ACC Basketball

Virginia looks to avoid letdown

(Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports)

Tony Bennett’s Virginia squad has just gone through the toughest three-game stretch of the regular season and they walked away a “bad five minutes of basketball against Duke” away from going 3-0 in that stretch, posting solid wins over both North Carolina and Louisville.

However, with Justin Anderson out with a broken hand, they have a challenging road trip to Raleigh to face a well-rested NC State team. The Wolfpack have stumbled since their last home win against a top-five team, losing five of their last seven, but they’ve had a week off to prepare for the Cavaliers.

Offensively, we should see some solid balling. Both teams rank in the top-30 on Ken Pom’s rankings, although the teams run completely different styles. Mark Gottfried will look to ram it down the throats of the Cavaliers, using lightening quick Anthony Barber, coming off a 28-point performance, and with his muscle inside. Let’s face it, as good as Trevor Lacey and Desmond Lee are, the Wolfpack can really only be competitive if they get production inside. In that huge win against Duke, NC State’s big boys, Kyle Washinton, Abdul-Malik Abu, BeeJay Anya and Lennard Freeman combined to go 15 of 25 from the floor, scoring 35 points.

Contrast that to their 61-51 loss to Virginia back in early January; while Washington scored 13, Abu, Anya and Freeman scored zero points.

The Cavaliers will get their first taste of life without their leading scorer. There is little doubt Malcolm Brogdon will be able to boost his scoring to make up for the loss of Anderson, but Tony Bennett will need to see London Perrantes to shoulder more of the scoring lead, especially from outside. He’s a pass-first point guard, but he came to college with an ability to score. Yet, he hasn’t taken a ton of shots so far this season, probably because he doesn’t hit at a high percentage (around 33% from the floor). The key for the Cavaliers is to continue to be a threat from deep, so teams won’t collapse inside.

This is a must-win for NC State. Not only do they need actual W’s in the standings, but this would be a second signature win. However, the Cavaliers are too talented and too well coached to be flustered by a motivated crowd and rested team.

WORTHLESS PREDICTION: Virginia, 61-60

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