Heel Tough Blog: Virginia Preview

Updated: Jan 8


FanSided


Carolina will look to get back to their winning ways tomorrow as they host Virginia in their ACC home opener. The Heels are suffered in a 78-73 loss on Wednesday night at Notre Dame to fall to 10-4 on the season, and 2-1 in conference play. Now the Tar Heels were without Dawson Garcia (concussion), Kerwin Walton (COVID protocols), and Justin McKoy (COVID protocols), but that was no excuse for the effort displayed during the game. Their status for tomorrow’s game is uncertain as of this time, so Carolina will need to be more engaged, from the get-go.


Virginia enters the game with a 9-5 record, including 3-1 in the ACC, as after a 1-2 start, they have started to find their stride. Jayden Gardner leads the team in scoring at over 15 points and leads the team with over 7 rebounds per game. Armaan Franklin is the second leading scorer, at exactly 12 points per game, as Garnder, and Franklin are the only players to average double figures scoring. As you could expect, Virginia is a defensive juggernaut, as they only allow 57.7 points per game, which is 10th best in the country. Their two-point defense ranks among the best in the ACC, as teams are only making 14 shots inside the three-point line, which is the fewest in the ACC.


This might not be a ranked vs ranked matchup, but make no mistake this is a big game for UNC, as the NCAA Tournament talk starts to heat up. If you look on all the major sites now, Carolina is checking in on the 7 or 8 line, which is where the program was at this time last season. Carolina is just 1-4 in Quad 1 and Quad 2 games, and Virginia falls into the Quad 2 category. While they don’t have a bad loss, they need to start stacking quality wins to build a better resume as we get closer to the tournament.


How Carolina responds after Wednesday night, will be interesting, as this is now the third time they are having to bounce back after a disappointing effort. While they have responded nicely in the past, in wins over Michigan and App State, you can’t always expect them to bounce back in a positive way, given the negative feelings around the program.


  1. Energy, Effort, Toughness: When the Tar Heels play with these three traits, they look like a good team, one capable of competing for, and winning an ACC championship. In the bounce-back wins over Michigan and App State, both came at home, and there’s no denying that plays a factor. UNC didn’t display these traits on Wednesday night, and that’s the biggest reason they lost to an overmatched Notre Dame squad.

  2. Turnovers: Another reason UNC got to beat the other night, as they committed 14 turnovers, which felt like 18 given they only had 70 possessions. It will be imperative that they take better care of the basketball in this game, as the possessions will be even more limited than against Notre Dame. The Cavaliers force just over 11 turnovers per game, which is just under the number of turnovers Carolina commits.

  3. Tempo: This goes hand in hand with the turnovers, Carolina needs to control the pace of the game, and make UVA play their style more so than UNC playing the way they want to play. One way to speed the game up would be to use a full-court press and force the Cavaliers to get into their offense sooner. Also, Carolina could advance the ball up the floor a lot quicker than they have been doing, and get into their offense sooner. Carolina hasn’t excelled in the transition game this season, but they’ll need to tomorrow.

  4. Play Inside-Out: Even if Dawson Garcia can’t play, Carolina needs to play through Armando Bacot and Brady Manek. Their offense functions at its best when they put the ball in the painted area, more often than not. This will be a challenge as Virginia plays that pack-line defense and only allow 14 made baskets inside the arc, but they don’t have the size or the depth to compete with UNC on the interior.

Up Next: Carolina is 131-60 all-time against Virginia, although UVA has won the last 7 games. In Chapel Hill, they are 66-9, including 24-6 in the Smith Center. The issue for Carolina is in the 7 game losing streak, they are only averaging 53.2 points per game.


KenPom:


UNC - 31st overall. Adjusted Offensive Efficiency: 114.5 (18th) Adjusted Defensive Efficiency: 97.7 (80th)


Virginia - 54th overall. Adjusted Defensive Efficiency: 107.5 (78th) Adjusted Defensive Efficiency: 95.3 (50th)


NET:


UNC - 41st.


Virginia - 73rd.


TV Info: Tomorrow’s game will start at 1 PM and will air on ESPN.


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