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Virginia Set to Host 10th Ranked North Carolina

Virginia Set to Host 10th Ranked North Carolina

By Josh Burton

Coming off their worst showing of the season in a 75-41 drubbing at Virginia Tech on Monday, the University of Virginia Men’s Basketball team now sits at 20-7 (11-5 in ACC play) and will look to right the ship as they host #10 North Carolina this weekend (Saturday, 2/24). This game is scheduled for 4 pm EST and will air on ESPN.

About North Carolina

The North Carolina Tar Heels are led by head coach Hubert Davis, in his third season. Davis is 69-27 overall, going 38-17 in conference play. This season, UNC is 20-6 overall and leading the ACC at 12-3. They last played on Saturday against Virginia Tech, a 96-81 victory for the Tar Heels.

Speed is the name of the game for the Heels. They like to push the pace and get out in transition as much as possible. To go along with their top 25 offense, this season Carolina also boasts a top 20 defense (per Torvik). Carolina has settled in on a rotation of 7 players who average double-digit minutes. They start out as follows:

PG - RJ Davis (6’ Senior) Averages 21.3 points, 3.6 rebounds and 3.6 assists per game while hitting 41% from three.

G - Elliott Cadeau (6’1” Freshman) Averages 7.8 points and 3.9 assists per game.

G - Cormac Ryan (6’5” Covid-year Senior, Notre Dame transfer) Averages 10.8 points and 3 rebounds per game.

F - Harrison Ingram (6’7” Junior, Stanford transfer) Averages 12.5 points and 9.1 rebounds while hitting 40.7% from three.

C - Armando Bacot (6’11” Covid-year Senior) Averages 14.6 points and 10.3 rebounds per game.

Get Right Game

Things really couldn’t have gone much worse for the Hoos on Monday in Blacksburg. How they respond to such a dreadful performance will be crucial for not only the rest of the regular season, but also for their postseason prospects.

I had been nervous going into Monday night that the Wake Forest game on Saturday would take its toll on such a short rest. I was hoping to see both Jake Groves and Taine Murray provide some spark for the Cavs off the bench as they had during the key stretch for UVA. They played 30 minutes combined and scored 4 points between them with neither attempting a three-point shot. For the Hoos to be successful, that can’t happen going forward as both are relied upon for their offensive ability, especially being able to space the floor.

The good news for the Hoos is that the last time they played on a Monday and got the extended rest until Saturday, they had what was probably their best offensive showing of the season, An 80-point outburst against a good Florida State defense in Tallahassee. Isaac McKneely set a career-high 29 points while hitting 5 three’s in that one. Coming off back-to-back performances not reaching 50 points, I’m looking for the Cavalier offense to wake up and hopefully bounce back in a major way.

The offense wasn’t the only issue for UVA, however, as the defense was also pretty bad. Especially inside. Virginia Tech rolled to the rim relentlessly and dominated the Hoos inside. This couldn’t have sat well with either the players or the coaching staff as the pack line is designed to prevent these types of looks. Part of the problem may have been Jordan Minor getting into early foul trouble, but neither Blake Buchanan or Groves were good in his place (and Minor still wasn’t great later in the game). It was essentially a failed showing by the entire frontcourt rotation, and I expect it to be addressed and cleaned up this week. 

Styles Clash

This game couldn’t get any further apart in styles. It’s said over and over, but whichever team can control the tempo should control this game. In the past, UVA’s style of play has proven to be very difficult for the Tar Heels to contend with, especially when the Wahoos have played decent offense to go along with it. Since the 2013-2014 season, UVA is 12-6 against North Carolina, and also has won every matchup in JPJ since the 2012-2013 season.

Matching Up

This Carolina squad isn’t much different from recent versions that have had success. RJ Davis runs the show and is the front-runner for ACC Player of the Year. He will undoubtedly be checked by reigning ACC Defensive Player of the Year Reece Beekman. Elliot Cadeau is less of a scoring threat who does most of his damage by getting into the lane and creating for his teammates. I’m expecting Isaac to start on him, but would not be surprised to see different looks through at him as other Cavaliers rotate in. Rounding out the backcourt is Cormac Ryan, a capable scorer who can knock down the open look. Starting with Andrew Rohde on him to provide length will most likely be the initial look.

The frontcourt is where things really get interesting. In a matchup of X-Factors, Ryan Dunn will look to keep Harrison Ingram contained. His shooting has provided even more spacing for Bacot to work with this season, and he should be a player the defense is keying on to prevent getting good looks. Dunn should have his hands full.  But as a contender for National Defensive Player of the Year, I expect him to be ready for the task after a poor showing on Monday.  

Finally we get to Armando Bacot, who could prove to be the most difficult matchup for the Hoos. Bacot has a great combination of size and strength and truly is one of the most dominant interior players in the game. With so many other weapons, doubling Bacot may prove risky as he is a decent passer. Jordan Minor will certainly have his hands full with what should be his toughest matchup of the entire season. Jordan has brought a physicality to this team, and he will need to do his best to be physical while avoiding foul trouble in this one.

On the Horizon

Following Saturday’s epic clash, UVA will head to Boston College on Wednesday (2/28). Before that though be on the lookout for a Locker Room Access event to come before the Carolina game, details will be available on forum!

(Featured Image Credit: Josie Drumheller/UVA Athletics) 

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