UNC at Virginia Preview

North Carolina (11-5, 3-2) at No. 13 Virginia (11-3, 3-2)
John Paul Jones Arena – Charlottesville, Va.
Tuesday, Jan. 10 – 9 pm
ESPN (Dan Shulman, Dick Vitale, Andrea Carter)


“You have to have the discipline and details to be able to defend them for long periods, in terms of not allowing them to reject ball screens, to stay down on pump fakes, to be able to do that for long periods of time. You talk about the pace of play, for us it’s about getting defensive stops that allow us to get out in transition. Getting out in transition allows us to be more effective on the offensive end. Attacking the basket allows us to get to the free throw line. In the half court, to have a lot of movement and spacing to allow us to get the shot that we want. You have to take great shots against Virginia because the possessions are less, so you don’t want to waste it with a turnover or a bad shot.” — UNC coach Hubert Davis on Monday

“I feel like we can really use that. It’s been really effective for us, so we’re going to continue to use that lineup for however many games until guys get healthy. But it’s been working.” — UNC guard RJ Davis, on the three-guard lineup the Tar Heels have turned to freshman Seth Trimble alongside Caleb Love and RJ Davis, while starting forward Pete Nance has been sidelined by a back issue.

Pregame Notes

Long Time Coming? North Carolina and Virginia are two of the six teams tied for fourth place in the ACC standings at 3-2 in the conference, behind league-leading Clemson (5-0 ACC) and Miami and Pittsburgh (both 4-1). The Tar Heels are 6-1 across their last seven games, but still in search of their first road victory (0-3 in road games this season). Delivering a victory on Tuesday night would register as a significant breakthrough.

UNC defeated Virginia twice last season in coach Hubert Davis’ first year, but those games were in Chapel Hill, NC, and the ACC Tournament. UNC has lost seven straight meetings with the Cavaliers in Charlottesville, Va., and hasn’t won there since Feb. 25, 2012. The last time the Tar Heels won at UVa, their starting lineup consisted of Kendall Marshall, Reggie Bullock, Harrison Barnes, John Henson and Tyler Zeller, the eventual ACC Player of the Year.

UNC leads ACC teams in scoring (81.4 points per game) and rebounding (39.4 boards per game). Virginia, under coach Tony Bennett, has been the stingiest in the ACC this season, allowing the fewest points among league teams at 59.6 points per game. UNC big man Armando Bacot (first, 18.8 points per game), guard Caleb Love (sixth, 16.9 points per game) and guard RJ Davis (10th, 16.4 points per game) rank among the ACC leaders in scoring.

More Exclusive Company: Bacot on Monday picked up his second ACC Player of the Week award this season, and the fifth of his career. He supplied averages of 21 points, 11 rebounds, 4.5 assists and 1.6 blocked shots, while shooting 16-for-28 from the field (57.1 percent) last week in the Tar Heels’ defeats of Wake Forest and Notre Dame.

Bacot’s five career ACC Player of the Week honors equal the fourth most by a UNC player, joining Joel Berry II, Michael Jordan, Luke Maye, Mike O’Koren and Marcus Paige in that company. Only Antawn Jamison (record 12 awards), Tyler Hansbrough (11) and Phil Ford (six) are Tar Heels who have been named ACC Player of the Week more than Bacot.

Nationally this season, he ranks fourth in the NCAA in offensive rebounding (4.6 per game), fourth in free throw attempts (115), fifth in rebounds (11.1 per game) and sixth in double-doubles (nine).

Reviewing the Rankings: UNC checks in at No. 21 in the Ken Pomeroy college basketball rankings and No. 28 in the NET rankings. The latter system is the value index the NCAA Tournament selection committee uses for rating teams when the brackets are unveiled in March.

Virginia is No. 14 in KenPom and No. 17 in the NET, the ACC’s highest-ranked team in both rating systems. The NET formula uses four quadrants, and Virginia presents a valuable Quad 1 opportunity for UNC. All of the Tar Heels’ losses this season have occurred against Quad 1 opponents. They’re 1-5 in such games, with their lone Quad 1 victory secured by outlasting Ohio State in overtime.

UNC guard RJ Davis and Virginia guard Kihei Clark. (Photo: Jim Hawkins, Inside Carolina / Charles LeClaire, USA TODAY Sports)

Virginia’s Steady Group: The Cavaliers returned 91.4 percent of their scoring from last season, the most among all NCAA Division I teams in college basketball, ahead of Portland (91.1 percent), Dayton (89.4 percent) and Penn (88.5 percent). UVa ranks fifth nationally in assist-to-turnover ratio, sixth in fewest turnovers (9.9 per game) and 15th in scoring defense (allowing 59.6 points per game).

Virginia won its first eight games this season, defeating the likes of Baylor, Illinois and Michigan, while climbing as high as No. 2 in the AP Top 25 poll. UVa has split its last six games since then, and all have been quality losses suffered against Houston, Miami and Pittsburgh. UNC’s only loss since early December happened at Pitt by a 76-74 margin, with the Tar Heels losing a nine-point lead in the game’s final 11 minutes. UVa’s 68-65 loss last week at Pitt occurred when the Cavaliers coughed up their 12-point lead in the game’s last 15½ minutes.

Bennett (327-120 in 14 seasons at UVa) passed Virginia legend Terry Holland (326-173 in 16 seasons at UVa) as the all-time winningest coach in program history with the Cavaliers’ 73-66 victory over Syracuse on Saturday. Virginia connected on 12-for-26 from 3-point range against Syracuse, as Armaan Franklin and Isaac McKneely hit four 3s apiece.

Last Meeting: UNC won 63-43 on March 10, 2022, in the ACC Tournament quarterfinals at the Barclays Center. Virginia’s 43 points were the fewest allowed by the Tar Heels in an ACC Tournament game in the shot clock era, which began in the 1985-86 season, and the fewest allowed by the Tar Heels in any ACC Tournament game since Georgia Tech scored 39 on UNC in the 1982 quarterfinals.

Brady Manek led UNC with 21 points that night in the Brooklyn borough of New York. He outscored UVa by himself in the first half, 19-13. Bacot scored 10 points and grabbed 11 rebounds for his 24th double-double of last season, setting the Tar Heels’ single-season record. UNC forward Leaky Black’s defense on Clark limited the UVa point guard to seven points on 3-for-9 shooting from the field and three turnovers.

Series History: UNC leads the all-time series 133-60, including 44-37 in Charlottesville, although Virginia hasn’t lost at home to the Tar Heels since 2012. UNC’s victories last season in Chapel Hill and New York snapped the Cavaliers’ seven-game streak. winning streak in the series, their longest since they won the first eight games played between the schools from 1911-16.

North Carolina is 4-7 at John Paul Jones Arena. The Tar Heels averaged 68.5 points in their four wins at UVa from 2008-12. In the seven losses at UVa since then, UNC has averaged 53.4 points per game, and scored 43, 49, 47 and 48 points in the last four games in Charlottesville.

Projected UNC Starters:
0 Seth Trimble (Fr., 6-3, 192) — 3 ppg, 1.1 rpg
1 Leaky Black (Gr., 6-9, 205) — 7.3 ppg, 6.1 rpg
2 Caleb Love (Jr., 6-4, 200) — 16.9 ppg, 4 rpg, 3.4 apg
4 RJ Davis (Jr., 6-0, 175) — 16.4 ppg, 5.3 rpg, 3.3 apg
5 Armando Bacot (Sr., 6-11, 235) – 18.8 ppg, 11.2 rpg

Projected Virginia Starters:
0 Kihei Clark (Gr., 5-10, 167) – 11.4 ppg, 2.6 rpg, 6.3 apg
1 Jayden Gardner (Gr., 6-6, 233) – 11.3 ppg, 5.3 rpg
2 Reece Beekman (Jr., 6-3, 190) – 9.8 ppg, 3.5 rpg, 5 apg
4 Armaan Franklin (Sr., 6-4, 200) – 11.4 ppg, 3.7 rpg
21 Kadin Shedrick (Jr., 6-11, 231) — 9.4 ppg, 4.5 rpg, 1.9 bpg

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