UNC Basketball prepares to travel to Virginia for important ACC Clash

The UNC Basketball team will play one of its final two road games of the 2024 season this weekend as they travel to Charlottesville to face Virginia.
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The UNC Basketball program will look to win a second consecutive game for the first time since beating Wake Forest and Florida State on January 22nd and January 27th. Since then, the Tar Heels have alternated wins and losses with a 3-3 record during that timeframe.

North Carolina will visit Charlottesville to face Virginia, where they haven't won a game since February 25th, 2012, a 54-51 Tar Heel victory. The Cavaliers have lost two of their last three games since reeling off nine consecutive victories in ACC play. The most recent loss was a 75-41 performance to rival Virginia Tech.

UNC BB vs UVA. 446. 4:00 PM. 20-6. Saturday, Feb 24. 20-7. . 441. ESPN

Given the circumstances of losing a rivalry game in dominating fashion, all UNC basketball fans fully expect Virginia to play to their highest level of the season on Saturday when the Tar Heels enter John Paul Jones Arena.

Not only are the Cavaliers looking to bounce back from a loss, with 4 games remaining on the conference schedule and only 1.5 games back from first place, this game is important for not only the Tar Heels, but Virginia. The Cavaliers are also fighting to stay off the NCAA Tournament bubble and secure good seeding position for March.

From the Tar Heels point of view, with a win Saturday, they take one step closer to reaching one of their several season goals of winning the ACC Regular season. There is also one possible scenario where a UNC Basketball victory paired with multiple other outcomes could secure a top-three seed in the ACC Tournament next month.

Key to Victory for North Carolina

Armando Bacot.

In their most recent losses to Pittsburgh and Virginia Tech, Virginia has struggled greatly in defending big men. Against the Panthers, forward Blake Hinson had his way, shooting 11-19 from the field and scoring 27 points. Granted, his style of play is different from Bacot's, as he did make five three-pointers against the Cavaliers but was still able to get into the paint at times.

The matchup versus the Hokies more resembles that Bacot could be in for a dominant game as the trio of Robbie Beran, Lynn Kidd, and Mylyjael Poteat were a combined 14-16 from the field for 38 total points. If Bacot can feast on the Cavaliers in the paint as the Hokies did, it'll go a long way in securing a victory for the Tar Heels.

Something to Watch For

Pace of play. We've seen the Tar Heels win games when possessions stay low (such as they did at Clemson and NC State in early January). North Carolina won those games with their defensive effort and intensity. As of late though, that same defense hasn't been present.

Versus a Tony Bennett-coached team, we know that the goal for Virginia is to slow the pace down, take the shot clock inside 10 seconds on almost every possession, and make every offensive possession matter with the utmost significance. The Tar Heels need to do everything they can to speed the Cavaliers up and grab every defensive rebound.

Offensive rebounds for Virginia means playing defense for over a minute sometimes, and that's how they can wear teams down. Taking advantage of forcing missed shots and pushing the tempo will be crucial on Saturday in Charlottesville.

If the Tar Heels can't get out in transition and make this a game in the high 70's or low 80's, can they win the game? Possibly. But it becomes much tougher when it's a game played in the 50's and 60's.

Last Meeting

The last meeting wasn't a memorable one for UNC Basketball, as it not only knocked them out of the ACC Tournament but also ended the 2022-2023 season for good. The No. 2-seed Cavaliers beat the No. 7-seed Tar Heels 68-59 in the ACC Tournament Quarterfinals. It was largely believed that a North Carolina victory would have been enough to earn an NCAA Tournament at-large birth.

The Tar Heels didn't do enough to find out, though, as they shot just 35.8% from the field as a team while allowing Virginia to shoot 49%. Trailing by only one at the half, it appeared North Carolina was destined to make a run into the ACC Semifinals.

However, Virginia had other plans, as they pulled away in the second half to hold on for the nine-point victory. Only two Tar Heels scored in double figures, as RJ Davis led the team with 24 points during an 8-14 shooting performance. Caleb Love added 11 points, but it wasn't an efficient performance, as he was just 3-15 from the field.

Projected Starters

No. 2 Elliot Cadeau (Fr. 6-1, 180) 7.8 ppg, 1.8 rpg, 4.0 apg
No. 3 Cormac Ryan (Sr. 6-5, 195) 10.8 ppg, 3.0 rpg, 1.4 apg
No. 4 R.J. Davis (Sr. 6-0, 180) 21.3 ppg, 3.6 rpg, 3.6 apg
No. 5 Armando Bacot (Gr. 6-11, 240) 14.6 ppg, 10.3 rpg, 1.5 apg
No. 55 Harrison Ingram (Jr. 6-7, 235) 12.5 ppg, 9.1 rpg, 2.2 apg