Even in what has been a down year to this point by North Carolina standards, there's still a difference in Virginia Tech's brand of fast-paced play and UNC's shot-out-of-a-cannon variety of basketball.
Tech coach James Johnson knows it. If all goes well Saturday in Chapel Hill, N.C., Johnson won't have his players test UNC's team speed.
Yet, despite UNC's issues, having things go as planned in terms of establishing tempo isn't something most of the Tar Heels' opponents have been able to accomplish in the Dean E. Smith Center.
"In four-to-five seconds, they're trying to score," said Johnson, whose team is fourth in the Atlantic Coast Conference in scoring offense (73.8 points per game), but last in scoring defense (74.2 points per game). "I don't know if we want to play that fast. I want to play transition, but I don't know if we're capable of playing four-to-five second offensive basketball right now."
Tech (11-9 overall, 2-5 ACC) is trying to bounce back after losing 73-64 on Wednesday at home to No. 14 Miami for its third consecutive loss. Erick Green, who leads the nation with an average of 25.5 points per game, had 30 points in the loss.
While Green continued to impress, Tech again wasn't able to get consistent scoring from complementary players it relies on most. Jarell Eddie had 14 points, but he attempted just one shot in the second half. Robert Brown, who didn't start for a second straight game, had eight points off the bench, but none in the second half.
"They get caught up in watching Erick play and watching Erick do his thing when they've got to get into the flow of the game and get in the mix of the game," Johnson said of his team.
Tech has lost seven of its last eight games against UNC (14-6, 4-3). Tech hasn't won in Chapel Hill since February 2007 when Zabian Dowdell scored 33 points in the Hokies' 81-80 overtime upset of the No. 4-ranked Tar Heels.
UNC's quick pace has resulted in strong numbers on the offensive end, where the Tar Heels are second in the nation in assists per game (18.4) and eighth in points per game (79.1). UNC, which is 9-1 at home, is also fourth in the nation in rebounds per game (42.2).
Forward James Michael McAdoo, whom Johnson said primarily would be guarded by C.J. Barksdale, leads UNC in points per game (14.7) and rebounds per game (8.5). Reggie Bullock is adding 13.7 points per game, and he's second in the ACC in 3-point field percentage (44.9 percent).
Dexter Strickland leads the conference in assist-to-turnover ratio (2.8 assists for every turnover). P.J. Hairston is averaging 12.4 points per game, but he's doubtful after suffering a concussion Tuesday in UNC's 82-70 win at Boston College.
Johnson said Friday he's leaning toward putting Brown and forward Cadarian Raines back in the starting lineup for Saturday's game. Raines came off the bench for the first time this season against Miami, and had 10 points on 5 of 6 shooting from the floor to go along with a team-high eight rebounds.
In Roy Williams' 10 seasons as UNC's coach, the Tar Heels have only had more losses through 20 games in one season (13-7 in 2009-10; finished 20-17 and lost in the NIT championship) than they have this season. UNC also started 14-6 in both the '03-04 and '05-06 seasons, and made it to the second round of the NCAA tournament in both seasons.
"It's extremely frustrating," said Williams regarding his inability to get his team to sustain success this season. "There's not a word that you can use that explains it, because 'extremely' is not powerful enough, but it's extremely frustrating."Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun