests in the 2nd half as the initial energy wears off. Virginia's been a second half team lately, and expect that to go double tomorrow as a tight first half, one where NC State's upset-minded energy keeps them in it, maybe even with an early lead, before the Hoos make the necessary adjustments to open up a safe lead down the stretch, though I'm going to go on a limb that we don't cover.

Hoos Win 68-60