UNC @ Virginia
John Paul Jones Arena
Sunday, January 6
8:00 PM ESPNU
The North Carolina Tar Heels kick off ACC conference play in Virginia against the Cavaliers. UNC is coming off a big win against then 20th ranked UNLV in their first statement win this season.
The Tar Heels won despite being without perhaps their best player this season when Reggie Bullock sat out with a mild concussion, UNC expects Bullock to play this Sunday barring any setbacks. The biggest problem for the Tar Heels this season has been consistency in terms of playing with heart and passion on the defensive end of the court and the win against UNLV was the closest thing to a complete 40 minutes they have played all season.
Roy Williams said in a press conference on Friday that he has yet to determine who his starting center will be for the rest of the season but expects sophomore Desmond Hubert to start again on Sunday after his best performance of the year last week. Roy has flip flopped all season long between Hubert and freshman Joel James and Brice Johnson, Hubert has been the most consistent on the defensive end which has earned him the most playing time of the three.
Virginia coach Tony Bennett says he won’t know until Saturday whether Jontel Evan will play against UNC the Cavaliers senior point guard has missed nine of Virginia’s 13 games this season, including the last four in a row, with a right foot injury that required surgery back in October. Sophomore forward Darion Atkins is expected to play after sitting out the second half of Sunday’s win over Wofford with a shin injury.
Both teams enter Sundays contest at 10-3 on the season playing their first conference game of the season. The records are about the only thing these two teams are evenly matched on paper with UNC dominating statistically. The Cavaliers have struggled to score this season with just two players averaging double figures led by junior guard Joe Harris‘ 15 points per game.
The Cavaliers average just 64.8 ppg which ranks them 240th in the nation, 12th in the conference. Defensively the team has been solid giving up just 50.7 ppg and will look to slow down the Tar Heels fast break and slow down the pace of the game. In the half court the Heels will have to make sure they take good quality shots, Virginia has one of the best defensive field goal percentage defense in the country. The Cavaliers defend tough and it will take execution for the Heels if they want to score like they are used to in this game.
Virginia started out the season rough losing two of their first three contests with losses to George Mason and Delaware before going on a eight game winning streak that was snapped by a close loss to Old Dominion.
Talent wise this team doesn’t touch the Tar Heels and on paper this should be an easy win for Carolina. The key will be the mindset of the young Tar Heels who should demolish this team this will be a key indication of whether or not the Heels truly have turned the corner and are able to keep up the intensity against a lesser opponent.
After Sundays game in Virginia the Heels lead home to face the Miami Hurricanes on Thursday, Miami will be without star big man Reggie Johnson.