Last week, the Virginia Tech men’s basketball team struck out in an attempt to pick up a marquee ACC victory.
But the Hokies will get another shot at a big win on “Big Monday.”
The ninth-ranked Hokies will visit No. 13 North Carolina at 7 p.m. Monday for an ESPN “Big Monday” telecast.
Virginia Tech (15-2, 4-1 ACC) flopped in its first chance at an eye-opening ACC win, falling 81-59 at No. 4 Virginia last Tuesday.
“We had a great opportunity [at UVa] and we let it slip,” Tech guard Nickeil Alexander-Walker said after Saturday’s home win over Wake Forest. “Now … we have another great opportunity. Let’s try to make the most of it.”
Tech never led in the loss in Charlottesville.
Virginia Tech has not won at North Carolina (14-4, 4-1) since then-coach Seth Greenberg’s Hokies earned an overtime victory at the Dean Dome in February 2007.
“It’ll be another incredible environment, like it was on Tuesday,” Tech coach Buzz Williams said. “In a demented way, when you get your brain beat in, it kind of re-centers you or calibrates you. And then to have a chance to go right back and do it again, I’m not saying we’ll do better, but to have an opportunity to do it again I think is healthy.
“We were excited to play [in the win over Wake]. … That’ll be big on Monday — how can we rejuvenate ourself emotionally, physically and mentally to be that excited on Monday?”
This will be only the third “Big Monday” appearance in Tech history. In their “Big Monday” debut last January, the Hokies upset then-No. 10 North Carolina 80-69 at Cassell Coliseum. It was Tech’s first win in the series since February 2010.
The Tar Heels average 87.3 points, while Tech averages 78.5 points.
“The game will be played a very quick pace because that’s the way North Carolina plays,” said TV analyst Dan Bonner, who has been a commentator on Tech and UNC telecasts this season. “Any time a game is played at a quick pace, a team like Virginia Tech that doesn’t mind playing quickly and has such good 3-point shooters is very likely to get a lot of open 3-point opportunities. In that respect, I think that it is a good matchup for Virginia Tech — although UNC’s size would concern me if I were the Hokies.
“[UNC point guard] Coby White is 6-feet-5, and he’s got long arms. And [guard] Cam Johnson, he’s 6-feet-9. And Garrison Brooks is 6-9 and Luke Maye is 6-9. … They’ve got really good size at just about every position. And Virginia Tech, for all their ability, they’re not really very big.”
The Tar Heels hurt teams with their transition attack, ranking among the nation’s leaders in shortest average length of offensive possessions.
But UNC had just four fast-break points in last year’s meeting.
“Carolina’s a very fast team,” Tech guard Ty Outlaw said. “If we take good shots, that’ll lead to us getting back on defense, stop them in transition and not letting them outrebound us on the offensive end.”
North Carolina is outrebounding foes by an average of 10.6 rebounds per game. But Tech outrebounded UNC 36-35 in last year’s meeting. The Tar Heels managed just two second-chance points in the second half.
“We need to shoot more balls than North Carolina shoots,” Williams said. “One thing that kind of helps us have chance to shoot more balls is can we force them into a high turnover rate and a low offensive-rebounding percentage?”
Tech outscored UNC 32-26 in the paint in last year’s game
The Hokies are 1-2 in foes’ arenas this season. They did not score more than 62 points in any of those games.
“We need to handle the highs and the lows better [on the road],” Outlaw said. “When teams are cutting us up and doing something that’s successful, we need to adapt better.”
The Tar Heels suffered an 83-62 home loss to Louisville two weekends ago.
“They’re not fully formed yet,” Bonner said. “They still have a lot of room to grow. And I don’t know that we see that often with a Carolina team. Here we are in late January and you’ve got a North Carolina team out there that’s still putting things together. And given all their talent, I think that that should be worrisome for the rest of the teams in the conference.
“They have a very, very high ceiling.”