Quick turnaround: UVA basketball turns attention to North Carolina

uva north carolinaThe Round 1 UVA-Duke game had a comedown game for the ‘Hoos at home against Wake Forest. Round 2 is another story entirely.

Less than 48 hours after Duke shot the lights out of JPJ in an 81-71 win over Virginia, the Cavaliers have a Big Monday matchup against #8 North Carolina, which, for its part, played at home on Saturday.

Nice bit of scheduling magic from the ACC there, eh?

It’s actually the second time already this season that the road team in the Big Monday matchup is playing a home team that also played a home game the Saturday before.

Duke played Jan. 28 at Notre Dame, which had lost at home to UVA on Jan. 26.

Get to know: North Carolina

All due respect to Notre Dame, but the Irish, this year, anyway, ain’t Carolina (19-4, 9-1 ACC), winners of seven straight and 11 of their last 12.

The Tar Heels almost got caught in their trap game against Miami, needing a late Luke Maye three to force OT, then having to hold on to beat the ‘Canes, 88-85, on Saturday in the Dean Dome.

Freshman point guard Coby White was sublime for UNC in the win, scoring a career-best 33 points on 11-of-16 shooting, including hitting 7-of-10 from three-point range.

The Heels haven’t been all that sound defensively of late, giving up 1.117 points per possession in their wins over Miami and NC State, but that’s nitpicking a bit for a team that on the season is ranked 19th in adjusted defensive efficiency by KenPom.com (.930 points per possession).

The Carolina offense has been purring, averaging 100.5 points per game in the wins over Miami and State.

The Heels play a breakneck pace, averaging 75.3 possessions per game, fifth nationally, driven by White, a big (6’5”), quick point, who averages a team-best 15.9 points per game, shooting 44.6 percent from the floor and 38.8 percent from three-point range, and 4.3 assists per game.

Senior Cam Johnson is a big (6’9”) wing who is also a matchup problem on the perimeter, averaging 15.8 points per game, shooting 50.8 percent from the floor and 47.2 percent from three.

You remember Luke Maye, the epitome of the college stretch four, at 6’8”, 240, scoring 15.1 points per game, though his shooting numbers are down (43.9 percent from the floor, 48.2 percent from two, 33.7 percent from three this year; 48.6 percent from the floor, 50.3 percent from two, 43.1 percent from three last year).

Questions for Virginia

  • Can the ‘Hoos rebound? It’s not only a quick turnaround, with a short road trip on top of that, but there’s also the issue of having to come down from the high of the marquee matchup with Duke, and then recharge for a tough road game at UNC. It wouldn’t be easy to play Carolina on normal rest; this one seems almost scheduled to be an L for UVA.
  • Status of Mamadi Diakite: Diakite is almost certainly out, after missing the second half of the Duke loss with what looked to be concussion-related symptoms, following a freak first-half collision with teammate De’Andre Hunter. Diakite would be the natural defensive matchup for Maye. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Braxton Key start and play 30-35 minutes in place of Diakite at the four, leaving Jack Salt and Jay Huff to share minutes at the five.
  • Status of Ty Jerome: Jerome, coming off a back sprain, seemed no worse for the wear Saturday against Duke, scoring 16 in 37 minutes, but after the game, he was noncommittal on his status for UNC. If he isn’t a go, you’ll see Kihei Clark at the point, and probably see Marco Anthony, who hasn’t been getting regular rotation minutes, get 10-12 minutes off the bench in the backcourt.

Column by Chris Graham

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Team of Destiny: Inside Virginia Basketball’s Run to the 2019 National Championship, by Jerry Ratcliffe and Chris Graham, is now available at a special pre-sale discounted price of $20. The book is expected to ship by May 15, 2019, and expected to retail for $25.
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The book, with additional reporting by Scott Ratcliffe and Zach Pereles, will take you from the aftermath of the stunning first-round loss to UMBC in 2018, and how coach Tony Bennett and his team used that loss as the source of strength, through to the ACC regular-season championship, the run to the Final Four, and the thrilling overtime win over Texas Tech to win the 2019 national title, the first in school history.
 
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