Home Just being honest: North Carolina is a tough, tough matchup for this Virginia team

Just being honest: North Carolina is a tough, tough matchup for this Virginia team

Chris Graham
reece beekman
Photo: ACC/N. Redmond

North Carolina is 3-3 in its last six, with two of the losses on the road, and its win on the road in that stretch was Miami, which is in a freefall.

Which is to say, if ever UNC would be vulnerable, it would be now.

That’s the conventional wisdom.

Flip side of that for Virginia: yeah, also pretty vulnerable right now.

The ‘Hoos (20-7, 11-5 ACC) have lost two of their last three, Tony Bennett still hasn’t settled on how he wants to play, and let’s just be up front here: North Carolina (20-6, 12-3 ACC) is simply a bad matchup for this Virginia team.

Why I say that: UNC can score in the post, can shoot from the perimeter, and don’t be fooled by the 71.4 points per game the Heels give up on D.

That’s tempo; KenPom has Carolina ranked 10th in defensive efficiency, one spot behind … yes, Virginia.

This game will be played at a Tony Bennett pace, because Virginia games are always played at a Tony Bennett pace.

UNC, because it can play defense, can win at a Tony Bennett pace.


Hubert Davis tends to stick with a tight rotation, with three starters averaging 30 minutes-plus, and a fourth a smidge under.

The leading scorer is 6’0” senior shooting guard RJ Davis (21.3 ppg, 3.6 assists/g, 43.2% FG, 41.0% 3FG), a volume shooter (16.4 shots per game) who rarely leaves the floor (34.8 minutes/g).

The other guys in the UNC backcourt: 6’1” freshman point guard Elliot Cadeau (7.8 ppg, 4.0 assists/g, 42.9% FG, 20.6% 3FG), Notre Dame transfer Cormac Ryan (10.8 ppg, 36.5% FG, 31.7% 3FG), a 6’5” senior, whose shooting numbers have been a little disappointing, and 6’3” sophomore Seth Trimble (5.3 ppg, 44.9% FG, 42.9% 3FG).

The guards are good, but the strength of this team is in the post.

Armando Bacot, who didn’t actually play for Dean Smith, though it seems like he’s been there that long, averages a double-double (14.6 ppg, 10.3 rebs/g, 55.9% FG).

He’s finally done with his eligibility this year; after which, G League, here we come.

Stanford transfer Harrison Ingram, a 6’7” junior, is a big (235-pound) stretch four who can punch it in from three (12.5 ppg, 9.1 rebs/g, 44.2% FG, 40.7% 3FG).

The bench guys in the post: 6’10” sophomore Jalen Washington (4.4 ppg, 2.7 rebs/g, 8.6 mins/g) and 6’9” senior Jae’Lyn Withers (4.0 ppg, 3.0 rebs/g, 12.5 mins/g), a Louisville transfer.

How Virginia matches up

Focusing on the post, because this is my area of concern: 6’8” grad senior center Jordan Minor (4.1 ppg, 2.8 rebs/g, 48.8% FG) has been getting limited minutes of late (13.3 mins/g in his last three), and this is a concern.

If Bennett is going to have a quick trigger finger with Minor, Bacot is going to have his way with 6’11” freshman backup Blake Buchanan (3.7 ppg, 3.4 rebs/g, 41.9% FG), and god forbid Bennett has to go with super-thin 6’9” shooter Jake Groves (7.5 ppg, 2.5 rebs/g, 49.7% FG, 49.4% 3FG) for any kind of stretch at center.

The TV people keep talking up 6’8” sophomore Ryan Dunn (8.6 ppg, 7.0 rebs/g, 2.3 blocks/g, 57.6% FG) as a defensive player of the year candidate, but Dunn has been getting eaten up a bit of late on the defensive end.

Numbers from Synergy Sports have Dunn, who on the season is giving up 4.5 points per game on 29.9 percent shooting, allowing 9.0 points per game over his last four, with opponents shooting 52.4 percent (11-of-21) in that stretch.

Ingram’s game will remind you of Blake Hinson, the Pitt stretch four who burned Virginia for 27 points last week in JPJ.

Just warning you there.

I like Reece Beekman (13.9 ppg, 5.8 assists/g, 45.4% FG, 31.3% 3FG) on Davis, not so much to stop Davis, but at least make him work for his buckets, and force him into turnovers.

Virginia’s biggest issue is on the offensive end, where, of late, the only guys who merit attention in the defensive game plan for opponents are Beekman and 6’4” sophomore guard Isaac McKneely (12.4 ppg, 42.9% FG, 46.0% 3FG).

The other three spots have just been ghosts offensively.

Andrew Rohde, the third starting guard, is averaging 2.8 points and 2.9 assists per game in his last 11 games, on 10-of-45 (22.2 percent) shooting overall, and 8-of-29 (27.6 percent) from three.

Moving to the frontcourt, Minor and Buchanan, splitting time at center, are averaging 6.3 points per game on 8-of-24 (33.3 percent) shooting over the past three games.

Then Dunn, over his last seven games, has scored a total of 30 points – that’s an average of 4.3 points per game – on 14-of-27 shooting from the floor, 0-of-2 from three, 2-of-9 at the line.

And finally, Groves, who had a four-game stretch from Jan. 31-Feb. 10 in which he averaged 14.3 points in 22.8 minutes per game, and made 22 of his 36 shots from the field overall and was 13-of-18 from three, has averaged just 3.0 points per game in his last three, on 3-of-9 shooting overall, 1-of-5 from three.

Somebody, probably two of these guys, are going to have to step up to give Beekman and iMac some help.

Chris Graham

Chris Graham

Chris Graham is the founder and editor of Augusta Free Press. A 1994 alum of the University of Virginia, Chris is the author and co-author of seven books, including Poverty of Imagination, a memoir published in 2019, and Team of Destiny: Inside Virginia Basketball’s Run to the 2019 National Championship, and The Worst Wrestling Pay-Per-View Ever, published in 2018. For his commentaries on news, sports and politics, go to his YouTube page, or subscribe to his Street Knowledge podcast. Email Chris at [email protected].