#7 North Carolina (23-5, 12-3) at #3 Virginia (21-6, 10-5)
When: Saturday, February 27th 2016
Where: John Paul Jones Arena, Charlottesville, VA
Time: 6:30 ET | TV: ESPN
The Virginia Cavaliers host the North Carolina Tar Heels on Saturday night in a key ACC matchup that Virginia must have in order to stay in the race. The Cavaliers began a stretch of four games in which three of them were against the top teams in the ACC – they lost the first two. Virginia is two games back of front-runner North Carolina as the season winds down. Despite a career-high tying 28 points from Malcolm Brogdon, Virginia did not do enough defensively in Monday’s 64-61 loss at No. 11 Miami. The Hurricanes shot 52.6 percent from 3-point range. Virginia gave up 10 3-pointers Monday, just the third time this season an opponent has hit 10 or more shots from beyond the arc. The offense was partly to blame also. Aside from Brogdon, the rest of the Cavaliers squad shot a miserable 13-of-40 from the field. Brogdon scored 20-plus points Monday for the 14th time this season, hitting four 3-pointers and finishing 12-of-18 from the field, but second-leading scorer Anthony Gill scored just six points for the second consecutive game. Virginia ranks third in the nation in scoring defense (59.7 points per game) and has allowed 53 points or less in its past five victories.
North Carolina has rebounded from their devastating loss to Duke on February 17th with two impressive victories over Miami and N.C. State. With three games left in the regular season, North Carolina can take a huge step at winning the conference title with a road win tonight. Brice Johnson scored 22 points with 11 rebounds in the Tar Heels 80-68 win over the Wolfpack on Wednesday. Johnson has led the Tar Heels in scoring and rebounding in each of the past four games. Justin Jackson added 17 points Wednesday for the Tar Heels, who are ninth in the nation in scoring at 83.8 points per game. North Carolina shot 51.7% from the field in the second half Wednesday, the fourth time in the past five games the Tar Heels have made at least half of their attempts after halftime. The defense has been really good since the start of conference play, holding their past 17 opponents to less than 45% shooting from the field. North Carolina will have a home date with Syracuse on Monday then finish at Duke on March 5th.
This is the top game in what will be a busy Saturday around the country. I think Virginia will find a way to shut down Brice Johnson, but the rest of this Carolina team is very talented. I can see Virginia winning the game, but 3.5 points is a little too high for me. Take the points.
Pick: North Carolina +3.5