When the Virginia men’s basketball team takes the floor Tuesday for Senior Night at the John Paul Jones Arena, it will be facing N.C. State, a team with a similar situation in the ACC standings. Both the Hoos and the Wolfpack enter the game with 5-9 conference records; State is 15-13 overall, while UVa is 14-14. For this game, I asked the basketball message board for some input on the Cavaliers’ keys to victory. Let’s take a look …
The 3-point battle. It is somewhat simplistic, but making 3-pointers provides a major boost to Virginia’s offense. Being able to knock down some shots from behind the line likely will be necessary against NCSU’s perimeter defense, which limits teams to 31.5% shooting from 3-point range on the season; that’s good enough for second in the ACC behind Florida State. UVa also has to keep an eye on Scott Wood, who makes an average of 2.4 triples per game; in league games only, Wood leads the ACC by making 43.9% of his 3-pointers. “Hit the threes and free throws. It will be tough getting scoring inside,” Sabre user Axtun posted. “Contain Scott Wood, currently the best 3PT shooter in the ACC.” If Wood forces the defense to pay too much by making shots, it could make double-teaming the post difficult against Tracy Smith, the Pack’s post presence that averages 15.6 points per game.
Gang Up On The Glass. N.C. State crashes the glass on offense to try to create easy scoring opportunities. The Wolfpack averages 13.2 O-Boards per game in conference play and owns a 35.6% offensive rebounding percentage. The Hoos have to keep the visitors in check in this category or it could spell a long night for the defense. TheGrinch posted this as a major key to the game for Virginia: “Return to form on the defensive glass – limit State to one shot or less per trip. We have struggled boxing out slashers on the offensive glass, guys who come at the glass from higher than the block. State has that kind of player, so we’re going to have to find a way to box out.” 504-C Brandon had similar thoughts: “The only difference between State’s offense and ours in terms of efficiency is that they crash the offensive glass and create second chances. As long as we gang rebound effectively, that advantage should be neutralized.” Keep a keen eye on second chance points for NCSU in this one as it could be a game-long indicator of the outcome.
Tempo the Wolfpack. Both TheGrinch and recruitdc pointed out the Wolfpack’s lack of discipline and mental focus this season, which could benefit the Cavaliers if they can control the game’s pace of play. If UVa sets the tempo, it can shuffle the mindset of the visitors and create a frustrating situation for NCSU. “if we slow the game down to a snail’s pace and hit shots N.C. State will get frustrated and jack up shots early,” recruitdc posted. “At that point we just need to rebound and keep Smith from getting any good looks. I’ll take my chances with the rest.” TheGrinch had similar thoughts: “Dictate tempo – Slow the game, frustrate State. If we’re defensively rebounding well and dictating tempo, opposing teams get frustrated and try to do too much. I think State is particularly susceptible to this, as they are not well-coached. They don’t have the kind of guards who can speed us up effectively.”
Senior Night. Several posters mentioned that how the Hoos handle the good or bad emotions of Senior Night could be a factor. Poster hoosnick wrote: “Harness the emotion of Senior Night, control tempo, control D boards, hit shots, and return to form in the Pack Line (BC game had way too many breakdowns).” 504-C Brandon said to “hope for the best” in terms of Senior Night emotions, while 73CAV believes senior Mustapha Farrakhan needs to have a good night in his final home game: “I think the single biggest key is for Farrakhan to return to the form he has displayed most of the year. We can still lose if he plays well, however, when he plays poorly, we generally lose. He is the leader of this team. All other factors are secondary to this one, IMHO.”