One of the most resounding reasons head coach Tony Bennett chose to come to Virginia is simple. Virginia is in the ACC. It's where you'll find the best athletes, the toughest competition, the greatest fans. Bennett gets to start living the dream on Saturday in his ACC opener on the road against NC State. But let's not get carried away here. It is NC State.
Alright, that last statement may be unfair. Because, as I'm sure the Wolfpack (11-4, 0-1) are saying, this is Virginia (8-4, 0-0). The Cavaliers were picked to finish 11th in the ACC this season, picking up as few as two and as many as six ACC wins. And while UVA has won two of its last three ACC openers, they are 2-12 in conference openers over the past 14 seasons.
The 'Hoos are 8-4 this season, with one quality win and three coinflip (5 points or less) losses. All but one of Virginia's wins have been by double digits, with No. 24 UAB being the only exception, at 9 points.
The Cavs are looking to pick themselves up after a sluggish victory over Texas-Pan American this past Tuesday at home. Anyone looking at the final score will think that Virginia took care of business as usual, but for those following along at home, you know it was a far different story.
"I thought it was a poor performance," Bennett said after the Texas-Pan American game. "I didn’t think we came out and played well…We did not perform well. We were sloppy. We were not alert. That was disappointing coming off the UAB game."
The Wolfpack are 6-2 at home this season and are coming off a 87-70 home victory against Holy Cross. They are averaging 70.1 points a game (12th in the ACC) and allowing 62.1 a game (7th). Keep an eye out for Tracy Smith, who leads the Pack not only in scoring, but also rebounding, at 17.6 and 8.8 a game, respectively. He's shooting an impressive 56.0% from the field. Dennis Horner and Javier Gonzalez also average in double digit scoring for State.
Virginia averages 70.2 points per game (11th in the ACC) and allows just 58.8 (3rd). Welcome the return of Mike Scott, who started this week against UTPA. He comes in with 13 career double-doubles and looks to add to that figure. Also keep an eye out for Sammy Zeglinski, who is shooting 49.2% field goal this year. Oh and did I mention those are three-point field goals? Calvin Baker is looking at a 3.5 assist to turnover ratio, and Sylven Landesberg has scored in double figures every game this season.
What Virginia really needs to look to do today is to defend the three. Allowing 35.6% from beyond the arc, Virginia ranks 228th in the country and dead last in the ACC. Meanwhile NC State takes nearly 18 of them per game. But as the saying goes, live by the three, die by the three. Virginia is second in the conference in three-point field-goal percentage (42.1), second only to Duke and seventh in the country. Sammy Zeglinski leads the ACC in this category, and is 7th in the country.
This should be a good matchup this weekend and can really set the tone for Virginia. A win here is huge, as any road game you win in the ACC will be quality down the road, even if it is against NC State. Virginia will need to win 6 ACC games just to stay above .500, and a 7-9 ACC record I would guess is not enough to make the tournament, given the weak out-of-conference schedule.
Tip-off is at noon.