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Notre Dame v North Carolina

by Sharon Thorsland

It’s about time – North Carolina finally got a win, even though it wasn’t a pretty one. The Tar Heels pulled out a close one over Notre Dame Wednesday night for just their second win in their last seven games. That improved them to 17-11 overall and 9-8 in ACC play. But they’ve got a tough test Saturday night when #6 Virginia comes calling. The Cavaliers (21-5, 13-4) aren’t happy right now after an embarrassing loss to Boston College this week and barely beating both Louisville and Notre Dame before that. Tip-off is set for 6:00 on WBT.

Virginia continue to play slow-down ball, which often translates to ugly ball. The Cavaliers have managed just 61 points per game in February while holding teams to just 60 a contest, that’s best in the ACC. The offense runs through senior guards Kihei Clark and Armaan Franklin, both average over 11 points and shoot nearly 40% from three. Fellow guard Reece Beekman is also a deep threat, although he’s been in a bit of a shooting slump recently. Actually, Virginia’s entire offense has been struggling, they managed just 48 points against the Eagles, including only four from Franklin. Of course no one at UNC can point any fingers – the Tar Heels have had plenty of problems scoring as well, particularly from deep. To beat Virginia they’re going to have to “knock down some shots,” as coach Hubert Davis said Friday. That’s something they’ve had trouble doing in the past against the Cavaliers, scoring more than 70 points just once in the past 10 match ups.

UNC does have an advantage inside, though. The Virginia front court features leading rebounder Jaylen Gardner and Ben Vander Plas, who had 17 points against the Tar Heels in their first matchup. Kadin Shedrick could get more minutes in this one though as Vander Plas has struggled to score in recent games. And UNC definitely has an advantage on the glass, the Tar Heels continue to lead the league with 40 rebounds per game, and this time the Cavaliers will have to face Armando Bacot. The big man missed almost the entire game with an ankle injury the last time these teams met, and he will give the Wahoos all they can handle inside. The Tar Heels will no doubt try and dominate on the glass and hurt the Cavaliers in transition.

This is a huge game for North Carolina, who remains on the NCAA Tournament bubble. Beating this Virginia team won’t be easy but this truly is a must-win. The Tar Heels nearly upset the Cavaliers on the road without Bacot, and they beat them in Chapel Hill last season behind Bacot’s 29 points and 22 rebounds. I say the senior will prove to be the difference in this one with UNC winning it to keep their tournament hopes alive. Go Tar Heels!

Huge Game for UNC vs. #6 Virginia  was originally published on