North Carolina (22-5, 10-3 ACC) vs. Virginia (18-7, 8-5 ACC)
Chapel Hill, N.C. – Dean E. Smith Center
Saturday, 8:15 p.m.
ESPN (Dan Shulman, Jay Bilas)
“You really want to win, but it’s a fine line and we are in so many close games. This ball club has some limitations in certain areas and we are fighting like crazy. We are doing some good things and we have some strengths, but we are going to be in a lot of close games.” – Virginia head coach Tony Bennett
“I’m learning as much as everybody else is. It’s not something I’m used to. But as a leader of the team I just have to keep my head up, keep my spirits high, because we have games to play. We have another tough one Saturday. I’m trying to figure out how we can get the best out of everybody, regardless of if they’re not playing well. We’re just trying to keep everybody’s spirits high, because we need everybody confident as we’re going into postseason and the end of this season.” – senior guard London Perrantes on UVa’s four losses in its last six games
“To be where we want to be, we’ve still got to get a lot better defensively.” – UNC head coach Roy Williams
Heels in Command: UNC has a one-game lead over No. 8 Louisville, No. 12 Duke and No. 17 Florida State in the ACC standings entering the final two weeks of the regular season. The Tar Heels are fourth in league play in field goal percentage (47.1) and seventh in field goal percentage defense (45.5), but have dominated the glass with a plus-12.2 rebound margin. Junior Justin Jackson ranks second in ACC play in scoring with 19.6 points per game.
Cavaliers Spotlight: Long gone are former standouts Malcolm Brogdon and Anthony Gill, and their absence has been noticeable in recent weeks as Tony Bennett’s squad has dropped four of its last six games. The Cavs excel within their system, although the lack of elite talent requires such precision. Virginia’s primary scorer is senior point guard London Perrantes, while junior wing Marial Shayok has moved into a more prominent role as the season has progressed. The Cavs rank second in ACC play in field goal percentage (47.6) and fourth in field goal percentage defense (43.8).
Relevant Pace: The Tar Heels rank 30th nationally in possessions per game (75.7), which serves as the typical sharp contrast to Virginia’s methodical pace (63.0, 350th). UNC has been more efficient in its possessions this season, ranking fourth nationally in adjusted offensive efficiency (122.3) compared to the Cavs’ 117.3 rating (19th), according to kenpom.com. Virginia is 2-2 in games with 65 or more possessions, while UNC is 6-2 in games with 70 or fewer possessions and 2-0 in games with 65 or fewer.
Matchup to Watch: Perrantes is a savvy veteran capable of directing an upset at the Smith Center on Saturday. The pitfall is that as the L.A. senior goes, so often does the Cavs. Perrantes is shooting 32.7 percent (28.0 percent 3FG) in Virginia’s four losses in February. UNC point guard Joel Berry has endured his own struggles at times of late, although he’s thrived at home. The Tar Heels were at their best earlier this season when Berry was extending his defense near the midcourt line to force opposing offenses to start their sets earlier. His defensive performance against Perrantes will be a telling component in whether or not UNC hands UVa its fifth loss in seven games. Berry excelled in his last matchup with Perrantes, scoring 19 points in the ACC Tournament title game last season.
Stat of Note: Virginia has posted scoring runs of 10 or more consecutive points 17 times this season.
Last Meeting: UNC defeated Virginia, 61-57, to win its 18th ACC Tournament title on March 13, 2016 in Washington. Marcus Paige sparked the Tar Heels with nine points early in the second half and they beat the Cavs at their own game, holding Bennett’s squad to 37 percent shooting. UNC’s lead grew to as many as nine points in the final two minutes of play.
Series Record: The Tar Heels lead the series, 130-53.
Projected UNC Starters:
2 Joel Berry (6-0, 195, Jr.) – 15.0 ppg, 4.0 apg
3 Kennedy Meeks (6-10, 260, Sr.) - 12.6 ppg, 9.2 rpg
4 Isaiah Hicks (6-9, 242, Sr.) - 12.6 ppg, 5.4 rpg
44 Justin Jackson (6-8, 210, Jr.) – 18.5 ppg, 4.7 rpg
1 Theo Pinson (6-6, 211, Jr.) – 6.9 ppg, 5.0 rpg
5 Tony Bradley (6-11, 240, Fr.) – 6.9 ppg, 5.0 rpg
0 Nate Britt (6-1, 175, Sr.) – 4.9 ppg, 2.6 apg
Projected Virginia Starters:
32 London Perrantes (6-2, 197, Sr.) – 12.6 ppg, 3.8 apg
00 Devon Hall (6-5, 207, Jr.) – 8.5 ppg, 4.3 rpg
21 Isaiah Wilkins (6-7, 225, Jr.) - 7.5 ppg, 6.4 rpg
33 Jack Salt (6-11, 247, So.) – 3.8 ppg, 3.8 rpg
04 Marial Shayok (6-5, 196, Jr.) – 9.6 ppg, 2.7 rpg
11 Ty Jerome (6-5, 192, Fr.) – 4.0 ppg, 1.4 apg
25 Mamadi Diakite (6-9, 214, Fr.) - 4.0 ppg, 2.5 rpg
05 Kyle Guy (6-3, 165, Fr.) – 7.6 ppg, 1.4 rpg