Charlottesville, Va. - University Hall (8,457)
Saturday, Noon, ESPN
"It always concerns you when a team is going through a difficult time period, especially teams in this league. Virginia beat Arizona earlier in the year by 18. You know that Virginia is a pretty doggone good team and they'll get going again -- you just hope it isn't against you. We'll go up there and they'll be a big time crowd there for them, they'll be fired up -- it's North Carolina coming to town -- and they can erase some awfully difficult feelings they've had the last few weeks by playing well against us." -- Roy Williams
Last Year Vs. UNC: In the first matchup on Jan. 24 in Chapel Hill, the Tar Heels jumped out to a big first half lead, only to see it vanish. But after trailing for the first time early in the second half, the Heels exploded for a 26-6 run that put the game out of reach for a 96-77 final. Rashad McCants had a game-high 26 points. In the rematch a month later, UNC suffered a heartbreaker. The Tar Heels were unable to hold the lead down the stretch and a Todd Billet three-pointer with 13.6 seconds left gave the Cavs a 74-72 win. Devin Smith had 20 points for UVa, while Sean May posted 20 points and nine rebounds.
Season To Date: It's quickly turned into another disappointing season for Pete Gillen and the Cavs -- and it may be Gillen's last in Charlottesville if he doesn't have another late-season turnaround up his sleeve. The season began with promise, highlighted by an upset of Arizona in the second game of the year, followed by solid wins over Northwestern and Auburn. Since then, the Cavs are 4-7, including losses in five of their last six games -- for a 1-6 record to open ACC play, with their only conference win coming at home against Clemson last week.
Thursday's Meltdown: The team hit rock bottom on Thursday in a painful loss at rival Virginia Tech. The Cavs played sloppy offense (committing 22 turnovers) and poor defense (allowing the Hokies to shoot 53% FG and 47% 3pt), while their chemisty unraveled, as teammates were seen bickering with one another throughout the game. To make matters worse, starting point guard Sean Singletary missed most of the second half with an ankle sprain.
Clark MIA: While it doesn't explain most of the losses, the recent departure of starting forward Jason Clark has been a major blow to the team. Clark, who was dismissed last week for academic problems, was a key defender/rebounder in the frontcourt and UVa has no one who can fill those shoes. Sophomore Jason Cain has started in Clark's place the last two games, and has averaged 2.0 points, 0.5 rebounds, 2.5 fouls and 2.0 turnovers. While Cain is listed below as the projected starter, don't be surprised if Gillen starts sophomore forward Gary Forbes instead.
Reliable Seniors: Players like Singletary and J.R Reynolds have had a few big games or hit some big shots, but make no mistake about it -- seniors Elton Brown and Devin Smith carry UVa. One of the two seniors has led the team in scoring in 11 of their 17 games, while one of them has also led the team in rebounding in 15 of 17 games. Brown is a wide load in the post averaging a near double-double (15.8 pts, 9.8 reb), while Devin Smith is a 242-pound wing capable of huge scoring totals (such as 40 points at Iowa State).
U-Hall Dominance: The last time North Carolina won in Charlottesville? Feb. 20, 1999. Ed Cota found Ademola Okulaja in the corner for a three-pointer with 1.6 seconds left to give the then No. 14 Tar Heels the 67-66 win and silence the U-Hall faithful, who had spent all evening harassing UNC guard (and former UVa recruit/commitment) Ronald Curry. Since then, Carolina has lost its last five games at Virginia.
Projected Starters: 44 Sean Singletary (6-0, 180, G, Fr.) - 9.9 ppg, 3.9 apg 2 J.R. Reynolds (6-2, 200, G, So.) – 11.0 ppg, 2.1 apg 33 Devin Smith (6-5, 242, F, Sr.) – 17.8 ppg, 6.7 rpg 32 Jason Cain (6-10, 205, F, So.) – 1.9 ppg, 1.5 rpg 43 Elton Brown (6-9, 255, C, Sr.) - 15.5 ppg, 9.8 rpg Reserves: 23 Gary Forbes (6-6, 210, F, So.) – 8.5 ppg, 4.1 rpg 30 Adrian Joseph (6-7, 200, F, Fr.) – 5.1 ppg 15 T.J. Bannister (5-10, 170, G, So.) – 3.4 ppg, 3.3 apg 55 Donte Minter (6-8, 245, F, So.) – 1.6 ppg, 0.7 rpg 21 Tunji Soroye (6-11, 210, C, Fr.) – 0.5 ppg, 0.9 rpg
Brown ... Smith
Singletary ... Forbes
Reynolds ... Gillen