Heel Tough Blog: Virginia Preview
This evening inside the Smith Center, Carolina hosts Virginia, in a game that will either help make or break Carolina’s season. The Heels are coming off a much needed win earlier this week, as they escaped Notre Dame with a 63-59 win and overcame the worst shooting half in the program's history. The win improved Carolina’s record to 17-11 overall and 9-8 in the ACC, and while the win didn’t move the needle for their NCAA Tournament hopes, a loss would’ve put Carolina in a position to have to win the ACC Tournament to make the big dance.
Virginia is coming off a road loss earlier this week to Boston College, as BC has now beaten three ranked opponents this season. The loss took UVA out of first place in the league, as they now find themselves behind Miami with a week left in the regular season. Armaan Franklin’s 12.4 points lead Tony Bennett’s squad in scoring. Additionally, Kihei Clark (11.6), and Jayden Gardner (11.3), also average double figures scoring, for a Virginia team that still plays offense at a methodical pace. Defensively, UVA is still the best team in the league, and one of the best in the country, as they allow 60.2 points per game, which is the ninth fewest in all of college basketball. As the road loss to Boston College would indicate, the Cavaliers have struggled away from Charlottesville, as they are only 6-4.
When the two teams met back in January, Carolina was extremely compromised as they entered the game without Pete Nance and lost Armando Bacot, less than two minutes into the game. Still, Carolina actually led at the break, before falling 65-58. Last year, UNC ran Virginia out of the Dean Dome, and while that might be hard to envision with the way this season is currently going, it’s not out of the question given the struggles that UVA has had on the road.
Virginia enters today’s game 21st in the NET, making this game a Quad 1 opportunity for Carolina, and a win would do wonders for their NCAA Tournament hopes. UNC is currently 0-9 in Quad 1 games this season, and that’s why they find themselves on the outside looking in for the Big Dance. Here’s how the Tar Heels can secure their first Quad 1 win of the season, as they try to win their way into March Madness:
Shot Selection: This has been a key for a lot of games this season, mainly because this veteran group has struggled to identify what a good shot is compared to a bad shot. With the limited number of possessions teams normally experience against Virginia, makes it all the more important, Carolina takes quality shots. In the second half of the game against Notre Dame, Hubert Davis scrapped playing four around one and opted to attack the basket from a high-low perspective, and it made offense come easier for UNC after shooting a program worst 19% in the first half. Virginia is a lot like the Irish, in terms of not having the size and depth to compete with Carolina on the interior if Bacot and Nance are playing at a high level. As much as Hubert Davis doesn’t want to play that way, this is the way that best suits Carolina to play, and ultimately win games. If they try to attack from the perimeter, the result most likely won’t be the desired one.
Turnovers: In conjunction with shot selection, it is imperative that Carolina limits the number of turnovers in this game. In the first matchup, they turned it over 13 times, which feels more like 26 times when you consider the possessions being limited. Carolina has displayed at certain times this year that they are capable of being smart with the basketball, and that will need to be the case again tonight. On the flipside, it would help if they forced UVA to turn it over to help get some points in transition. Carolina did press after made free throws the other night, it will be interesting to see if they deploy that again in this game.
Rebounding: In the first game, without Nance, and Bacot for the majority of the game, Carolina still won the rebounding margin, so you would imagine that would happen tonight with Nance and Bacot both going to be on the floor. If UNC can dominate the rebounding margin, it could help cover up some deficiencies in other areas, as that’s what happened in the win over Notre Dame, where Carolina shot 33% from the field, 9% from behind the arc, but won the rebounding margin 52-33.
Series History: Carolina is 133-61 all-time against the longtime ACC foe, which is the second most wins against an ACC opponent. In Chapel Hill, UNC is an impressive 67-9 against UVA, including 25-6 in the Smith Center.
North Carolina - 48th overall. Adjusted Offensive Efficiency: 112.4 (53rd). Adjusted Defensive Efficiency: 97.8 (49th).
Virginia - 33rd overall. Adjusted Offensive Efficiency: 111.4 (68th). Adjusted Defensive Efficiency: 95.2 (28th).
North Carolina - 47th.
Virginia - 21st.
TV Info: Tonight’s game will tip off at 6 PM on ESPN.
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