After Thursday’s loss to #2 Virginia, things won’t get any easier Saturday afternoon, as Tech travels to Chapel Hill to take on #15 North Carolina. Per Kenpom, the Tar Heels boast the nations 16th best offense and 12th best defense. UNC sits at 15-4 with their losses coming to Michigan State, Wofford, FSU, and UVA.
The Tar Heels are excellent on the glass, ranking inside the top 15 in the country in both offensive rebounding and defensive rebounding. The rebounding all starts with breakout junior forward Luke Maye, who pulls in nearly 11 rebounds per game. The Jackets will have to have a team effort on the glass, especially defensively and not allow any UNC second chance points. Ben Lammers will need to have a performance like he did against Pittsburgh where he grabbed 16 rebounds.
Maye is also the scoring leader for the Tar Heels, barely nudging out Joel Berry II. The pair both average over 17 points per game and combine for 42% of the Tar Heels scoring. Maye’s story is one that is pretty well known at this point. Maye decided to join UNC as a walk-on, but ended up receiving a scholarship anyway when Brandon Ingram chose to play at Duke. As a freshman, he averaged just 1.2 points per game and as a sophomore he averaged just 5.5 points per game, but hit possibly the biggest shot of UNC’s season, a buzzer beater against Kentucky to send them to the Final Four. This season, his scoring has jumped to 17.8 points per game. Berry’s story is a little different as he’s been a mainstay in UNC’s lineup for the past three seasons. As a sophomore, Berry was already averaging 13 points per game, but has gradually increased that number over the last two seasons. Pitt transfer Cameron Johnson and junior guard Kenny Williams also average double figures scoring.
Tech fans will surely remember last years ACC opener against UNC, a game in which the Jackets forced 20 UNC turnovers on route to a 75 - 63 win over the then #9 ranked Tar Heels. Let’s hope Saturday’s game has a similar outcome.
Saturday’s game will be the second in a four game stretch that includes Virginia, North Carolina, Florida State and Clemson. All four of those teams are currently ranked or have been ranked at some point this season. Per Ramblinwreck, if next weeks top 25 includes FSU, it will be the first time since 2001 that Tech will have played four consecutive games against top 25 opponents. The game will be broadcast on ESPN2.