UNC opens ACC play against the always fun(not fun) down-tempo(is that even a word?) offense of Virginia.
The good news heading into this game is Reggie Bullock will play having gone through a full practice on Saturday. Bullock missed the game against UNLV eight days ago after colliding with James Michael McAdoo in practice and suffering a concussion. Obviously, getting Bullock back is a huge lift even though the team played and beat a good team without him. His absence allowed P.J. Hairston to emerge(somewhat) and if he can bring that same effort coming off the bench, so much the better.
And playing against Virginia, UNC is going to need all the offensive efficiency they can muster. Not only does UVa slow the game down but they play outstanding defense. This is a game UNC will get far fewer possessions than it is accustomed. It is one thing to be somewhat inconsistent on offense when you can squeeze 75-80 possessions out of a game. If the game is 60-65 possessions that removes some of the margin of error an uptempo team might enjoy. That basically means, UNC has to make the most of every possession and can ill afford to simply waste time with some of the chaotic offense sets seen at times this season.
On the defensive end, a slower tempo opponent means being focused for 25-30 seconds on the defensive end. It also places a higher importance on defensive rebounding since not stopping a long possession with a missed shot can be demoralizing. In essence it is a matte of discipline but also execution. UVa is capable of moving the basketball and have two 45% three point shooters. One of those players is Joe Harris who leads the team in scoring and is more than capable of doing plenty of damage by himself. Also of concern will be 6-8 forward Akil Mitchell who is averaging 13.2 ppg and 9.2 rpg. McAdoo will likely draw Mitchell and while stopping him offensively might not be an issue, keeping him off the boards is certainly a huge concern. There is also a possibility injured guard Jontel Evans returns to action for this game. If so that is a boost for Virginia but only to a point given he will need to get back into the flow of live game action.
KenPom has this game marked as a loss for the Tar Heels and given UNC has not fared well on the road this season plus the slower tempo, it is going to be a very tough game. The question is one of translation. Can this team take what they did against UNLV, apply it consistently and do so on the road? If UNLV was a turning point game the answer is yes, if not, the same frustrations everyone had before last Saturday will bubble up again. I am going to be an optimist a bit and go with the former though I expect this game to be painful in every way possible.
UNC 60 UVa 55