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No. 3 Virginia at No. 8 North Carolina NCAAM Pick – February 11th

After taking a loss against Duke, No. 3 Virginia (20-2, 8-2 ACC) now completes their second set of their Tobacco Road back-to-back tonight against No. 8 North Carolina (19-4, 9-1 ACC) — but this time, the Cavaliers are on the road.

After the 81-71 home defeat to the Blue Devils on Saturday, UVA has now dropped to the third spot in the Atlantic Coast Conference behind both Duke and UNC.

Another reason why tonight’s game is so monumental is that it’s the only meeting between the rivals of Virginia and North Carolina in the regular season.

For the Tar Heels, they’re coming off an 88-85 overtime victory against Miami — a game that has caused a bit of a concern for UNC considering it was in Chapel Hill. However, there’s a silver lining with that struggle: The Heels only committed 10 turnovers despite extra action in overtime, a season-low in conference play. And top of that, North Carolina is currently on a seven-game winning streak.

Another streak is at risk of happening tonight as well, and the Cavaliers know it: They’re at a serious threat of losing two games in a row, not something you want to do against legitimate competition when you’re supposed to be one of the top teams in the country.

“Every game in the ACC is important,” Virginia back-up center Jay Huff told reporters. “Every game in the college basketball season is important. It will make it big so that we don’t lose two in a row.”

Despite having the top defense in the country at 54.1 PA, UVA’s defense was atrocious against the Blue Devils this past weekend — they allowed a total of 81 points against them, a season-high. Not just that, but they also allowed Duke to hit 13 shots from behind the arc.

Virginia is sticking to the game plan, though.

“The formula doesn’t change,” Cavaliers’ head coach Tony Bennett commented to reporters. “(We’ll make) little adjustments here and there. We don’t have much time. We’re going to play Carolina. Hopefully be more ready. That will be a great challenge, too.”

With Virginia having an ability to control the pace of the game, North Carolina will be forced to pick up the tempo tonight against the Cavs. North Carolina guard Cameron Johnson put it into perspective.

“They really play their style of basketball,” Johnson said to reporters. “It kind of changes the whole dynamic of the game and it makes every possession matter just a little bit more.”

Against Miami on Saturday, North Carolina’s Coby White was a star — the point guard would put up 33 points on the stat sheet. Their forward Luke Maye has been on a tear the past two games, averaging 25.5 PPG in the scoring department. Both will be vital to stop for the Cavaliers if they plan on stealing a win on the road.

UNC is currently 9-1 in ACC play, the first time ever in history that’s happened in head coach Roy Williams’ 16-year tenure at the school.

For the Cavaliers, they come in a bit healthier after getting back their guard Ty Jerome over the weekend — he hadn’t played in over a week due to a back strain. Though there weren’t any problems in the Duke game for Jerome, it’ll be interesting to see how he does in a back-to-back against the second Tobacco Road rival.

“Glad that he has been able to be healthy,” Bennett commented. “Hopefully, he’ll be all right.”

UVA has other concerns as well: Forward Mamadi Diakite suffered a head injury in the Duke game after colliding with his teammate De’Andre Hunter. Diakite didn’t play in the second game, so his status for tonight still isn’t completely known.

Tip-off between No. 3 Virginia (20-2, 8-2 ACC) at No. 8 North Carolina (19-4, 9-1 ACC) is set for 7:00 PM ET tonight, and will be nationally televised on ESPN. The Tar Heels enter as a -1 point favorite over the Cavaliers.

INJURY REPORT

VIRGINIA

  • MAMADI DIAKITE: Head (Questionable)

NORTH CAROLINA

  • RECHON BLACK: Ankle (Questionable)
  • STERLING MANLEY: Knee (Questionable)


PLAYERS TO WATCH

VIRGINIA

KYLE GUY
Virginia’s junior guard has been a force for the Cavaliers this season, leading the team in scoring and also being productive in the rebounding game. For the season, he’s just 0.4 points away from the 15.0 PPG threshold at 14.6 PPG, and the shooting has been solid as well, hitting 44.9 FG% of his shots. On the glass, Guy also leaves his mark, putting up a tally of 4.3 RPG. And though not elite, he does add to the scoreboard through his 2.1 APG. Defensively, he’s near 1.0 steals-per-game at an average of 0.7 STLPG.
BRAXTON KEY
The 21-year-old out of Charlotte, North Carolina might not be the most elite player in the world, but he’s made his mark in rebounding for the University of Virginia — as a matter of fact, he leads the team in the statistic. Starting out offensively, he’s not hitting double figures, but he does add 7.0 PPG to the stat sheet, and on solid 46.2 FG% shooting at that. His team-leading rebounding mark is at 6.1 RPG. Key is also effective on the defensive side of the ball as well at 1.2 STLPG. He also adds 1.3 AST to his line.

NORTH CAROLINA

COBY WHITE
Leading the team in points-per-game this season, Coby White is also effective in both ball movement and on the glass. White also makes his mark on the defensive side of the ball. In scoring this season, he tallies 15.9 PPG — just 4.1 PPG away from the 20 mark. From the field, White hits 44.6 FG% of his shots. In the assist market, he’s able to add to the scoreboard through his 4.3 APG. On the rebounding end, White tallies 3.2 RPG to also add to the Tar Heels’ production on the glass. Defensively, he also posts 1.0 STLPG.
LUKE MAYE
North Carolina’s senior captain has been a monster this season, and that’s evident of his near double-double average on the stat sheet. On the scoring side, Maye has eclipsed the 15 mark at 15.1 PPG, though the shooting could be a bit better than his 43.9 FG%. In rebounding, Maye nearly gets his second double with his average of 9.7 RPG — just 0.3 away from the 10 figure. Dominant numbers in college basketball. Though not super effective, Maye also adds 2.1 APG to the stat sheet.

CHECK THE NUMBERS

VIRGINIA

We have a pretty balanced matchup, with both teams grabbing two out of the four mainline statistical categories. Something UVA will have to work around, as well as being on the road. In offensive production, the Cavaliers take a big hit in the red: -16 at 72.8 PPG. Hitting their shots, UVA has the leverage here, but it’s slim at +0.3 with a 47.7 FG% tally. On the rebounding side, it’s another distant disadvantage for the Hoos at -7, only compiling 35.9 RPG in comparison. But Virginia makes up for it with a crazy +20 advantage on defense with 54.1 PA.

NORTH CAROLINA

Not only do the Tar Heels hold the homecourt advantage tonight, but they also take two out of the four statistical categories away from Virginia — also on a seven-game winning streak, North Carolina is sitting pretty coming into tonight. In points-per-game, UNC sits at hefty +16 advantage scoring a potent 88.3 PPG; however, they take a slim disadvantage at -0.3 at 47.4 FG%. On the rebounding end, the Tar Heels are at +7 pulling down 42.9 RPG. On defense, the Heels have some things to figure out: They’re a nice-sized -20 at 74.2 PA.

POWELL’S PREDICTION

After the performance against Duke this past weekend, my confidence in Virginia getting a win on the road at North Carolina isn’t very high. And on top of that, UVA hasn’t beaten the Tar Heels in seven straight games.

The most important factor for Virginia to steal a win at Chapel Hill is rebounding. The Cavaliers must win the battle on the glass, and Braxton Key is going to have to step up drastically in order to make this happen — he averages a team-leading 6.1 RPG, which won’t be enough to beat North Carolina. For Virginia, I don’t have much confidence in that battle for them either.

As a result, I have UNC getting the victory tonight in a convincing matter. It’ll be by single digits, but it’ll still be a convincing win against the No. 3 team in the nation. With North Carolina being a -1.5-point favorite, go ahead and take them to cover the spread. I don’t think the Hoos have it too close at the end — just too much firepower from the Tar Heels. With the O/U at 141, I’d go ahead and take that. I personally have 149 total points being scored. Both offenses come in with a level of potency, so it should be a pretty action-packed game with plenty of scoring. I mean, after all, it is a battle between the No. 3 and No. 8 teams in the country.

PREDICTION: North Carolina: 78, Virginia: 71

My Pick
NORTH CAROLINA -1
Author Details
Andrew Powell

Andrew Powell has been working with The Sports Geek since November 2018 providing analysis and predictions in both the realms of sports and politics. Studying journalism through the University of Michigan, Powell’s experience in sports includes tenures at mainstream newspapers The Williamsport Sun-Gazette and The Lock Haven Express, and he would also be affiliated with FOX Sports Radio 1340 AM in Hopewell, Virginia. In politics, it would include a stint with Mad World News and multiple with the Republican Party. From the Super Bowl to The Kentucky Derby to President Donald Trump’s hair, Powell has you covered at The Sports Geek.

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