UNC's next stop on their rehabilitate-the-season tour is Virginia, who a week ago was standing atop the ACC and is now a middling average team the Heels are expected to beat. The difference? Not Sylven Landesberg, the biggest threat on the team and a guy who's been eerily consistent in wins and losses.
Landesberg is the type of player who's been giving UNC fits this season. He's a quick, long, penetrating guard. I don't know why the Heels have had so much trouble with dribble penetration. It seems the guards overplay on the perimeter sometimes, but there's also the problem that once a man is beaten, the help defense is slow to nonexistent. Landesberg will surely get his twenty points, and if he's not the most conscientious when it comes to avoiding turnovers, it's only because the ball is almost always in his hands. Getting him in foul trouble like the past two games will throw the Cavaliers out of sync, however.
And of course, the other way to keep Virginia off-balance is something quite easy for the Heels to do – play at a pace faster than a turtle. Yep, UVa brought in Tony Bennett as their coach last summer, who we last saw coaching Washington State in an interminably slow 68-47 loss to UNC in the 2008 tournament. He's brought that pace to Charlottesville, where the Wahoos are the slowest team in the ACC. So expect similar play to the State game, but with better defensive rebounding from UVa. (On the offensive boards, they'll probably abandon most opportunities to get back on defense.) UNC will lose the turnover battle, as few teams take care of the ball better than the Cavaliers, but they don't generate that many TOs either, so it shouldn't be a disaster. The don't get to the line often, but they do have a couple of three-point specialists in Sammy Zeglinski and Jeff Jones. If they go off like Wake Forest's perimeter players did, it'll be extremely tough to shake this team. Oddly enough, they don't defend the three particularly well, and will surely focus more on packing it in and taking on the Heels' big men. If UNC gets a good shooting night from Drew, Strickland, or even Graves, it'll open up the court and allow Carolina an easy victory.
UNC has no business losing this game, and doing so would be a serious blow to this team's season. The next two weeks are a particularly tough stretch, with the Hokies and Maryland on the road and Duke at home, and a two-win momentum will go along way in getting Carolina through that stretch. Sylven Landesberg is the main obstacle to that streak, and Sunday's game is the best opportunity to show that UNC can handle that type of player.