As bad as it was for No. 7 North Carolina and No. 5 Virginia a few days ago, one of those teams should be feeling a whole lot better by the end of the weekend.
That’s because one side will own a victory against a Top 10 team, and it will go down in the Atlantic Coast Conference win column.
The Tar Heels and Cavaliers meet Sunday afternoon in Charlottesville, Va.
On the flip side, one of these Top 10 teams will have two losses across a five-day period. The other will hold a 2-0 ACC record.
Virginia (7-1, 1-0 ACC) is coming off a 69-40 loss Wednesday night at Purdue in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge. That was the third straight game and fourth time this season that the Cavaliers failed to reach the 50-point mark.
“We are inexperienced, and that shows,” Virginia coach Tony Bennett said. “You look in the mirror and try to be thankful for what it teaches you, as painful as it is. … Forget rankings and all that, there’s not a big enough sample size. …
“We’ve been struggling to shoot. We didn’t have an answer for anything. Our defense is what we try to hang our hat on when we struggle to score.”
On the same night as Virginia’s loss, North Carolina (6-2, 1-0) absorbed a 74-49 home defeat to No. 6 Ohio State. It was the Tar Heels’ second-most lopsided loss in the Smith Center and another low point total that rarely has characterized a Roy Williams-coached team.
“Simple little things that we work on (that I) didn’t get them to do during the course of the game,” Williams said. “We just made so many mistakes, so many fundamental mistakes.”
Williams used some wholesale substitutions to try to find a spark against the Buckeyes. There’s no expectation that particular pattern will be present when the Tar Heels play at Virginia.
“It wasn’t to send a message,” Williams said. “I just didn’t like what those guys were doing.”
The Tar Heels have lost two of their last three games, with a victory against nationally ranked Oregon in between. But the size of the losing margin in the Ohio State game was one of the stunning fallouts from that performance.
“We didn’t pay attention to detail,” North Carolina swingman Brandon Robinson said. “We didn’t take the things Coach (Williams) was telling us in the timeouts out to the court. We’ve got to play better, and we’ve got to be more accountable. It’s not Coach’s fault. It’s our fault.”
The Tar Heels lost forward Armando Bacot to a first-half ankle injury. He had become a solid offensive contributor and provided a solid low-post combination with Garrison Brooks. Now it sounds as if North Carolina might be without the freshman, who provides 10.5 points and team-best 8.9 rebounds per game, for an extended period of time.
“My guess is that he will be out for a while,” Williams said.
Virginia will be minus senior forward Braxton Key, who is recovering from wrist surgery, for the third game in a row.
Freshman guard Cole Anthony averages 20 points per game for North Carolina. Fifth-year senior forward Mamadi Diakite is Virginia’s leading scorer at 13.4 points per game.
–Field Level Media