UNC vs. Virginia prediction and game preview. The Tar Heels look to win their second in a row after their loss to Duke, while the Cavaliers have been skidding.
UNC vs. Virginia Game Preview
When: Saturday, Feb. 18 – 8:15 p.m. ET
Where: Dean E. Smith Center, Chapel Hill, NC
TV Broadcast: ESPN
The No. 10 Tar Heels (22-5, 10-3 ACC) are coming off of yet another easy win over NC State, as Roy Williams and Co. swept the season series by claiming a 97-73 win in Raleigh on Wednesday night. It was a complete performance for UNC, which controlled the paint and glass while being efficient from the field. UNC shot 56 percent and led by 29 points at one point for its second blowout win over the Wolfpack in five weeks.
Meanwhile, things don’t get any easier for Tony Bennett and the No. 14 Cavaliers (18-7, 8-5) as they attempt to break a two-game skid. UVA is coming off of a 65-55 home loss to Mike Krzyzewski and No. 12 Duke despite holding a 25-21 halftime advantage over the Blue Devils. Duke freshman Jayson Tatum had a splendid second half, as he scored 21 of his 28 points after halftime. For the game, he made 6 of his 7 3-point attempts.
These teams met twice last year, with the latter seeing UNC beating Virginia in Washington, D.C., for its first ACC tournament title since 2008. Behind its defense, UNC held Virginia without a field goal for more than eight minutes in the second half to break open the tourney final. Joel Berry II scored 19 points and was named the tournament MVP after the team’s 61-57 victory. Up until that point, Williams had led the Tar Heels to four ACC finals and lost each one.
UNC Wins If …
… The Tar Heels get a typical game from Justin Jackson. The star Tar Heel was going for his 14th consecutive game with at least 16 points in the win over NC State, but he shot just 37.5 percent from the floor and finished with 14. If he can find his stroke again, UNC will be in good shape against this UVA defense.
In that tournament final last season, UNC held UVA to 37 percent shooting from the floor. Malcolm Brogdon was the Cavaliers’ leading scorer with 15 points, but the conference player of the year shot just 6 of 22 from the floor, including just 2 of 9 from downtown. If the Tar Heels can have a similar defensive effort against London Perrantes and Co., the Cavaliers’ woes will continue.
Virginia Wins If …
… The Cavaliers can close out a game if they have a second-half lead. Virginia has lost three of four, and the Cavs were up at the half in each of those three losses against Duke, Virginia Tech and Syracuse, which started the second half with a 19-2 run to take the lead in its win. In the one Cavs victory during this stretch against Louisville, the Hoos used a 22-5 run in the second half to spur their 16-point win. The Cavaliers can keep this close if they don’t allow any big runs by UNC.
Virginia is the worst rebounding team in the conference, which is an ominous stat considering the Tar Heels are one of the most dominant rebounding teams in the country. The Cavs cannot get killed on the boards and give UNC too many second-chance opportunities. Losing the battle on the boards is almost a given against UNC, which means the Cavs have to be efficient on their own end and make UNC work on every possession.
Matchup To Watch
UNC’s depth vs. Virginia’s depth
With Tar Heels starting sophomore guard Kenny Williams likely out for the year, more offensive slack will have to be picked up by Theo Pinson, who recently returned from an ankle injury. He started in Williams’ place against the Wolfpack and is one of UNC’s most versatile players. The 6-foot-6 wing forward can be effective on the perimeter and in the post, so he will be a tough matchup for the Cavs. While Williams struggled offensively during conference play, he was one of UNC’s best defensive players. His loss will be felt in that aspect, but Pinson will certainly prove to be a bigger problem for the Cavs to handle defensively because of his length. Meanwhile, the Cavaliers have 11 players that average at least 12 minutes per game. So Bennett has depth, and he likes to keep his players fresh. However, even though UNC’s depth took a hit with the loss of Williams, UVA cannot match the overall star power. The Cavaliers will try to take the air out of the ball and shorten the game.
Spread: UNC -5
UNC vs. Virginia Prediction
The Cavaliers will do a good job for 30 minutes or so of controlling the tempo and keeping it a low-scoring game. But in the final 10 minutes, Jackson and Co. will start to pull away because of the advantage on the offensive boards. The Cavaliers’ losing skid continues.
UNC vs. Virginia final score prediction: UNC 72, Virginia 66