Well, it’s not exactly the most inspiring performance but a win is a win. That is exactly what I kept telling myself as I watched UNC crawl back against Notre Dame in a narrow winning effort. In what was a must win situation, the Tar Heels continue their quest to get back in the tournament with the Virginia Cavaliers on deck. The defense will be far greater than the Fighting Irish, posing a challenge for the struggling UNC offense. Can the Tar Heels continue to build momentum with a win?
Virginia Vs. North Carolina Odds
Oddsmakers slightly lean towards their favor, opening UNC as a -1.5 favorite. Bettors were quick to back them as well, taking the number up to -2 in some shops early on. While the casual fan would be surprised by the low number due to Virginia’s #6 ranking, Kenpom and others have this as a tight affair as well with the Cavaliers having shocking low metrics. Especially for a unit normally known for their defense, currently regressing to 29th in Adjusted Defensive Efficiency.
As for the total, points are expected to be scored at a moderate pace as oddsmakers opened the total at 130.5. Bettors hit the over early on, taking it up to 131.5 in some shops as of writing. This is correlated with the UNC line movement as offense will need to be on full display in order to beat Virginia. They also are weak on the defensive end themselves, giving the methodical Virginia offense ample opportunities to knock down wide open looks from the perimeter.
Virginia Vs. North Carolina Prediction & Pick
The Pick: Over 130.5
With that said, I will place a wager on the over as I believe both units will generate consistent looks at the rim throughout the course of the game. I simply could not in good faith back the Heels in a desperation spot, especially after how sleepy they looked in the first half against Notre Dame in a must win situation. They finished the first half in their last contest with zero assists and zero threes, yet still somehow managed to win. That will not work twice against Virginia’s defense.
Speaking of Virginia’s defense, this is not the same efficient unit that we have come to know and fear. While still very much well above average, they have shown to have more cracks in the armor than years past. Especially in the interior, regressing in defensive two-point completion near the rim. This bodes well for Armando Bacot who has looked to be the lone consistent Tar Heel on the offensive end with his constant high motor underneath the rim.
He will be the main focal point once again, looking to abuse the interior with his soft touch and relentless rebounding ability for second chance scoring opportunities. As the Tar Heels continue to go through perimeter shooting lulls with Caleb Love and Pete Nance shooting career lows, they have turned towards the paint instead. Forcing defenses to clamp down, leaving gaps up top for the Heels to exploit. This has helped get them more in rhythm, hopefully capitalizing for our over ticket.
It also helps that UNC has played vastly better at home than when on the road, improving across the board on offense. A key player needing to improve as well will be Caleb Love as he has been as inconsistent as it gets this season. Normally an elite on ball threat who is capable of getting his own look, has mightily regressed this year in completion percentage. Without his presence, defenses have been able to sag more towards the paint and clog up the lane for his drives.
Virginia Vs. North Carolina Key Matchups
Can Virginia find life on offense against the weak UNC defense?
Virginia half court sets vs UNC perimeter defense
It’s been a down year for the Virginia offense as this unit currently ranks 69th in Adjusted Offensive Efficiency. They have maintained their same offensive identity, running as one of the slowest tempos in the league while looking for the best shot possible in their halfcourt sets.
They will find themselves having more open looks than normal as UNC does not pose as much of a defensive threat. Especially in pick and rolls, failing to fill the gaps off of picks and leaving shooters wide open for a catch and shoot opportunity.
With Virginia getting more open looks than normal and Bacot being able to terrorize the Cavaliers interior, I will take the over in what will be a thrilling ACC matchup.