Virginia Tech Hokies vs. North Carolina Tar Heels Preview and Pick – Point Spread

Virginia Tech Hokies (14-0 SU, 6-5 ATS) vs. North Carolina Tar Heels (11-2 SU, 5-4-1 ATS), 7:45 p.m. EST, Sunday, January 10, 2009, Dean E. Smith Center, Chapel Hill, N.C. TV: FCS Atlantic
by Ryno of

Point Spread: Virginia Tech +8/North Carolina -8
Over/Under: 145.5

The North Carolina Tar Heels won the National Championship last season and lost a lot of talent from their roster. They are indeed a young team and are only getting better, but nobody saw a loss to the College of Charleston coming. The Tar Heels were trailing for much of their game at Charleston on Monday but seemed to have pulled away, taking an 11-point lead with four minutes remaining. But Charleston battled back and hit a game-tying 3-pointer at the end of regulation and then won the game in overtime to pull off the miraculous upset. Now, the Tar Heels will try to bounce back in their first ACC game when they host the Virginia Tech Hokies on Sunday.

The Tar Heels have notched wins this season over Ohio State, Nevada, Michigan State and Rutgers, and have lost games to Syracuse, Kentucky, Texas and Charleston. In the 82-79 overtime loss to Charleston, Ed Davis had a monster game for the Heels with 19 points and 16 rebounds. Deon Thompson had 17 points and seven rebounded, and freshman Leslie McDonald added 11 points. The Tar Heels out-rebounded the Cougars 52-32, but UNC shot 38 percent from the field, only made one 3-pointer, and only forced 10 turnovers. All of their success came inside, as the Heels dominated on the boards and got to the free throw line 34 times while Charleston had just six free throw attempts. The Cougars shot 13-for-32 from 3-point range and 43 percent overall.

Virginia Tech is quietly 12-1 this season with the only loss coming to Temple. The Hokies’ best wins came over Iowa, Georgia, Penn State and Seton Hall. Their last win was a 103-94 overtime victory over Seton Hall in Cancun last Saturday. In that game, junior guard Dorenzo Hudson, who is averaging 12.2 points per game this season, scored 41 points. He shot 9-for-22 from the field and 20-for-21 from the free throw line. Jeff Allen dominated down low with 23 points and 13 rebounds.

Malcolm Delaney, Virginia Tech’s leading scorer this season (19.8 ppg), missed the Seton Hall game with an ankle injury and is doubtful for the UNC game. Marcus Ginyard and Will Graves both missed UNC’s game against Charleston with ankle injuries and are questionable for Sunday’s game.

The Tar Heels are shooting 49.2 percent from the field this season and 38.5 percent from 3-point range. They are out-rebounding opponents by almost seven boards per game and forcing almost 16 turnovers per game, but the Heels are turning the ball over 16.2 times per game. The Hokies are forcing 15.5 turnovers per game and committing 12.5 per game. They are holding opponents to 38.5 percent shooting for the season and are out-rebounding opponents by almost six boards per game.

The last time these teams met was in the ACC tournament in Atlanta last March, when UNC barely escaped with a 79-76 victory.

Virginia Tech is 4-0 ATS in its last four games and the total has gone over in each of its last four games. UNC is 0-3 ATS in its last three games and each of its last two games have gone under. The over is 4-1 in UNC’s last four games following an ATS loss, 4-1 in the Hokies’ last five road games, and 4-0 in the Hokies’ last four games following an ATS win. Virginia Tech is 5-1 ATS in its last six games against UNC, and the underdog is also 5-1 ATS in the last six meetings between these teams.

Ryno’s Pick: North Carolina certainly has a legitimate talent edge in this game, as well as the home-court advantage. The Tar Heels will want to start off strong with a win in the ACC and bounce back from their embarrassing loss to the College of Charleston earlier this week. The Hokies have the guard play to hang with the Heels and give them a tough game. Knowing how the Heels have been underperforming much of this season, it seems likely they could allow the Hokies to keep it close. But with Delaney possibly not playing, it will be extremely difficult for the Hokies to actually pull off the upset. Even if Va Tech keeps it close, the Heels should be able to wear the Hokies down in the paint and pull away with an easy victory. They will be excited to be at home in their first conference game and they will be prepared to bounce back with an impressive victory. Virginia Tech gets the money though. Take the Hokies at +8 to cover the spread.