NC State has struggled since losing redshirt senior guard Devon Daniels for the season, and this next week won’t serve as a respite for the Wolfpack. On the plus side, the Pack is managing to catch Virginia during a rare rough patch that has resulted in two straight losses for the Cavaliers.
Virginia, as it usually does, has one of the best defenses in the NCAA this season. The Cavaliers rank first among Power Five teams in opponent scoring per game and fourth in opponent field goals attempted per game. Beating this defense will be the key for the Pack as it looks for a highlight win this season.
Teams have beaten Virginia by shooting lights out. In Virginia’s five losses this season, its opponents have shot a combined 50.2% from the field and 47.8% from 3. This is not what the Wolfpack did in its first matchup with Virginia. The Pack shot only 43.4% from the field and only 28.6% from 3. A repeat performance will not get the job done if the Wolfpack seriously want to upset Virginia.
In addition to good shooting, teams have also had success breaking Virginia’s elite defense by speeding up the pace of play. Virginia is ranked 11th in points per game in the ACC. However, it is ranked first in field-goal percentage and 3-point percentage. This is not a team that likes to move fast; it controls the pace of play which plays perfectly into its incredibly efficient offense.
Virginia is a very balanced team whose scoring can come from any number of players. The team has four players averaging double-digit points. Despite Virginia’s offensive balance, if the Wolfpack wants to shut down one player, it should be redshirt senior Sam Hauser. He leads the team in points and rebounds while also being third on the team in assists.
In addition to the Cavaliers balanced scoring, it also has a good mix of size and speed in its starting lineup. This may be most evident in the 16-inch height difference between its starting point guard and center. The most obvious flaw in Virginia’s lineup is its lack of rotation in its big men. The Cavaliers only have one big man, redshirt senior Jay Huff, that plays consistent minutes.
Virginia is very effective at playing its brand of basketball. Only two teams have put up more than 70 points on the Cavaliers. These teams, No. 11 Florida State and No. 1 Gonzaga, have had great seasons and certainly earned those scores. Virginia hasn’t handed anything to its opponents this season, and Wednesday should be no exception.
The Wolfpack can take two different approaches in its attempt to upset Virginia. It can run and shoot or take its chances to attack down low with redshirt senior D.J. Funderburk and redshirt sophomore Manny Bates. If the Wolfpack can find a way to get hot behind the arc, its best shot will be to outrun the Cavaliers and get Virginia out of its style of play. Few teams have had success beating Virginia at its own game, but if NC State can’t find its shooting touch early, it won’t be left with much choice.
The Wolfpack will head to Charlottesville, Virginia to take on the Cavaliers in a Wednesday night game. The game will be at 6:30 p.m. on ACC Network for NC State fans hoping to catch the broadcast.