As ACC conference play gets underway, a battle between two of the best programs in college basketball of the past decade gets underway as the North Carolina Tar Heels face off against the Virginia Cavaliers. While both of these teams have won national championships in the past decade, these teams have started their season quite different. North Carolina entered this season off the heels of a national championship appearance and a preseason No. 1 ranking.
They started off slow off the gate however and have five losses on the season, finding themselves unranked at the moment. In recent games, they have been playing better and enter this game off a two game winning streak, featuring wins against talented Notre Dame and Wake Forest squads. They are 3-2 so far in ACC play and a win against Virginia could certainly do a lot for them moving forward to get back on track to where they wanted to be at the beginning of the season.
Virginia didn’t have a whole lot of noise to them at the start of the season but being led by their defensive prowess, they started collecting wins against ranked teams and jumped up to a top-five ranking. They recently suffered losses to Miami and Pitt and now see themselves at No. 13 in the rankings with an 11-3 record. A win against North Carolina could certainly see them re-enter the top ten and make a statement for the team to beat in the ACC. Let’s jump into this game’s picks and predictions:
North Carolina vs. Virginia Betting Odds
There are still no odds placed currently for this game yet but it’s easy to speculate that Virginia will enter this game as the favorites. They have currently the better record and ranking over the Tar Heels, plus this game being a home game for the Cavaliers. ESPN Analytics currently gives Virginia 71% chance to win this game. North Carolina may have more scoring options on their team but Virginia have shown the ability to stop scorers defensively so far this season. In Kenpom’s analytical rankings, the Cavaliers also have the edge with being ranked 14th while North Carolina is 21st. This game will certainly be a matchup of offense and defense and North Carolina may have a size advantage, but Virginia has a lot of scrappy defensive guards that can take it away in transition. The spread line, I expect to be close and be within 5 points or less in any direction but do expect Virginia to be the favorite.
The over/under total has not been placed yet but will be interesting to see given how these two team’s strengths vary. North Carolina averages 81.4 PPG while allowing 74.3 points defensively. Virginia only averages 70 PPG but holds teams to only 59.6 points on average. You can expect this line to be close to 135 or 140.
North Carolina vs. Virginia Picks & Predictions
My Pick: Virginia ML
I think North Carolina will figure out their early season struggles and find their way to being a scary team come March, but I like Virginia in this matchup and believe they are the best team in the ACC at the moment. Virginia being able to hold teams to less than 60 a game is an incredible feat and has been a staple of Tony Bennett’s teams for years. They will have their work cut out for them with North Carolina’s offense. The Tar Heels have four players averaging double digits in scoring led by Armando Bacot with 18.8 PPG and 11.2 RPG.
Caleb Love and R.J. Davis are both averaging approximately 16 points a game. Virginia currently has five players that average a steal or more a game so being on their A-game defensively will be key. On the offensive side, the Cavaliers have three players that average double digits in scoring in Kihei Clark, Armaan Franklin, and Jayden Gardner all hovering around 11 points. They will need to rise to the occasion offensively.
In terms of the over/under total depending on where it’s placed, I do think this game will be very defensive heavy as the Cavaliers try to control the clock. I think an under would be a smart bet if it’s placed around 140.
Kihei Clark vs. North Carolina
Kihei Clark has been a staple of this Cavaliers team for sometime and was part of the 2019 National Championship team. So far he has been having his best season leading Virginia in scoring with 11.4 per game and also averaging 6.3 assists per game. He is the catalyst of this Virginia team so he needs to step up big in this matchup.