x
StLouHoo's Preview:

Big Monday

North Carolina St. Wolfpack

Virginia returns home to JPJ for its first and only Big Monday appearance of the year. Looking to gain some winning momentum after a solid road win at GT, the Hoos welcome an NC State team still looking for its first good road win. The short turnaround adds a wrinkle to an already challenging matchup; will UVA stay sharp against the dangerous Pack?

Game Details:

Date/Time:Monday, January 20th, 7:00 pm ET
Location:John Paul Jones Arena, Charlottesville, VA
TV:ESPN

 

What 'They' Say

Vegas:UVA -4.5, O/U 117.5, equates to ~61-57 UVA win
Torvik:Ranks NCSU #45, predicts a 58-55 UVA win, 62% confidence
KenPom:Ranks NCSU #46, predicts a 60-57 UVA win, 63% confidence

 

Depth Chart:

Starters
PG#11 Markell Johnson, 6'1" 175, SR
33.7 mpg, 13.1 ppg, 6.7 apg, 27.1 3P%
SG#24 Devon Daniels, 6'5" 205, JR
28.5 mpg, 11.2 ppg, 2.3 apg, 31.8 3P%
SF#13 C.J. Bryce, 6'5" 210, SR
33.2 mpg, 15.0 ppg, 6.6 rpg, 52.9 FG%
PF#0 DJ Funderburk, 6'10" 225, JR
23.4 mpg, 13.1 ppg, 6.0 rpg, 63.3 FG%
C#15 Manny Bates, 6'11" 230, FR
19.5 mpg, 5.7 ppg, 4.0 rpg, 61.6 FG%
Key Reserves
PG#10 Braxton Beverly, 6'0" 180, JR
26.8 mpg, 7.6 ppg, 1.6 apg, 36.1 3P%
F#4 Jericole Hellems, 6'7" 205, SO
25.9 mpg, 9.9 ppg, 3.7 rpg, 39.9 FG%
F#31 Pat Andree, 6'8" 220, SR
18.0 mpg, 6.5 ppg, 3.2 rpg, 32.4 FG%

 

The ABC's of North Carolina St.:

A) Markell Johnson is where it all starts. It may feel like Johnson's been running point for State for ages now, but this is our last go round with the athlete at the point. Once again he's racking up assists, second in the ACC at 6.7 apg (against 3.3 topg). Whereas in years past he platooned almost evenly with Braxton Beverly, this year he's taken a commanding lead in minutes with a career-high 33.7 mpg and the highest usage rate of his career too (26.2% of possessions). What's holding him back from all-ACC discussion, though, is his 3P% having dropped to a struggling 27%, after topping 40% each of the last two years. Still, with Beverly moved to a smaller supporting role, stopping Johnson becomes the latest challenge for Kihei at the point.

B) They're back at full strength. Star senior wing CJ Bryce missed four games recently due to concussion protocol. Those four games included two losses (@Clemson, @VT) and a narrow home win over ND, so they struggle without him. He was limited in his first game back vs Miami, but this past weekend in their Clemson win he played all 40 minutes, scoring 11 points and grabbing 9 boards, though he did struggle with fouls and turnovers (4 each). State will now be able to go 8 deep with the versatile wing able to key both their big and small lineups.

C) Fouls are their defense's Achilles heel. In ACC especially, State is worst in the league at the FTA/FGA ratio they allow, giving opponents 23 FTAs a game. Their defense otherwise has been okay. Not elite, but not bad either, forcing some turnovers, keeping opposing FG% respectable, and not getting beat too badly on the glass. But the fouls are a problem, and it's affecting the margins of the game. State is lucky that of the 23 FTAs they gave up to Clemson on Saturday, the Tigers missed 14 of them, letting State escape with the win. If the Hoos can play aggressive, get to the line as other ACC rivals have done, and convert them at a better rate than they did in Atlanta, it could be a difference maker.

 

Their Season To Date

NC State is 13-5 on the season, 4-3 in the ACC. Their best win is a 15 home win over Wisconsin in the B1G Challenge. Other than a fluke loss to GT to open the year when State was missing two starters, their only bad loss was Jan 4th at Clemson. They redeemed that loss by beating Clemson in Raleigh on Saturday by 6. Their other ACC wins are Wake Forest, Notre Dame, and Miami, and have yet to play a top ACC team.

 

Keys to getting the win:

1) Keep Kihei fresh. Clark has played a lot of minutes lately. 40 against GT. 45 against Syracuse. He's sat only 3 minutes of the previous four games. I worry about his ability to stay at peak against Markell Johnson only 48 hours after he got run ragged by Jose Alvarado. State will run uptempo and between Johnson and Beverly, we run a real risk of Kihei being a dangerous half-step slow in tight closing minutes. Kihei leaving his FTs short in the closing minutes of the halves in Atlanta was worrying that his legs were struggling, and he's only had two days to recover. Tony should look to get Kihei some strategic rest in both halves when Johnson also rests, whether it be with Morsell or Coleman, so that Kihei is as sharp as he can be defending Johnson down the stretch.

2) Neutralize Funderburk. Markell Johnson gets the most love, and that's not totally unfair, as the guy's quite good. But arguably their MVP this year has been the big man Funderburk. He's athletic and plays with IQ, and even though he's not been a consistent starter this year, he's still the leading Pack scorer in ACC play. He's also dynamite on the offensive glass, and with his ability to play either face up as a 4, or a back-to-the-basket 5, he's a matchup nightmare for most teams, especially since they can pair him with either pure-5 Bates or face-up-4's Hellems and Andree to best exploit their opponents' weakness.

Lucky for UVA, with the trio of Diakite, Huff, and Key, UVA can ensure a capable defender and rebounder is matched up on Funderburk regardless of their lineup. The key then becomes ensuring we stick to him. GT caused problems on Saturday by using Alvarado to draw help defense from UVA's bigs before dishing to the vacated big man or throwing up a shot that the now-free big could O-rebound. It's not quite UVA's mantra, but it needs to be selective about how it leaves Funderburk to help on Johnson on the dribble-drive, since leaving DJ open is basically a gimme-2 for the Pack.

3) Play through the bigs. Funderburk/Bates/Hellems/Andree is a respectable frontline offensively, but defensively I've got my questions. Manny Bates is an elite rim protector at 2.9 blkpg (2.7 in ACC play), but the other three are exploitable. UVA managed to get Huff and Diakite schemed to score despite the presence of James Banks vs GT (just that 1 highlight reel block on Huff). It requires a little creativity with Bates on the floor, probably popping out whatever big he's covering to draw him away from the basket (15 footers for Mamadi and Key, top-of-the-key 3's for Huff) when in man, and high-low action against any zone. But when Bates sits (only 21 mpg in ACC play), no need to get cute. Key, Diakite, and Huff need to go hard to the rim through and over their defenders.

 

 

Predictions:

Tony's 4-0 against State coach Kevin Keatts over the previous 3 seasons, but a couple of those games have been very interesting. In the 2017 5-12 game, Keatts's UNC-W squad nearly pulled off the upset before Tony out-smalled them and Shayok caught fire. Last season, UVA's title-winning Big-3-starring powerhouse got taken to overtime in Raleigh. The best way to describe NC State in his tenure is streaky, capable of taking it to great teams some nights, usually beating the teams it's supposed to beat, but occasionally putting up a head scratcher. It's what makes State games so hard to predict. (Don't get me wrong, this program is still in far better hands now than it was under Gottfried.)

I cautiously like how UVA matches up here. The Pack Line scheme has the guards and rangy forwards to challenge the Pack when they go 4-out. Kihei, on his game, is a good assignment against Markell Johnson. UVA's got the bigs to go toe-to-toe with Bates and Funderburk.

Which ultimately means this game likely rests on UVA's ability to play good, clean offense. Minimal turnovers. Make a respectable clip of open shots. Convert FTs. Game-by-game the Hoos' offense has looked incrementally better. GT was a good defense and outside of a frustrating 6-minute stretch in the second half (turnovers!) Virginia scored fairly effectively. I think they continue to build on that tonight.

Hoos Win 60-55