Previewing Virginia

No. 5 seed North Carolina will look to upset defending ACC Tournament champion and No. 1 seed Virginia in semifinal action on Friday. Tip-off is set for 7 p.m. at the Greensboro Coliseum and will be televised by ESPN and the ACC Network.

North Carolina (23-10, 11-7) vs. Virginia (29-2, 16-2)
Greensboro, N.C. - Greensboro Coliseum
Friday, 7:00 p.m.
ESPN (Sean McDonough, Shane Battier); ACCN (Tim Brant, Mike Gminski)

“We get more than enough respect. Again, it’s just about us playing as well as we can and being as good as we can, so it doesn’t really matter either way, because it is about you perform. …We’ve had College Gameday. We’ve got people telling our guys congratulations and people that are proud of their effort knowing that we’ve got to keep getting better, but we get enough.” – UVa head coach Tony Bennett when asked if his team gets enough respect alongside UNC and Duke in the ACC

“The discipline factor. It’s not that they milk clock, they just want to wait until they get the shot that they want, and we have to be patient enough to guard and make sure we get a good shot on the other end.” UNC head coach Roy Williams

Since the Last Time: It hasn’t always been pretty, but the Cavaliers have maintained their dominance over the ACC from start to finish this season. Since these two teams met in Chapel Hill on Feb. 2, Bennett’s team has gone 8-1 over their last 9 games, with its lone loss coming in the closing seconds at Louisville in its ACC regular season finale. The Cavs lost just two games all season, both of which were in conference (home against No. 2 Duke was the first), as they won the ACC regular season title for the second year in a row. As such, Bennett was plenty deserving of ACC Coach of the Year honors. With his airtight pack-line defense bogging down opposing offenses, he has his team primed for a run at a second straight ACC Tournament title.

ACCT Results: Despite dropping their regular season finale, Virginia looked as strong as ever in their ACC Quarterfinal win over Florida State (58-44). The Seminoles are not a strong offensive club, but UVa’s defense made life miserable for Leonard Hamilton’s squad all afternoon long. The Seminoles shot just 32.6 percent (15-of-46) and missed 14 of their 17 3-point attempts. Other than Xavier Rathan-Mayes (13 points on 6 of 18 shooting), not a single player for Florida State scored in double figures.

Brogdon Pacing Cavs: Malcolm Brogdon earned first-team All-ACC honors and was named ACC Co-Defensive Player of the Year by the league’s coaches after a sensational junior campaign. He leads the Cavs in scoring (13.7 ppg) and ranks second in the ACC in free throw percentage (86.7). Brogdon is committing a turnover just once every 19.5 minutes and is pulling down 3.9 rebounds per game.

The Absence and Return of Justin Anderson: The Cavaliers’ standout wing fractured his pinkie against Louisville on Feb. 7 and had been out of the lineup up until Thursday’s ACC Tournament opener. Before he was sidelined, Anderson was UVa’s second-leading scorer and the team’s most dangerous all-around offensive player. This group has held up just fine, but Anderson’s return for the ACC Tournament (even in limited action) could give this offense a shot in the arm. That being said, it seems that Virginia coaching staff is being cautious with his reintegration. Anderson only played 12 minutes in the Cavs’ opener against Florida State.

Random Stat of the Day: Virginia is 76-3 when holding opponents to fewer than 50 points during the Bennett era.

Record-Setting Defense: The Cavaliers are holding opponents to 50.1 points per game, which is tops in the country and a current school record. It’s also the third-best scoring defense average in the shot clock era. Virginia ranks top-five nationally in seven defensive categories: points per game (1st), field goal percentage (2nd), points per possession (2nd), true shooting percentage (2nd), rebounds per game (2nd), effective field goal percentage (3rd) and possessions per 40 minutes (3rd). Opponents have scored just 81 fast break points in 31 games against the Cavaliers this season.

Last Meeting: Virginia defeated UNC, 75-64, on Feb. 2 at the Smith Center. The Cavaliers trailed by one point at the half, but built an 18-point lead late in the game. Brogdon led UVa with 17 points and Anderson added 16, while Marcus Paige (15), Brice Johnson (14) and Kennedy Meeks (11) scored in double figures for UNC.

Series History: UNC leads the all-time series with Virginia, 128-52. The Tar Heels are 5-0 against the Cavaliers in ACC Tournament games in Greensboro and 11-3 in ACC Tournament play overall.

Projected Starters:
15 Malcolm Brogdon (6-5, 215, Jr.) - 13.5 ppg, 3.9 rpg
13 Anthony Gill (6-8, 230, Jr.) - 11.5 ppg, 6.7 rpg
05 Darion Atkins (6-8, 241, Sr.) - 7.6 ppg, 5.8 rpg
32 London Perrantes (6-2, 191, So.) - 6.2 ppg, 4.8 apg
11 Evan Nolte (6-8, 224, Jr.) - 3.2 ppg, 1.5 rpg

Top Reserves:
10 Mike Tobey (7-0, 253, Jr.) - 7.4 ppg, 5.3 rpg
21 Isaiah Wilkins (6-7, 224, Fr.) - 1.7 ppg, 2.6 rpg
04 Marial Shayok (6-5, 207, Fr.) - 3.6 ppg, 1.8 rpg
1 Justin Anderson (6-6, 228, Jr.) - 12.8 ppg, 4.2 rpg

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(Photo by USA Today Sports)

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