ACC Championship: UNC vs. UVA preview, game info, prediction and more

NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 09: Kenny Williams
NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 09: Kenny Williams /

UNC takes on Virginia in the ACC Championship Game Saturday night in Brooklyn

For the third time in the past four years, the North Carolina Tar Heels will be playing in the Atlantic Coast Conference Championship. And for the second time in that span, it will come against Virginia.

The conference’s top seed Virginia is looking to win both the regular season and tournament title Saturday night in Brooklyn. The Cavaliers cruised through the regular season with two total losses, one coming in conference play and are a lock for the No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA Tournament.

UNC still has a lot to play for.

The Tar Heels are looking to capture their second ACC title in three years with the previous one coming against Virginia in 2016. They have won three games in three days after getting the No. 6 seed in the ACC Tournament.

On Friday, UNC had control for most of the game against Duke holding a 16-point lead with just over five minutes to go.

But some costly turnovers and empty possessions allowed Duke to go on a 13-0 run and cut the lead down to three. The Blue Devils had two chances to tie the game, with the last being a forced shot by Grayson Allen in the final seconds.

The win gave UNC 13 Quadrant One victories this season, the most by any team in the nation.

It also puts them in position for a potential No. 1 seed due to Xavier’s loss on Friday. A win doesn’t guarantee UNC the No. 1 seed but it does put them in the conversation. At worse, UNC should be playing their first two rounds in Charlotte as a No. 2 seed.

The Cavaliers have been fantastic all season long with the No. 1 defense in the country. They haven’t allowed a team to score 70 points all season long and are giving up just 53.1 points per game, which is first in the nation.

Virginia beat UNC at home back in January 61-49, controlling the pace of the game. The Cavaliers offense has come alive of late, making them even more dangerous. Although for the season they only average 67.4 points per game, good for 310th in the country.

Their pace of play is what really helps them win games. Now let’s see if UNC can play the way they want to and take on on Saturday.

A win would give UNC their 19th ACC Tournament title.

One Virginia player to watch…

Devon Hall. The senior guard has shot the ball well all season long, shooting 46 percent from the field.

But where he can do the most damage is behind the three-point line.

Hall is shooting 44 percent from there and can make you pay if you leave him open. That’s a recipe for disaster for UNC who has struggled to guard the perimeter all season long. Hall is the type of player that can get Virginia going early and build up a big lead.

Teams have problems coming back against Virginia, so it will be important for UNC to make sure he doesn’t have a big game early.

One UNC player to watch..

Let’s go with Luke Maye. This hasn’t been the best ACC Tournament for the junior forward as he’s struggled in UNC’s three games.

Against Duke, Maye had two turnovers in the final minutes giving the Blue Devils a chance to come back and tie the game. But even with a “struggle” game, Maye still managed to score 17 points and grab 10 rebounds in the win.

He’s started slow in a few of these ACC Tournament games but he has the ability to get going when UNC needs him to the most. For Saturday, Maye has to play a consistent game and force Virginia to come out and guard him on the perimeter.

Key to the game…

Rebounding. The Tar Heels are among the best rebounding teams in the nation while Virginia is among the worst.

UNC is averaging 42.8 rebounds per game this season, the best in the country. Virginia is averaging just 32.8 which ranks 309th.

If Carolina dominates the boards, they have a real shot in this game. Getting defensive rebounds could lead to run outs for the Tar Heels and that’s when they are at their best.

To do so, Garrison Brooks, Sterling Manley, Theo Pinson and Luke Maye are going to have to get after it on the boards early and often.

Last time they met…

The Cavaliers jumped out to a seven-point at halftime and never looked back in the only meeting between these two teams back in January. UNC struggled against Virginia’s defense and the Cavaliers controlled the pace of play.

It was the second-straight loss for the Tar Heels on the road after dropping a contest to Florida State just days earlier. Joel Berry led UNC with 17 points but the Tar Heels shot just 30 percent from the field.

The Tar Heels will have another chance for revenge on Saturday which has been a common theme for them in Brooklyn. They avenged losses to Miami and Duke by winning the previous two days.

Next: Joel Berry makes program history

What you need to know…

What? UNC 25-9 (3-0 ACC Tournament) vs. Virginia 30-2 (2-0 in ACC Tournament)
When? Saturday, March 10th at 8:30 p.m. ET
Where? Barclay’s Center – Brooklyn, New York
Radio? Tar Heel Sports Network
All-Time series? UNC leads 131-55
Prediction? UNC 69, Virginia 68