(14) Virginia Cavaliers at (10) North Carolina Tar Heels (-4, 137 o/u)
A mere two games back of North Carolina (22-5, 12-13-1 ATS) for first in the ACC, the Virginia Cavaliers (18-7, 14-9 ATS) have their destiny in their hands, playing last year’s national runner-up twice in the next nine days. But their window of opportunity has come at a time when the Cavs are so cold that they may not be able to open it. Losers of four of the last six, Virginia will need to get its mojo back quickly or they’ll be run out of Chapel Hill tomorrow night (8:15 PM ET).
The last time the Tar Heels lost a game at home was almost a year ago to the day. They’re a perfect 13-0 at the Dean E. Smith Center this season, and a none-too-shabby 8-4 against the spread. They’re also a well-rested bunch, playing just one game in the last nine days.
As has been the case over the past few years, this will be billed as a battle of offense vs defense, with Virginia’s top-ranked D trying to slow down the nation’s sixth-highest scoring team. But, in reality, if the Cavaliers can’t shoot better from the field, it won’t matter what their defense does. Coming off a loss to Duke in which they shot just 37-percent, including 25-percent from three, London Perrantes or Kyle Guy – or someone – needs to step up for the Wahoos.
Some good news for Virginia comes in the form of an injury to UNC’s Kenny Williams. Likely out for the season, Williams was the Tar Heels’ best perimeter defender, meaning there should be some open looks today. Yet, even though Virginia’s been able to push UNC in recent years, going 2-2 with both losses coming by four points, this doesn’t feel like a matchup that favors the Cavaliers.
They had issues defending the length and range of Jayson Tatum in their loss to the Blue Devils, and UNC’s Justin Jackson could pose a similar mismatch. Tony Bennett’s squad has also blown halftime leads in two straight games, so at no point in the game can you feel comfortable if you bet on this bunch. I’d roll with the home side and lay the points.
Pick: UNC (-4).