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UVA hosts UNC in Classic Southern Rivalry: Game Thread

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What: Virginia Cavaliers (10-5, 1-0 ACC) vs. North Carolina Tar Heels (10-4, 0-0 ACC)

Time: 12:00 noon
Date: Saturday, January 8, 2011
Place: John Paul Jones Arena
TV: ACC Network
Radio: Virginia Sports Radio Network

Spread: Vegas: Virginia +6.5; Pomeroy: Virginia +8
Last Meeting: January 31, 2010 Virginia 75, North Carolina 60
Last Time Out: North Carolina 105, Saint Francis (PA) 54
Series: North Carolina 124-49

Virginia returns to ACC play by hosting the Tar Heels in Carolina's conference opener. At 2-0, UNC is the only ACC team Virginia has never beaten at John Paul Jones Arena, and there's a lot of reason to believe that this could change today. This game will turn on whether the Virginia offense will have any sort of productivity against a Tar Heel defense that allows an average of 67.9 points per game (177th in the country) and blocks an average of 5.6 shots per game (20th).

The Heels also have one of the most prolific offenses in the country, ranked 22nd with 80.6 points per game. Virginia, however, allows only 61.7 points per game (42nd in the nation) and will be relying on what they hope to be a defense much improved from the Howard game, in which the Hoos gave up 8 threes - the Bison shot 53.3% from the field and 47.1% from behind the arc.

North Carolina's Probable Starters

F
John Henson So. 10.1 ppg 8.6 rpg 2.9 bpg
F
Harrison Barnes Fr. 11.9 ppg 5.6 rpg 1.8 apg
F
Tyler Zeller Jr.
14.6 ppg
7.8 rpg 1.4 bpg
G
Dexter Strickland So.
9.6 ppg 2.4 rpg 1.9 apg
G
Larry Drew II Jr. 5.1 ppg 2.3 rpg 4.0 apg

Carolina's going to be coming out of the gates hungry for this matchup. The young team for the most part continues to face criticism of overratedness (despite not being ranked), in no small part due to a loss against Minnesota and Vanderbilt, back-to-back.

Since giving up a combined 35 turnovers in back-to-back losses against Stanford and Washington, Virginia has not given up more than 13 turnovers, and have committed 11 or fewer in 10 of the past 11 games. The Cavaliers are ranked 21st in the country in turnovers committed (11.3 per game). On the other hand, Carolina commits on average 14.4 turnovers per game, ranked 182nd in the country. Virginia will need to secure points off turnovers if the Hoos stand a chance at this one.

Keep an eye out on sophomore guard Dexter Strickland. He may only average 9.6 points per game on the season, but over the past five games, he's been averaging 14.4 points, shooting 61% from the floor during that span. He also has the ability to force a faster tempo, which could hurt this young Virginia squad that has a tendency to panic early on.

So goes Mustapha Farrakhan, so goes Virginia. The storyline from the Howard game, obviously, is Farrakhan's impressive 31-point game on 11-of-12 shooting, including eight straight threes. Not to be reactionary, or to beat a dead horse, but Farrakhan must be on top of his game if Virginia is to win this matchup, particularly with the injuries plaguing the team. In the Cavaliers' ten wins, Farrakhan has shot 55% from the floor and 52% from the three, averaging 15.4 points. In the Cavaliers' five losses, Farrakhan has shot only 19.5% from the floor, 9.1% from the three, only averaging 6.0 points. Which Farrakhan comes out on Saturday is anyone's guess.