Seth Greenberg's basketball laboratory moves a couple of hours south to Chapel Hill on Thursday for one of the biggest challenges, literally, Virginia Tech will face this season.
The depleted, yet resourceful, Hokies have won six in a row — most recently an impressive 71-59 decision against Florida State in which they played zone defense the entire 40 minutes for the first time in Greenberg's coaching career.
North Carolina, meanwhile, fields a team with four players 6-8 or taller and surrounds them with several capable shooters, heading into the 9 p.m. game at the Dean Dome.
"You're talking about a team with seven McDonald's All-Americans and the high school Player of the Year," Greenberg said, referring specifically to freshman whiz Harrison Barnes. "They've got so many pieces. They're really a complete team."
Don't bank on the Hokies (10-4, 1-1 ACC) using zone defense exclusively, despite personnel limitations and unfavorable individual matchups.
"We're going to have to change defensively for each specific situation," Greenberg said. "I'm not sure it would be as effective against Carolina."
Senior forward Jeff Allen (13.4 ppg, 9.8 rpg) played one of the signature games of his career with 24 points and 11 rebounds versus Florida State, competing with a groin strain that limits him to roughly 30-40 percent of practice time in the past couple of weeks.
Limitations and adjustments aside, the Hokies cannot stray too far from their preferred style.
"We still have to run," Greenberg said. "We've got to score easy baskets. No matter who you are, how you play, the team that scores the most easy baskets wins a lot of scenarios. So, we've still got to run and get some things in transition."
While the Hokies have been forced to be resourceful for several weeks, the Tar Heels (11-4, 1-0) demonstrated some tenacity in last Saturday's 62-56 win against Virginia in Charlottesville.
Carolina overcame a 10-point second-half deficit and a miserable offensive stretch that spanned 18 minutes of the first and second halves.
It was a marked contrast to last season, when the Heels lost 11 of their final 15 regular-season games and turned each week's media encounters into therapy sessions for coach Roy Williams.
"This year's team showed some toughness up there," Williams said. "This year's team didn't fold their tents. This year's team kept competing, just kept trying to make a play, kept trying to find a way, and I think that's a credit to this year's team."
The biggest of Carolina's big three, 7-foot Tyler Zeller, leads in scoring (14.5 ppg), followed by the 6-8 Barnes (11.7 ppg) and 6-10 John Henson (9.9 ppg, 8.4 rpg). Those three combined for 13 of the Heels' final 22 points in what Williams called as ugly a win as he's been a part of in a long time.
"We're going to tell them that the best thing to do is not get into that kind of trouble," Williams said. "But there is a resolve there that we know good things can happen if you keep fighting. If you give in, nothing good is going to happen."
A lesson the Hokies have learned all too well this season.