The ACC's No. 1 offense and No. 1 defense go head-to-head on Tuesday night in Charlottesville
The Virginia Cavaliers will look to bounce back from their loss at Virginia Tech over the weekend when they welcome the NC State Wolfpack to John Paul Jones Arena for a late-night ACC showdown on Tuesday. With just a month left in the regular season, this is a key matchup for the ACC regular season title race as UVA is currently tied for second in the conference standings and NC State is tied for fourth. The game also pits the ACC's No. 1 offense (NC State) against the conference's No. 1 defense (Virginia) in an entertaining best-on-best showdown.
Read on for a full preview of Virginia vs. NC State, including details on the game, an opponent scouting report, game notes, and a score prediction.
Who: Virginia Cavaliers (17-4, 9-3 ACC) vs. NC State Wolfpack (19-5, 9-4 ACC)
When: Tuesday, February 7th at 9pm ET
Where: John Paul Jones Arena in Charlottesville, Virginia
How to watch: ACC Network
How to stream: fuboTV ( Start your free trial )
How to listen: SiriusXM 158 or 193, SXM App 955 | Virginia Sports Radio Network - click here for affiliates
All-time series: NC State leads 85-68
Last meeting: NC State defeated Virginia 77-63 on January 22nd, 2022 in Raleigh.
Opponent Scouting Report: NC State
2022-2023: 19-5, 9-4 ACC
Notable results: Kansas 80-74 L, Pitt 68-60 L, at Miami 80-73 L, at Clemson 78-64 L, Duke 84-60 W, at Virginia Tech 73-69, Miami 83-81 (OT) W, at North Carolina 80-69 L, at Wake Forest 79-77 W
NC State started the 2022-2023 season 7-1, with the lone loss being a slim 80-74 defeat to then-No. 3 Kansas on a neutral floor. The Wolfpack had a rough start to ACC play, however, losing three out of their first four conference games. Since then, NC State has rediscovered its groove, winning eight of the nine games the team has played since the start of the new year, including key victories against Duke, Miami, and Wake Forest. As one of the hottest teams in the ACC, the Wolfpack come into this matchup on a four-game winning streak.
The ACC's No. 1 scoring offense at 79.6 points per game is led by Terquavion Smith, who is currently the ACC's leading scorer at 18.5 points per game. The 6'4" sophomore guard is also averaging 4.6 assists and 3.4 rebounds per game. Smith had a poor showing against Georgia Tech on Saturday, scoring just five points on 2/11 shooting, but he has scored in double figures in every other game this season, including two 30-point games and and nine games with 20 or more points. Reece Beekman will have his hands full trying to guard Terquavion Smith, but if he can do a halfway decent job at limiting Smith's production, that would go a long way towards helping Virginia win this game.
Smith rightfully gets most of the attention on the offensive end as a real candidate to win ACC Player of the Year, but the Cavaliers could also have trouble in the front court, where 6'9" forward DJ Burns has become a force to be reckoned with over the last couple of weeks. Burns is averaging 12.1 points and 4.9 rebounds per game, but he is averaging 20.4 points per game over the last five contests, including a 24-point outing on Saturday against Georgia Tech and a 31-point, nine-rebound game in NC State's big win at Wake Forest last week. It's no secret that Virginia has had trouble guarding skilled bigs and DJ Burns will once again put UVA's defense to the test on Tuesday night.
Jarkel Joiner, a 6'1" graduate transfer guard from Ole Miss, is the team's second-leading scorer behind Smith, averaging 16.2 points, 3.2 assists, and 4.5 rebounds per game. He is currently shooting 43.2% from the floor and 35.0% from beyond the arc. Joiner's matchup with Kihei Clark will certainly be one to watch as the two quick and shifty guards go head-to-head on both ends of the floor.
The third member of NC State's starting guard unit will be a familiar name for Virginia fans, as Casey Morsell has developed nicely in his second season in Raleigh after transferring from UVA following the 2020-2021 season. Morsell averages 12.6 points and 4.6 rebounds per game and is a solid on-ball defender, one of the qualities Tony Bennett liked so much about Morsell when Bennett originally recruited him to UVA. What Morsell has shown this season that he almost never showed in his time in Charlottesville is a reliable three-point shot. Morsell is NC State's best volume three-point threat at 43.9% from three on more than five attempts per game. It will be interesting to see how Casey Morsell performs in his first game back at John Paul Jones Arena since 2021.
Injuries have hampered Kevin Keatts' NC State squad significantly this season and particularly in the front court. Jack Clark, a 6'8" transfer from La Salle, started the first 15 games of the season, but then missed an extended stretch with a core muscle injury. Recent reports indicate that Clark is now 100% healthy, but he has still yet to play in a game since the end of 2022. Clark was NC State's leading rebounder at 7.3 boards per game and was also averaging 9.1 points per game, but the Wolfpack have gone 8-1 in his absence, so it's hard to argue with the decision to leave him on the bench. Similarly, Dusan Mahorcic, a 6'10" graduate transfer forward from Utah, has been out since early December with a knee injury. Mahorcic was averaging 8.7 points and 6.6 rebounds per game and shooting 64.3% from the floor before his injury.
With Mahorcic and Clark out, NC State turned to another former transfer in 6'8" forward Greg Gantt, who missed the entire 2021-2022 season with an injury, but has fulfilled his role well since sliding into the starting lineup in the front court. Neither Gantt nor DJ Burns offer much of a threat from beyond the arc, unlike Virginia Tech's tandem of Justyn Mutts and Grant Basile who gave the Cavaliers fits on Saturday. But, it will still be interesting to see if UVA continues to rely so heavily on small-ball after Virginia Tech was able to consistently expose the defensive liabilities of those smaller lineups. With a passing-capable big up front in DJ Burns, NC State could try to follow Virginia Tech's blueprint for success against the Virginia defense.
The injuries have tightened the rotations for Kevin Keatts, but NC State still has a few quality contributors coming off the bench in 6'9" froward Ernest Ross, 6'11" forward Ebenezer Duwuona, and 6'0" guard Breon Pass.
- NC State leads the all-time series against Virginia 85-68 and the Wolfpack have won three of the last four games against UVA.
- Virginia is 41-25 against NC State in games played in Charlottesville and the Cavaliers are 8-2 against the Wolfpack at John Paul Jones Arena.
- Tony Bennett is 14-5 against NC State as a head coach at UVA.
- Virginia is currently tied for second place in the ACC standings at 9-3 and NC State is tied for fourth at 9-4.
- Kihei Clark is 20 assists away from passing John Crotty for most assists all-time in UVA program history.
This is a big week for the Virginia men's basketball team. It became more important when the Cavaliers suffered their setback loss at Virginia Tech on Saturday and now they'll have to show their toughness as they face back-to-back challenging matchups with NC State and Duke coming to town this week. These are two of the biggest tests remaining on the regular season schedule and both games have massive implications if the Hoos want to make a run at the ACC regular season title and a high seed in the NCAA Tournament.
NC State is an extremely talented team, especially on the offensive end, where the Wolfpack rank No. 1 in the ACC in scoring offense. Defeating them will require a solid performance from the ACC's best defense, a defense whose pride took a serious shot in the loss at Virginia Tech on Saturday. Expect the Cavaliers to come out with some extra fire on the defensive end and get the stops needed to earn a close and hard-fought win on Tuesday night.
Score prediction: Virginia 75, NC State 72
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