Heel Tough Blog: Virginia Preview
Carolina returns home, as they’ll host Virginia tomorrow night in the Smith Center. The last time we Carolina played, they lacked the necessary competitive spirit to win a road game in the ACC. Wake Forest eventually built their largest lead on any team this season in the eventual 74-57 home victory over the Tar Heels.
These two teams met back in early December, a ugly home win for the Cavaliers. Both teams had a lot to replace from last season, and both have battled injuries to some degree over the course of the season. Tony Bennett and his team has responded much better than Roy Williams’ squad has this far. In the latest Bracketology, Joe Luanardi has Virginia as a 11 seed, so while they are currently in the field of 68 they have some work to do to feel better come Selection Sunday.
Virginia only scores roughly 56 points per game, which isn’t pretty but when you only allow 51 points you can live with the spotty offense. Mamadi Diakite leads the Cavaliers in scoring at over 13 points per game. Braxton Key leads them in rebounding, despite being a guard at over 7 rebounds per game. The recipe for Virginia is the same it’s been under Bennett, stingy defense and timely scoring. That philosophy has awarded them with a national championship a season ago, and has this team rounding into form as March nears.
There aren’t many coaches that have Roy Williams’ number, but Tony Bennett is one of them. Carolina hasn’t beaten Virginia since 2017, and we all know this team isn’t comparable to that particular team. With 4 consecutive losses, this team and season is in full meltdown mode. Carolina has lost at home to Wofford ( Carmichael Arena ), Georgia Tech, Clemson and Pittsburgh. Beating Virginia will be a tall task, 3 keys to beating the visitors:
Consistent Offense: Virginia thrives on holding opponents scoreless for an extended period of time. That simply can’t happen if Carolina has a chance at winning this game. Before Cole Anthony returned from injury, the best offense was going through the bigs. The offense hasn’t been the same since Anthony returned. Christian Keeling has provided a nice lift off the bench, if he can continue to produce this team has a chance.
Second Chance Points: The home team is easily the better rebounding team, especially since they lead the conference in total rebounds and offensive rebounds. The problem has been that Carolina hasn’t converted the offensive rebounds into second chance points on a consistent basis. A part of scoring consistently, can be in the second chance department.
Playing With a Purpose: This wasn’t evident in Winston-Salem Tuesday night. This game isn’t going to be pretty, no matter the outcome. Carolina has to play with more asserted effort, and embrace the ability to compete. Expect a better effort, after the Wake Forest debacle.
Series History: Despite UVA controlling the series as of recent memory, Carolina owns a 131-58 mark against one of the original ACC members. Under Roy Williams, Carolina is 16-12, having lost 8 of the past 12 games. Good news is that in the Smith Center, Carolina is 24-5 in the series.
UNC - 96th overall. Adjusted Offensive Efficiency: 104.4 ( 142nd ) Adjusted Defensive Efficieny: 96.6 ( 74th )
Virginia - 51st overall. Adjusted Offensive Efficiency: 98.2 ( 248th ) Adjusted Defensive Efficiency: 85.3 ( 3rd )
TV Info: In the preseason this game was supposed to have a lot on the line in the ACC race, that hasn’t happened but ESPN is still carrying the broadcast in primetime with a 8 pm tip.