The streaking Virginia Cavaliers, undefeated in ACC play at 3-0, face a marquee matchup this weekend as they travel to Winston-Salem to take on the Wake Forest Demon Deacons. Wake has won the last three meetings, including a 70-60 victory at John Paul Jones last season in the teams' only showdown. The Cavaliers hope to continue their eight-game winning streak and are looking to become legitimate ACC title contenders.
Saturday's tipoff will be the first true conference road test, as the previous road victory was against NC State, a team picked to finish last in the ACC, and to that point, had no quality wins. (Granted, this week's upset over Duke has some people talking.)
Head coach Tony Bennett has placed a heavy emphasis on defense this year, and this has shown in the past three ACC games. Virginia currently ranks 26th in the nation in scoring defense, allowing only 60.4 points per game.
Further, the Virginia offense has seen marked improvement over last year's 4-12 (ACC) squad. The team ranks 9th in the country in three-point field goal percentage at and is shooting 46.1% this year, compared to 41.7% last year. UVa has also taken care of the ball, ranking 3rd in the country in turnovers, at just 10.2 per game. Virginia ranks 12th nationally in assist-to-turnover ratio, at 1.40.
Virginia will be leaning on ACC Rookie of the Year and current co-ACC player of the week Sylven Landesberg to lead the offense. Landesberg is the only player in the ACC to have scored in double digits every game this season. Mike Scott, who averages 13.2 points and 7.6 rebounds a game, should also bring an offensive force to the table.
Wake Forest is led by sophomore forward Al-Farouq Aminu, who averages 17.3 points and 11.5 rebounds a game. He will be paired with Ishmael Smith, who averages 13.1 points per game and 5.9 assists. Smith is coming off of a 20 point, 7 rebound, 6 assist game over North Carolina.
To stop the Demon Deacons, Virginia will need to gain about 15 pounds and 3 inches per player. But in the event they are unable to do that over the next 20 hours, UVa will need to defend the lane and force Wake to shoot from beyond the arc. Wake Forest shoots only 33.5% and are 10th in the conference from deep.
While Virginia has been a good rebounding team so far this season, this game will challenge the 'Hoos. Wake Forest is a legitimate ACC title contender this year and this is no gimme for the team. It's a coinflip as to who will win.
This season's team has accomplished several feats that haven't been done at Virginia since the 1994-95 season. 1994-95 is the last time the 'Hoos had a 3-0 ACC start, and was also the last time UVa was the only unbeaten team in conference play. The last time Virginia had three ranked wins just 15 games into the season was also 1994-95 (this year's includes No. 24 UAB, No. 18 Georgia Tech, and No. 23 Miami). That 1994-95 team included current UVa assistant coach Jason Williford, current UVa strength and conditioning coach Mike Curtis, and current UVa radio analyst Cory Alexander.
Wake leads the series 66-59 (38-13 at home). Tipoff is at 4:00 p.m. and will be televised on Raycom. Live Tweets from @TheUVAFool are unknown at this time, depending on if I go to a bar or not to watch this game.