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Men's Basketball

North Carolina vs Virginia Preview

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

The North Carolina Tar Heels are in town for a Saturday showdown with the Wahoos.  Tipoff is scheduled for 6 PM Eastern Time at John Paul Jones Arena, televised on ESPN with Dick Vitale on the call.  It’s another big game for Virginia in the midst of a difficult stretch on their schedule.

What North Carolina has done this season

The Tar Heels enter Saturday’s game at 12-6 overall.  They’re in 5th place in the ACC with a 7-4 record. Once again, Virginia is catching an opponent coming off arguably their best win of the season, a 91-87 victory at Duke last weekend.  They’ve won the games they were supposed to for the most part, but haven’t beaten a clear NCAA Tournament team yet.  This is an opportunity for them to solidify their postseason resume.

Breaking Down North Carolina

North Carolina’s formula never seems to change.  They’ll look to get out and run at every opportunity, and they feast on the offensive glass.  Transition defense and rebounding are always the keys against them.  As those are basic tenets under Tony Bennett, Virginia has had a lot of recent success in the matchup.  The Wahoos have won the last six meetings.  

Big men lead the way for them.  Roy Williams has three terrific players up front in Armando Bacot (12.1 ppg)  Garrison Brooks (10.6 ppg), and DayRon Sharpe (9.7 ppg).  They’ll rotate almost evenly, two on the court at a time.  That’s rare in college basketball today, a team that uses multiple traditional big men together.  Their physicality will challenge Virginia.   

Their backcourt is young, led by talented but erratic freshman point guard Caleb Love (11.1 ppg).  There are signs that he’s putting it together of late after a season high 25 points at Duke.   Fellow freshman Kerwin Walton is a three-point specialist (45.7%) who’s given them a nice lift since being inserted into the starting lineup.  As usual, Carolina will go deep.  They’ll use ten players.  

This shapes up to be a game of contrasting styles and mismatches.  There will be some uncomfortable defensive assignments for both teams, particularly in the frontcourt.   The side that exploits that best should have the edge.

Predictions

North Carolina will win if they dominate the boards and get efficient production from their young guards. 

Virginia will win if they limit UNC’s transition game and find ways to get Jay Huff and Sam Hauser more involved offensively than on Wednesday.

Score Prediction: Virginia 71 North Carolina 66

(Image: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports)

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