Preview: UNC vs. Virginia

The start of the ACC season adds another week onto an already hectic holiday season. The Rafters is obviously not out there competing on the court, but the mere thought of having to night in and night out battle for conference supremacy is daunting; even from a blawger’s perspective. Take Saturday for instance. Virginia has been hanging onto the bottom rungs of the ACC the past couple seasons. Naturally you would think that with that, the departure of its best player (Sylvan Landesberg) and the recent play of UNC that the first ACC game of the Heels’ season would be a cake walk. But this Virginia team somehow beaten Minnesota at Minny and Virginia Tech at Tech – a place any Carolina fan would tell you is unfriendly – in back-to-back games. Yet they’ve also been blown out by a to-this-point underwhelming Washington team by 43, Seattle at home and Wichita State. This is the only thing you can bet on in the ACC this year. It’s going to be a mind fuck.

  • Coach Tony Bennett has not had a single player start ever game this season. In fact, nine players have started at least one game this year. Can’t really tell you what’s going on in Charlottesville, but get ready to see a lot of faces coming on and off the UVA bench.
  • UVA has had to explore their bench options more though due to some injury issues. Guard Sammy Zeglinski missed the first seven games of the year, guard Will Sherrill missed five games due to a fractured fibula and leading scorer Mike Scott (right) has missed five of the Cavs last six due to an ankle injury. No word yet on Scott’s availability for Saturday, but it’s the ACC now. Expect him to play.
  • Scott, besides having a comical name, leads the Cavs in scoring and rebounding, but Lewis Farrakhan’s grandson Mustapha and freshman guard KT Harrell have also paced UVA several times. Frosh Joe Harris has also slipped in a couple times.
  • Speaking of Mustapha, have you seen the kid jump? We’re praying with the whole Nation of Islam that he doesn’t do that to the Heels.
  • Virginia doesn’t put a lot of points on the board, rebound well or dish out many assists – they don’t rank higher that 270th nationally in any of those categories – but they do hold opponents to less than 62 points. Besides that 106 Washington put up on them.
  • UNC may face some problems in the post. To go with Scott and Sherrill, UVA trots out seven-footer Assane Sene. Heels need not worry so much about his 2.7 point per game, but more his 13 blocks on the season. Yeah, John Henson and Tyler Zeller have more blocks than that, but it’s still something to think about.
  • Three point shooting is something the Heels should worry about. Sherrill is connecting on better than 50 percent of threes and has hit 14 this year. Farrakhan and Harris have both hit at least 15 and both are shooting around the 40 percent mark and KT Harrell is connecting at the same rate as well, but only with 14 made.

It’s hard to tell which team will show up Saturday when the Heels play in Charlottesville. Lucky for UNC, UVA big wins have come on the road and two of their four losses were back-to-back at home. As long as the long-range jumpers are kept in check, UNC should walk away 1-0 in the ACC.

Prediction: UNC 68, UVA 59