Previewing Virginia

North Carolina opens ACC play on the road on Sunday against Virginia. Tip-off at John Paul Jones Arena is scheduled for 8 p.m. and will be televised by ESPNU.

North Carolina (10-3, 0-0) vs. Virginia (10-3, 0-0)
Charlottesville, Va. -- John Paul Jones Arena
Sunday, 8 p.m.
ESPNU (Carter Blackburn, Jay Williams)


"We work hard to be disciplined on the ball and we always say we want to be the second [player] to leave the floor and not get faked out a lot. It doesn't mean you can't block a shot on the ball – as long as you're not getting lifted. So if we're disciplined in staying down, then you can get it that way – or you can get it coming off the ball. Those are okay, but not where it becomes a gamble or you're out of the play [and] you give up offensive rebounding. That's what you have to be mindful of, picking up silly fouls." – Virginia head coach Tony Bennett on not putting much stock in his team's 4.9 blocks per game


Season to Date: Virginia enters Sunday's contest with a 10-3 record. Since dropping two of its first three games to James Madison (63-59) and Delaware (59-53), the Cavaliers have won nine of their last 10 games, including a 60-54 victory at Wisconsin and a 46-38 win against Tennessee. Head coach Tony Bennett is looking to win his fourth ACC opener in as many tries.

Picking Up the Slack: There was legitimate concern during the offseason about how Virginia would fill the massive void left by all-everything forward Mike Scott. Two players have joined forces to make up for the losses on the scoreboard and on the backboard – juniors Joe Harris and Akil Mitchell. Harris is doing his work on the perimeter, averaging a career-high 15.0 points, 4.0 rebounds and 2.4 assists per game, while ranking second in the ACC in 3-point field goal percentage (46.7). Mitchell, a 6-foot-8, 234-pound forward, is averaging 13.2 points and 9.2 rebounds underneath.

Evans Questionable: Senior guard Jontel Evans, who averaged 8.4 points ACC play last season, has missed nine games this season after suffering a stress fracture in his right foot during the offseason. The Hampton, Va. native returned for the Wisconsin ACC/Big Ten Challenge matchup in late November before tweaking the injury two games later against Tennessee. He sat out Virginia's last four games, but Bennett told reporters on Thursday that his star guard is out of his walking boot. Bennett said it was "hard to say" if Evans would be ready to play against UNC.

Dominating Defense: The Cavaliers rank second nationally in scoring defense (50.7), sixth in field goal percentage defense (35.3), 33rd in 3-point field goal percentage defense (28.9) and 46th in blocked shots (4.9). UVa has held its opponent under 43 percent shooting from the field in 11 of its 13 games.

Frosh Faces: Five different freshmen have started at least one game for Virginia this season, led by Evan Nolte (6.6 ppg) and Mike Tobey (6.2 ppg). The rookie class is averaging 23.5 points per game.

Random Fact of the Day: Virginia has held 17 of its last 45 opponents to under 50 points. The Cavaliers set an ACC record during the shot clock era last season by holding 11 teams under 50.

Last Meeting: North Carolina defeated No. 25 Virginia, 54-51, in Charlottesville on Feb. 25, 2012. Tyler Zeller scored two of his game-high 20 points on a dunk with 13 seconds left to secure the victory. UNC shot 33.3 percent from the floor trailed by four at halftime after opening the game on a 17-8 spurt. John Henson added 15 points and 11 rebounds.

Series History: UNC leads the overall series with Virginia, 127-49. The Tar Heels have won nine of their last 10 games against the Cavaliers and own a 44-31 record in Charlottesville.

Projected Starters:
5 Tevin Jones (6-0, 180, Fr.) - 4.1 ppg, 2.5 apg
2 Paul Jesperson (6-6, 197, So.) - 4.4 ppg, 2.5 rpg
12 Joe Harris (6-6, 211, Jr.) - 15.0 ppg, 4.0 rpg
32 Darion Atkins (6-8, 222, So.) - 8.1 ppg, 4.8 rpg
25 Akil Mitchell (6-8, 234, Jr.) - 13.2 ppg, 9.2 rpg

Top Reserves:
11 Evan Nolte (6-8, 207, Fr.) - 6.6 ppg, 2.3 rpg
10 Mike Tobey (6-11, 227, Fr.) - 6.2 ppg, 1.9 rpg
23 Justin Anderson (6-6, 226, Fr.) - 5.8 ppg, 2.9 rpg
4 Taylor Barnette (6-3, 172, Fr.) - 2.4 ppg, 1.4 apg

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(Photos by USA Today Sports)

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