With one week left in college basketball’s regular season, the ACC title is up for grabs. The top four teams are going head to head. Unfortunately, the Louisville Cardinals are only playing for pride and their claim to the regular season championship. Beyond that, the North Carolina Tar Heels can clinch a share of the title with a win over the Virginia Cavaliers. However, they’ll need a lot of help to earn the No. 1 seed in the ACC tournament. Mainly, losses by Notre Dame, Duke, and Miami will do the trick this weekend.
No. 7 North Carolina Tar Heels vs. No. 3 Virginia Cavaliers
The Tar Heels (23-5, 12-3) have four road losses this season. Early losses at Northern Iowa and Texas, were followed up by a string of impressive wins to start the conference season. However, back to back road losses at Louisville and Notre Dame Kept the rest of the ACC within striking distance.
Their lone home loss came at the hands of the Duke Blue Devils in one of the more bizarre finishes this season. Since then, the Tar Heels have crushed to double digit wins over Miami and North Carolina State. Now they can have one of their most impressive wins this season against Virginia.
The Cavaliers (21-6, 10-5) need everything to go right in the final three games. Coming off of a tough loss to the Miami Hurricanes, they still have a chance at the ACC title, but they must finish with a flourish. It all starts with protecting home court against the Tar Heels. If not, they can kiss a chance at a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament goodbye.
Clearly, this game will come down to style of play. North Carolina loves to get in transition, while Virginia is content with slowing the game down. In five losses, the Tar Heels give up 76 points per game. Overall, they give up 70 points per contest, while scoring over 83 points per night. So far, every opponent has scored over 70 points in wins over North Carolina.
On the flipside, Virginia’s six losses have come when they don’t score 70 points. With the way North Carolina can score in bunches, the Cavaliers will need a strong performance offensively. However, the Cavaliers will continue to hang their hat on defense. If they force the Tar Heels into a jump shooting team, the advantage will be for the home team.
Currently, Cavaliers’ opponents are averaging 59.7 points per game. They also hold opponents to 36 percent from 3-point range in conference play. Meanwhile, the Tar Heels are the worst 3-point shooting team in the ACC at 28 percent. Yet, North Carolina still connects on 46 percent of their shots from the field.
The main reason is Brice Johnson. The future All-American forward is shooting over 61 percent from the field. He also leads the Tar Heels with 17 points and 11 rebounds per game. Yet, Johnson only averages 11 shots per game this season. He’s a threat to decimate any defense, so Virginia will be keyed in on protecting the paint.
Only blocking 49 shots this season, the Cavaliers pride themselves on playing position defense. Any breakdowns will result in a dunk fest for the Tar Heels.
Offensively, Malcolm Brogdon has to be the main attraction for the Cavaliers. With a team-leading 18.2 points per game, Brogdon is able to get his shot off from anyplace on the court. Along with London Perrantes, the back court makes a little over four 3-pointers per game.
Tip-off is set for 6:30 p.m. ET on ESPN. The Cavaliers are a 3.5 favorite.