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No Time to Dwell

North Carolina Tar Heels

Virginia has just 48 hours to recover from a head-spinning loss to Duke before tipping off against the other ACC blue blood, this time down in Chapel Hill. Virginia under Bennett has historically matched up well with Carolina in the regular season, but with the narrow turnaround and some injury question marks, is it too much to ask of the Hoos this time?

Game Details:

Date/Time:Monday, February 11th, 7:00 pm ET
Location:Dean Smith Center, Chapel Hill, NC
TV:ESPN

 

What 'They' Say

Vegas:Virginia +1, O/U 143, equates to ~72-71 UNC win
TAPE:Ranks UNC #9, predicts a 71-69 UVA win, 56% confidence
KenPom:Ranks UNC #8, predicts a 72-70 UVA win, 58% confidence

 

Depth Chart:

Starters
PG#2 Coby White, 6'5" 185, FR
26 mpg, 15.9 ppg, 4.3 apg, 39% 3P%
SG#24 Kenny Williams, 6'4" 185, SR
28 mpg, 9.0 ppg, 3.7 apg 31% 3P%
SF#13 Cameron Johnson, 6'9" 210, SR
28 mpg, 15.8 ppg, 5.5 rpg, 51% FG%
PF#32 Luke Maye, 6'8" 240, SR
30 mpg, 15.1 ppg, 9.7 rpg, 44% FG%
C#15 Garrison Brooks, 6'9" 230, SO
22 mpg, 8.2 ppg, 6.0 rpg, 55% FG%
Key Reserves
G#0 Seventh Woods, 6'2" 185, JR
13 mpg, 3.0 ppg, 2.7 apg, 43% 3P%
G#4 Brandon Robinson, 6'4" 170, JR
12 mpg, 3.4 ppg, 1.3 apg, 43% 3P%
F#5 Nassir Little, 6'6" 220, FR
20 mpg, 10.3 ppg, 4.7 rpg, 50% FG%

 

The ABC's of North Carolina:

A) They've got a good mix of veterans and high-upside freshmen. Carolina returned a solid senior core this season, led by national champions Luke Maye at PF and Kenny Williams at SG. A third senior, Cam Johnson, transferred in last year right after their 2017 title. The three are combining for over 40 points a game and provide a steadying presence in the starting lineup. Joining these three are a pair of 5-star freshmen, starting PG Coby White who's exploded to lead the team in both points and assists, and 6th man Nassir Little who projects as a Lottery pick on sheer talent though its taken him a couple months to get up to speed. A cadre of former-4-star role players supports them, forming the dangerous lineup that's tied for the ACC lead.

B) They're fast, duh. Carolina is a team known for their up-tempo style of play, have been for years. But this year they've taken it to another level. Most years the Tar Heels' tempo has been around 70 or 71 possessions a game, in the top 20% nationally. This year they're all the way up to 75 possessions a game, 5th in all of D-I. They have both the fastest offense and the fastest defense in the ACC, and it will be intriguing how well they play if/when Virginia forces them into the single digits of the shot clock throughout the game, both ends of the floor.

C) They move the ball really well. You don't think of a fast break team as a passing team, maybe you imagine it as a lot of iso ball. But Carolina surprisingly leads the ACC in assist percentage, 66% of their field goals coming off a pass. PG White is leading the charge with 4.6 apg in ACC play, but four other Tar Heels also average over 2 assists a game (Maye, Johnson, Williams, and Brooks), meaning this is an unselfish team always willing to make the extra pass. Virginia's secondary rotations will have to be crisp as Carolina's always working hard to find the open man.

 

Their Season To Date

UNC is 19-4 overall, 9-1 in ACC play. They lost to Texas (neutral), Michigan (road), and Kentucky (neutral) in OOC play, but also beat Gonzaga by double digits in the Dean Dome. Their lone ACC loss was at home to Louisville by 21, though they got revenge last week by 10 in the Yum! Center. They're on a 7 game winning streak, which also includes a win over full-strength VT at home, and most recently won in OT over Miami on Saturday afternoon.

 

Keys to getting the win:

1) Fix the turnover issues already. Three games in a row we've had turnovers play a role in either an unpleasantly narrow win or a loss. We're averaging 14 TOs a game over the last 3 games, after averaging just 8.5 TOs a game in the first 19 games of the year (lowest in all D-1). The live ball steals continue to plague us, with Duke getting double-digit steals on Saturday night, leading to too many fast break opportunities. UNC would love to get those kinds of transition possessions to play their kind of game. Expect them to have read the scouting report and have a pressuring, ball-hawking defense dialed up to see if Virginia will continue its recent disappointing trend. Virginia's guards must finally tighten back up that ball-handling.

2) Don't let them warm up from 3. Carolina has quietly become the ACC's 2nd best 3-point shooting team (UVA is 1st), with a 39.8% team 3P%. That performance is led by White's excellent 41% on high volume, Cam Johnson's dangerous 46% from the forward position, and Williams' respectable 38%. Even reserve guard Robinson is hitting near 50% on his limited attempts. Luke Maye, known as an effective stretch 4, is hitting only 33% in ACC play, but he hit 47% last year so still must be respected. Virginia sacrificed the perimeter on Saturday to guard against Duke's penetration, but given UNC's lethality from range, Virginia must ensure the pack is closing out on shooters every time.

3) Control the boards. Virginia hit on one of my 3 keys against Duke, and that was to improve their rebounding against a team built around second-chance points and chaos off the rim. I'm asking them to do the same in this one. Carolina is 4th in the league, one behind Duke, in offensive rebounding percentage, and despite their lack of traditional size, they outwork many teams in getting to the offensive glass. Brooks, Maye, and Johnson all average at least 1.9 OR's a game, and even perimeter players like Little and Williams average over one a game. This means that defensive rebounding is a whole-team assignment, all five players have to be disciplined in their box-out assignments.

 

 

Predictions:

If we were at full strength, even coming off a loss to Duke, I'd feel okay about this game. In 2015 we lost to Duke on a Saturday with GameDay in the house, went to Chapel Hill that next Monday and left with a good win. We simply match up well stylistically with them. But that's talking full strength. Instead we've got Ty Jerome needing pain shots to play, we've got Mamadi Diakite potentially in the concussion protocol. That's two key starters that we have surrounded by question marks.

Ultimately I think those question marks hurt us a bit too much in this one. Diakite especially is needed to match up with their face-up bigs like Maye and Cam Johnson and do his part in locking down the glass. If he can't go, Key will be a good start at the 4, but when he's out I'll be worried. The recent turnover woes also give me a little too much pause. One or two games you can write off, but 3 in a row now tell me there's something real that needs fixing, and a 48 hour turnaround isn't enough time to get after it in practice.

Pains me to say it, but I just don't see a W in the cards for UVA today.

North Carolina Wins 75-68