NO. 7 NORTH CAROLINA (24-4, 11-2 ACC) AT VIRGINIA (21-6, 8-5 ACC)
Time: 4 p.m.
Location: John Paul Jones Arena in Charlottesville, Va.
North Carolina 5 (No. 2 ACC)
Virginia 38 (No. 4 ACC)
Line: North Carolina -4 (O/U 126)
North Carolina Players to Watch: G Kendall Marshall, 6-4 So. (7.1 ppg, 9.8 apg, 1.3 spg); F Tyler Zeller, 7-0 Sr. (15.6 ppg, 9.4 rpg, 54.1% FG); F Harrison Barnes, 6-8 So. (18 ppg, 5 rpg, 42.9% 3s). Marshall is one of the best playmaking point guards in the country and he had his best scoring output of the season in Tuesday’s 86-74 win at North Carolina State. The sophomore, who leads the nation in assist-to-turnover ratio (3.62-to-1) and is second in assists per game, hit seven of his eight field goal attempts and scored 22 points and handed out 13 assists with no turnovers. He has scored in double-figures just four times this season, including three times in the Heels’ last seven games.
Virginia Players to Watch: F Mike Scott, 6-8 Sr. (17.3 ppg, 8.2 rpg, 58.8% FG); G Joe Harris, 6-6 So. (11.4 ppg, 3.9 rpg, 38.2% 3s); G Jontel Evans, 5-11 Jr. (7 ppg, 3.8 apg, 1.6 spg). X
Storylines: The Tar Heels are 11-2 in the ACC, tied atop the standings with rival Duke. UNC has won nine of its last 10 with the only loss coming against Duke on Feb. 8. In that defeat, the Heels led by 10 points with two minutes left. The Cavs have won consecutive games (71-44 over Maryland on Feb. 18 and 61-59 at Virginia Tech on Feb. 21) after dropping 3-of-4 from Feb. 4-14. They currently hold a 1-game lead over N.C. State and Miami for fourth place in the league.
Keys: North Carolina outscored the Cavaliers 35-20 in the second half for a 70-52 home win on Feb. 11 in the two teams’ first meeting. Tyler Zeller had a big game, leading UNC with 25 points and nine boards. The Tar Heels held Virginia to 36.4 percent from the field and out-rebounded them 48-31. Carolina leads the ACC and is second nationally at 82.9 points per game. Virginia leads the league and is second nationally, allowing 52.1 points per contest. The Cavs allow opponents to shoot just 28.6 percent from behind the 3-point arch and the Tar Heels shoot just 35.6 from deep. Virginia is second in the league with a 46.6 shooting percentage and Carolina is second in field goal defense at 38.7. UNC leads the nation in rebounding margin, out-rebounding opponents by 11.2 per game. Virginia is third in the ACC at plus-4.5. Carolina is seventh nationally with 6.3 blocked shots per game. UNC is 6-2 on the road this season and has won five straight away from home. UVa is 13-1 at JPJA with the only loss coming Jan. 22 at the hands of Virginia Tech, 47-45. Carolina leads the all-time series with Virginia 126-49. The Heels have beaten the Cavs eight of the last nine times and have won three straight in Charlottesville.
The Bottom Line: The Tar Heels cruise past Virginia on their way to the ACC title – and possibly a national championship.
The Pick: North Carolina 74, Virginia 51