Monday features an ACC battle of top-10 teams when the No. 3 Virginia Cavaliers (20-2, 8-2 in the ACC) travel to the Dean Smith Center to take on No. 8 North Carolina (19-4, 9-1 in the ACC).
For Virginia, they are in the midst of a brutal stretch of their schedule, one that sees them play five top-25 teams in five games. After losing to Duke in their last game, 81-71, they have the unenviable task of trying to right the ship on the road against North Carolina.
For the Tar Heels, they have won six games in a row since losing to the No. 16 Louisville Cardinals back on January 12th. In that time they beat No. 11 Virginia Tech and got some revenge on Louisville, beating them at Louisville, on February 2.
This game not only has major implications for their ranks and seeding, but it also could have major ramifications on the ACC. Currently, North Carolina is tied with Duke at 9-1 in the conference with Virginia in third at 8-2. With UNC still needing to face Duke twice, they need to pick up every ACC win they can get. The two will square off on Monday with tipoff scheduled for 7:00 pm ET.
In this contest, the North Carolina Tar Heels come in as 1-point favorites playing at home, essentially making this a pick’em game. The over/under for this game is set at 143 points.
By The Numbers
This should be an exciting showdown as it features one of the best in the nation on offense versus the best in the nation on defense. Offensively, North Carolina ranks second in the nation, averaging 88.3 points per game. North Carolina is especially efficient, shooting 47.4% from the field (good for 50th overall) and crashes the boards with the best of them as they rank 23rd, pulling down 13.14 offensive rebounds per game. For Virginia, they come in at a much more modest 72.9 points per game, which ranks 184th in the nation.
Defensively, Virginia has statistically been the best team at holding opponents down. Despite giving up 81 to Duke the other night, opponents are averaging just 52.9 points per game against the Cavaliers’ defense. Their stingy defense is holding opponents to just 37% from the field, which ranks 3rd overall. For North Carolina, they have truly needed to outscore opponents as they are allowing 73.6 points to their opposing offenses, which ranks 237th in the nation.
Virginia Looking To Bounce Back On The Road
There is obviously no doubt that Virginia is one of the best in the country, but after losing for the second time to Duke, they are going to have to prove that they can handle some adversity during a really rough stretch on the schedule.
Leading the way for the Cavaliers on offense is a trio of players in guards Kyle Guy, De’Andre Hunter, and Ty Jerome. Guy is averaging 14.6 points per game, with 4.3 rebounds and 2.1 assists. He is shooting 44.9% from the field and 43.2% from behind the arc. For Hunter, he is averaging 14.5 points, 5.3 rebounds and 2.2 assists per game while shooting 52.5% from the field and 41.7% from the three. Lastly, Jerome is averaging 13.1 points, 4.3 rebounds, 4.9 assists and 1.7 steals per game. He is also shooting 43.7% from the field and 40.6% from the three.
After these three, though, there is a bit of a drop-off. No other player averages more than 7 points with Mamadi Diakite (7 points, 3.9 rebounds, 1.3 blocks) and Braxton Key (7 points, 6.1 rebounds, 1.2 steals) being the only ones to hit that mark.
North Carolina Looking To Leapfrog Virginia In The Rankings
Roy Williams has his North Carolina squad playing some really good basketball these days and at the perfect time with March quickly approaching. The Tar Heels are looking to not only stay atop the ACC, but they are also hoping to move up in the national rankings, and a win over Virginia would likely ensure that.
We already established that North Carolina has one of the best offenses in the nation, but it is absurd to think that they have three players averaging more than 15 points per game. Coby White, Cameron Johnson, and Luke Maye have all hit that mark. White is averaging 15.9 points, 3.2 rebounds, 4.3 assists, and 1 steal, Johnson is averaging 15.8 points, 5.5 rebounds, 2.2 assists and 1.3 steals and Maye is averaging 15.1 points, 9.7 rebounds and 2.1 assists per game. Even with these three all averaging 15+ per game, the Tar Heels have another double-digit scorer in Nassir Little, who is averaging 10.3 points and 4.7 rebounds per game.
Aside from these four, two others that are major contributors are Kenny Williams and Garrison Brooks. Williams is averaging 9 points, 3.3 rebounds, and 3.6 assists while Brooks is averaging 8.2 points and 6 rebounds per game.
Offense Wins Out
In a matchup of the offensive elite versus the defensive elite in this one, I envision the offense winning out. For me, this one is just as much about momentum as it is about skill. For North Carolina, they have been rolling as of late while Virginia is coming into this one after an emotionally charged loss to Duke. To make matters worse, they have to play in one of the most electric atmospheres in basketball, playing on the road at North Carolina. I see Virginia’s troubles continuing and am taking North Carolina at -1.
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