Previewing Virginia

The ACC season has finally arrived and North Carolina's first conference matchup is on the road against Virginia. Tip-off at John Paul Jones Arena is set for noon and will be televised by Raycom.

North Carolina (10-4, 0-0) vs. Virginia (10-5, 1-0)
Charlottesville, Va. -- John Paul Jones Arena
Noon -- Raycom (Tim Brant, Dan Bonner)


"Right now, our doctors are kind of conferring, saying, ‘How long do we keep him in the boot and rest it and see how it feels, or is another surgery required?' We're really trying to get our head around it and see." – Virginia head coach Tony Bennett on Mike Scott's ankle injury

"It's tough. Pretty much anywhere you go, it's going to be a difficult environment and the teams are going to be playing at a higher level. There are going to be better athletes and more skilled, so it's going to be a lot more competitive than it has been." – UNC forward Tyler Zeller on playing on the road in the ACC


Season to Date: Virginia enters Saturday's contest with a 10-5 (1-0 ACC) record. The Cavaliers have suffered a handful of embarrassing losses – Washington (106-63), Stanford (81-60), Wichita State (70-58) and Iowa State (60-47) – but have also notched a few signature wins in road games at Minnesota (87-79) and Virginia Tech (57-54). Tony Bennett's second squad in Charlottesville has won seven of its last nine games.

Scott Still Out: Mike Scott exploded out of the gates this season, averaging 15.9 points and 10.2 rebounds for the Cavaliers, and earned ACC Player of the Week honors on Dec. 6 after posting 17 points and 12 rebounds against Minnesota and following that performance up with a 21-point, 13-rebound showing at Virginia Tech. But the Chesapeake, Va. native has missed five of his last six games after injuring his left ankle. Scott underwent arthroscopic surgery on Dec. 16 to remove loose pieces of cartilage, and returned to action only to have the ankle flare up. Bennett indicated that the school is in a "holding pattern" with the 6-foot-8, 242-pounder and that another surgery is possibly needed. It's noteworthy that some Virginia media have already discussed the medical redshirt option.

Farrakhan Stepping Up: With Scott sidelined, senior guard Mustapha Farrakhan has picked up Virginia's scoring slack by averaging 14.8 points over the last six games, including a career-high 31 points on 8-of-9 shooting from 3-point territory against Howard. For the season, the co-captain is averaging 12.3 points per games while knocking down 37.9 percent of his treys (25-of-66).

Where's the Defense? Bennett has made a name for himself with a slow methodical offense paired with a disciplined defense, but the Cavaliers have struggled to shut down their opponents this season. Virginia currently resides in the ACC cellar in both field goal percentage defense (44.4) and 3-point field goal percentage (39.2). Adding to the problem is lackluster showings in several key defensive statistics – 11th in blocked shots (2.9), 10th in steals (5.7) and T-10th in forced turnovers (12.5).

Shooting Woes: Prior to shooting 53.3 percent against Howard on Tuesday night, the Cavaliers had managed to shoot better than 40.5 percent from the floor just once in their previous six games. Virginia's 43.1 field goal percentage mark stands 11th in the ACC and ranks 253rd nationally. The Cavaliers are faring better from behind the arc in knocking down 37.5 percent of their treys, good for fifth in the ACC.

Positive Numbers: According to the most recent NCAA rankings, Virginia ranks in the top-25 nationally in both turnovers (11.4 per game, 19th) and personal fouls (15.9, 23rd).

Last Meeting: The Cavaliers handed Roy Williams his worst home loss as UNC's head coach in defeating the Tar Heels, 75-60, on Jan. 31, 2010. Virginia broke up a 35-32 game in the second half with an 18-0 run behind Sylven Landesberg's 29 points. Sammy Zeglinski added 19 points for the Hoos, knocking down five of his eight 3-pointers. Will Graves and Larry Drew led North Carolina with 15 points apiece. The Tar Heels shot 35.7 percent from the floor in the loss.

Series History: North Carolina leads the series with Virginia, 124-49. The Tar Heels had won six straight against the Cavaliers before losing in Chapel Hill last season.

Projected Starters:
1 Jontel Evans (5-11, 190, So.) - 5.3 ppg, 3.9 apg
2 Mustapha Farrakhan (6-4, 181, Sr.) - 12.3 ppg, 2.3 rpg
24 K.T. Harrell (6-4, 204, Fr.) - 10.3 ppg, 2.5 rpg
22 Will Sherrill (6-9, 226, Sr.) - 5.6 ppg, 3.8 rpg
5 Assane Sene (7-0, 239, Jr.) - 2.7 ppg, 3.7 rpg

Top Reserves:
12 Joe Harris (6-6, 202, Fr.) - 9.9 ppg, 3.3 rpg
13 Sammy Zeglinski (6-1, 185, Jr.) - 4.8 ppg, 1.9 apg
15 Billy Baron (6-2, 192, Fr.) - 2.7 ppg 25 Akil Mitchell (6-8, 221, Fr.) - 2.2 ppg, 3.3 rpg

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