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StLouHoo's Preview:

Cole Anthony Comes To Town

North Carolina Tar Heels

UVA and UNC, matched up in early December by the brilliant minds at ACC HQ and ESPN, both got spanked in this week's ACC-B1G Challenge. Both need this game to rebuild their confidence. Bennett's traditionally fared well against UNC in the regular season, but are UVA's offensive limitations too much to overcome right now?

Game Details:

Date/Time:Sunday, December 8th, 4:00 pm ET
Location:John Paul Jones Arena, Charlottesville, VA
TV:ACCN

 

What 'They' Say

Vegas:UVA -4.5, O/U 115.5, equates to ~60-55 UVA win
Torvik:Ranks UNC #28, predicts a 58-53 UVA win, 71% confidence
KenPom:Ranks UNC #24, predicts a 61-55 UVA win, 69% confidence

 

Depth Chart:

Starters
PG#2 Cole Anthony, 6'3" 190, FR
32.9 mpg, 20.0 ppg, 3.9 apg, 37.5 3P%
SG#4 Brandon Robinson, 6'5" 173, SR
30.0 mpg, 10.8 ppg, 3.3 apg, 33.3 3P%
SF#1 Leaky Black, 6'8" 195, SO
26.9 mpg, 4.8 ppg, 4.5 rpg, 31.1 FG%
PF#32 Justin Pierce, 6'7" 210, SR
21.0 mpg, 7.0 ppg, 5.5 rpg, 35.8 FG%
C#15 Garrison Brooks, 6'9" 235, JR
33.1 mpg, 12.3 ppg, 8.1 rpg, 51.4 FG%
Key Reserves
G#55 Christian Keeling, 6'3" 180, SR
20.0 mpg, 5.1 ppg, 0.8 apg, 21.1 3P%
G#3 Andrew Platek, 6'4" 200, JR
19.4 mpg, 4.5 ppg, 1.6 apg, 16.7 3P%
F/C#42 Brandon Huffman, 6'10" 255, JR
4.6 mpg, 1.4 ppg, 1.0 rpg, 71.4 FG%
F/C#5 Armando Bacot, 6'10" 232, FR
20.1 mpg, 10.5 ppg, 8.9 rpg, 57.6 FG%

 

The ABC's of North Carolina:

A) This team lacks continuity. Roy's best teams have been veteran clubs featuring home-grown stars, and any star freshmen got to be paired with proven upperclassmen for the sake of stability. This year's team is testing that premise, as five of last year's six top players left Chapel Hill: Kenny Williams, Cam Johnson, and Luke Maye all graduated, while Nassir Little and Coby White went one-and-done. The lone returning starter is center Garrison Brooks, and he's been paired with two 5-star freshmen (Anthony and Bacot) and two grad transfers (Keeling and Pierce). The rest of the veteran presence is coming from a trio of promoted role players in Robinson, Platek, and Black, a group that only contributed a combined 25 minutes and 7 points a game last year. Robinson, who missed the first four games, has at least been a pleasant surprise so far providing 30 valuable minutes a game at the 2.

B) Cole Anthony is the real deal. Currently ranked the nation's 4th best player by KenPom, Cole was a consensus Top 5 recruit and widely expected to be a Top 5 pick in the NBA Draft come June. The Oak Hill alum was considered the ACC's lone can't-miss freshman this year and he's doing Roy Williams proud so far, scoring 20 points a game on 38% shooting from 3 and adding 4 assists per contest. His turnover numbers need to come down, but that's really the only weak spot for the toughest point guard that Kihei Clark is going to go against all year. There's been some reports that he's dealing with a less-than-100% foot/ankle this month, but if so, we're not really seeing it affect his production.

C) They'll be playing smaller than they like. The Tar Heels love to run out two rim-running bigs who can dominate the boards and protect the paint. Through the first seven games, they were able to do this effectively with the combination of junior Brooks and freshman phenom Bacot. But Bacot suffered a serious ankle sprain in their B1G Challenge loss to Ohio State and is doubtful for this game (he's listed above as a reserve, but I'd be shocked to see him back before Christmas). Fellow junior center Brandon Huffman may get an opportunity to prove he's worthy of more minutes, but most likely the Tar Heels go small for most of the game with perimeter-oriented forwards Black and Pierce at the 4.

 

Their Season To Date

North Carolina is 6-2 (1-0) on the season. They opened with a home win over Notre Dame, went 2-1 at the Battle 4 Atlantis (wins over Alabama and Oregon offset by a 9-point loss to Michigan), and this past Wednesday took an astounding 25-point loss on their home floor to Ohio State.

 

Keys to getting the win:

1) Defend the glass. This Carolina iteration, while being run with new personnel, still has that consistent focus on attacking the offensive glass and relying on second-chance production. UVA's annual advantage here is that our system already prioritizes defending the glass against this sort of attack. With Bacot out, obviously, UVA's task here isn't quite as tall, but nonetheless the Heels will have capable guards and forwards swarming off shot attempts. In some ways, Carolina's attack is more difficult because it's not just our bigs who need to block out (guys who are used to it), but our perimeter players as well. Justin Pierce is grabbing O-Reb's at nearly a 13% clip. Brandon Huffman, who is likely to see more time, gets them at over a 9% rate. Leaky Black's numbers are quiet this year but he's got the frame to compete for boards at a long 6'8". Discipline and effort will be paramount, and this especially goes for locating crashing rim-runners when UNC misses on wild fast-break attempts. Which brings us to #2...

2) Stop their transition O. UNC does not want to play against our set half-court defense. Not one bit. They are going to force as many fast break opportunities as they can, regardless of whether or not they have the numbers, and hope that even if the first attempt misses, they'll either get a bailout whistle or a trailer will clean up the miss with a putback (all hail the Carolina Secondary Break). Virginia, like it did against Arizona State, will have to pull out all the stops getting all five players back down the court, cleaning up any misses, and on all other occasions force them to pull out and reset into a traditional 30-second offense.

3) Get to the rim. This is a Carolina defense UVA can have success against if it executes. With Bacot out, UVA can exercise some aggression attacking the rim (he was their only high volume shot blocker at 1.8 a game). Brooks, without another proven big man backing him up, is going to be more concerned with staying foul free for 30-some-odd minutes. Couple that with all the new and newly promoted pieces that Roy has been trying to assemble into a functioning defense, and UVA can create open lanes to the rim with good patient action. Unlike the Purdue game where the Boilermakers' size and post depth meant Mamadi and Jay were often stifled inside, UVA will have some advantage here, especially if we can get good reserve minutes out of Papi and McKoy. UVA's gotta resist the urge to try to shoot its way out of its slump in this one, and instead force the offensive action in the paint.

 

 

Predictions:

The first two keys are pretty standard for a UNC game, part of the book Tony's written on beating Carolina. Neutralize their work on the glass and prevent them from getting out in transition. Going back to the Hoos' 2013-14 breakthrough season, Virginia is 7-1 against UNC in the regular season (though 1-2 in the ACCT), and that's largely about system. Even in 2017 when the Hoos were in an offensive free fall and UNC was on its way to winning the national championship, Virginia's defense earned UVA a 53-43 home win over Carolina late in the year. How? Controlled the glass, stopped transition. Made UNC play one-and-done half-court offense, which they're not always comfortable doing.

Can we do the same this year? The reason UVA is able to hit those two keys year in and out is because they're not necessarily about talent and skill as they are about discipline and hustle. Know your rebounding and your defensive assignments and work your butt off to beat Carolina to those spots. Discipline and hustle are rarely an issue for a UVA team.

But discipline and hustle were certainly an issue in West Lafayette on Sunday. We didn't lose by 29 merely because we missed shots. We lost that badly because we were outworked, we played sloppy defense, and Purdue made us pay. Will Tony have effectively lit a fire under his guys' butts in the four days since to eliminate that issue?

I'm betting he does and UVA comes out motivated and focused on their home floor against a ranked blue blood. Of course, Roy is going to similarly have fired up his guys after their own curb stomping this week, so I'm really looking forward to a lot of intensity from the opening tip from both clubs. But while we've had a couple games to (sort of) learn to live without Key, UNC is adjusting to life without Bacot on the fly. So while it's not going to be pretty (we've learned to live without pretty, right?), I'm thinking UVA defends the home court in this one.

Hoos Win 53-47