Previewing Virginia

North Carolina's rematch with Virginia on Saturday is a critical game for both teams' postseason hopes. Tip-off at the Smith Center is set for noon on the ACC Network.

North Carolina (16-8, 6-5) vs. Virginia (18-6, 8-3)
Chapel Hill, N.C. -- Dean E. Smith Center
Saturday, Noon
ACC Network (Steve Martin, Eddie Fogler)


"It makes me look like a good coach when he comes out and plays like that. He had great rhythm. He was hunting the shot, moving hard off the screens. I thought he got us off to the right start." – Virginia head coach Tony Bennett on Joe Harris's career-high 26 points against Virginia Tech on Tuesday

"We need to take that intensity on the road. We struggle on the road, so we need to make sure we keep moving the ball and set our defense. We need to bring that extra intensity and that extra energy. It is tougher to beat a team twice." – Virginia forward Akil Mitchell


Since the Last Meeting: Virginia enters Saturday's contest with an 18-6 (8-3 ACC) record. The Cavaliers lost consecutive road games at Wake Forest and Clemson following their win over North Carolina on Jan. 6. Since then, however, Tony Bennett's squad has won seven of its last eight. Virginia is 3-5 in games away from the John Paul Jones.

Locking in First-Team All-ACC Honors: Junior guard Joe Harris played well during Virginia's nonconference, but the 6-foot-6, 211-pounder has elevated his play during the ACC slate. Harris is averaging 17.8 points, 4.2 rebounds and 2.0 assists in conference games. He's shooting 51.2 percent from the floor, including a 50 percent effort (31-of-62) from 3-point range. The Chelan, Wash. native scored a career-high 26 points against Virginia Tech on Tuesday and is averaging 21.8 points over his last five games.

Consistent Defense: The Cavaliers rank third in ACC play in field goal percentage defense (40.0) and continue to lead the league in 3-point field goal percentage defense (28.4) and scoring defense (54.3). Virginia has forced 13.9 turnovers per game in ACC play, which ranks third behind North Carolina (14.9) and Duke (14.0).

Cavs Employing Small Lineup: The emergence of freshman Justin Anderson, who was named ACC Rookie of the Week on Monday, has allowed Bennett to switch to a four-guard lineup. The 6-foot-6, 226-pound Anderson (10.6 ppg on 47.1 percent shooting over last seven games) joins Harris, point guard Jontel Evans and wing Paul Jesperson in the starting lineup alongside lone post player Akil Mitchell.

Trey Terrific: Virginia leads the ACC in 3-point field goal percentage (42.2) in conference games. The Cavaliers have made 79 treys in 11 ACC contests, third only to Miami (86) and Duke (85). UVa's primary 3-point shooters – Harris, Jesperson and Evan Nolte – are all shooting above 36 percent and have combined for a 43.5 percent effort (64-of-147).

Random Fact of the Day: The 158-point barrage over two games last week – vs. Clemson and Maryland – represent the most combined points in consecutive games during the Bennett era. Virginia continued that onslaught with 73 points in its win over Virginia Tech on Tuesday.

Odd Resume: Virginia is currently viewed by most bracketologists as a bubble team despite its stellar conference record and 6-0 record vs. RPI Top-100 teams. The Cavaliers are 12-6 against teams outside of the top-100, including a dreadful loss to Old Dominion (3-22; No. 319 RPI). Virginia currently ranks 80th in the RPI and 160th in strength of schedule.

Last Meeting: Virginia defeated North Carolina, 61-52, on Jan. 6 at the John Paul Jones Arena. UNC led by eight points early in the second half before the Cavaliers ended the game on a 33-16 run. Reggie Bullock led all scorers with 22 points on 7-of-9 shooting. The Tar Heels' 52 points were the fourth lowest in the Roy Williams era.

Series History: UNC leads the series with Virginia, 127-50. The Tar Heels have nine of the last 11 meetings overall and have won seven of eight in Chapel Hill.

Projected Starters:
1 Jontel Evans (5-11, 188, Sr.) - 3.6 ppg, 5.0 apg
2 Paul Jesperson (6-6, 197, So.) - 4.8 ppg, 2.1 rpg
12 Joe Harris (6-6, 211, Jr.) - 16.3 ppg, 4.1 rpg
23 Justin Anderson (6-6, 226, Fr.) - 6.8 ppg, 3.2 rpg
25 Akil Mitchell (6-8, 234, Jr.) - 12.8 ppg, 8.8 rpg

Top Reserves:
11 Evan Nolte (6-8, 207, Fr.) - 7.0 ppg, 2.7 rpg
32 Darion Atkins (6-8, 222, So.) - 5.8 ppg, 3.9 rpg
5 Tevin Jones (6-0, 180, Fr.) - 3.1 ppg, 2.0 apg
4 Taylor Barnette (6-3, 172, Fr.) - 2.4 ppg, 1.0 apg

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(Photos by USA Today Sports)

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