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Three things to watch for UVA basketball vs NC State

Previewing Wednesday’s rematch between the Pack and the ‘Hoos.

NCAA Basketball: Virginia at N.C. State Jaylynn Nash-USA TODAY Sports

About 2 weeks ago, the Virginia Cavaliers traveled to Raleigh coming off a blowout home win over Louisville. Though Virginia came out of the gate hot, the Pack took control after that and had a double-digit lead for almost the entire second half.

In this matchup, Virginia is coming off one of their best performances of the season in a road win over Georgia Tech. Yes, the Jackets aren’t any good. But neither is Notre Dame, who blew out the Wahoos at home. The Pack are coming off a home loss to the Hokies.

Virginia has looked much better at home this year, while the Pack are 3-1 on the road. All of those road wins were very close games. Under Tony Bennett, Virginia has been very good in close games due to their ability to execute on both ends under pressure. This is a younger team than most of those teams, and we haven’t seen them in many close games. They have won the few close games they’ve played though.

Game Time: Wednesday, January 17, 7PM Eastern
TV: ESPN
Streaming: WatchESPN

Here is our 3-2-1 preview from the previous game. With that in mind, let’s look at three things to watch in this rematch.

Jordan Minor

In the first game between these teams, Blake Buchanan got the start in an attempt to slow down NC State’s big man DJ Burns. Burns played just 24 minutes, in part due to the lopsided score. He wasn’t particularly effective, scoring just 6 points on 6 FGA and had just 2 rebounds.

Good job I guess?

As a team, the Pack dominated in the paint. Over 40% of their shots came in the paint and they shot 63% on those shots. That is an elite number. The Hoos just couldn’t get stops.

Here is an example. The drive from Stanford transfer Michael O’Connell is a little too easy, which means Buchanan has to help. That leaves Burns open in the middle. He misses the shot, but the Hoos can’t get the defensive board. Putback bucket. The Pack had just 5 offensive boards, but that’s because they didn’t miss shots.

The biggest change in the two weeks since that last game is the emergency of Jordan Minor as a factor in the paint. In Minor’s three starts, Virginia has allowed under 60% shooting at the rim and just 35% on shots in the paint. Meanwhile, Virginia has gotten over 30% of their shots at the rim during those three games. Minor has averaged 12 points per game on 12/21 shooting (57%). He’s been a huge help on both ends.

Three Point Shooting

The Wahoos are still taking too many mid-range shots. Twenty percent of their shots are mid-range jumpers. That’s in the 92nd percentile nationally. They are shooting 32% on those shots. That is in the 24th percentile nationally. That’s a very bad combination. Those long 2s need to be 3s.

For this team, it isn’t just about knocking down the three. Obviously that helps. In wins, Virginia has made just under 40% from downtown. In losses, it is just 27%. But just taking the shot matters too.

In Virginia’s wins, they shoot 20 three point attempts per game. In losses, that is just 14 attempts. Counting only ACC and other major conference teams, Virginia takes 22 threes per game in wins and 15 attempts in losses.

This is a nice play. Ryan Dunn sets a screen (ish) and then rolls to the rim. That occupies McKneely’s defender, leaving him open for the shot. McKneely was 4-7 from downtown in that game. But the rest of the team was 1-8. The 1 is bad, but the 8 is bad too.

Against the Jackets, McKneely was 6/9 (insane), while the rest of the team was 5/14. Much better.

Dante Harris

Maybe it is no coincidence that Dante Harris’ return to the lineup has led to two good wins. I mean, it’s not like Harris has been great. He’s scored just 9 points on 4/11 shooting across 28 minutes. But he’s been good enough to allow the Hoos to tread water while Reece is on the bench.

Counting only ACC games, the Hoos are +1.4 points per 100 possessions. But with Reece on the bench, they are -13.6. That’s bad. It’s only two games, so small sample size alert, but Virginia is +7.7 with Harris on the floor and Reece on the bench since Harris’ return. The Harris-on/Reece-off lineups are +28.5 per 100 over the entire season. Most of that came against bad teams. Still. Interestingly (to me at least), the Reece/Harris lineups are not good. Too small, probably.

Harris is also another elite perimeter defender. That helps too.

Prediction: Virginia 70, NC State 64