It's no wonder that the Atlantic Coast Conference regular season means so much to North Carolina.

The Tar Heels keep winning those titles.

Already assured of the top seed for next month's ACC Tournament, North Carolina can claim the outright regular-season crown by winning tonight at Virginia or Saturday night against visiting Duke.

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"We keep talking about how we control our own destiny," junior guard Joel Berry said. "We're at the top and we want to stay there. So closing this season out, we want to continue doing what we're doing and continue to win."

Coach Roy Williams said he emphasizes the regular season even as teams often are evaluated by what they accomplish in March -- or early April.

"We talk about how important the regular season is all the time," Williams said. "The ACC regular season is important to us.

"If you're going to play something for 18 games, for nine weeks, that's pretty important."

 
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That message is clear to the Tar Heels even if not regularly visible. There are no standings posted prominently in the North Carolina locker room or constant reminders of the team's position in the conference's pecking order.

But it's among the preseason goals that Williams sets for the team.

"I think it should mean something," he said of the regular season. "That's one way to get a banner up."

The official ACC champion and the league's automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament will be determined in the conference tournament that begins in a little more than a week.

North Carolina has nabbed at least a share of 31 ACC regular-season titles. That's 12 more than any other team.

Of the previous titles, 20 have been outright and 10 shared -- with this season's to be determined.

Under Williams, the Tar Heels have eight ACC regular-season championships. They'd like this one all to themselves.

"Right now in the season, we don't need to be losing," senior forward Kennedy Meeks said.

North Carolina has lost its last three games at Virginia, failing to beat the Cavaliers on their homecourt since 2012.

Monday's matchup comes with the Tar Heels playing two road games in a three-day span after winning Saturday at Pittsburgh.

At least there's familiarity because the Tar Heels trounced Virginia 65-41 on Feb. 18 in Chapel Hill.

"Just because you have knowledge doesn't mean you have more energy," Williams said.

The Tar Heels returned to Chapel Hill after the Pittsburgh game, which had a noon tip-off. Because the Virginia game comes on a weeknight, the Tar Heels take a charter flight (rather than bus) to and from the game in Charlottesville, Va.

This article is written by Bob Sutton from Times-News, Burlington, N.C. and was legally licensed via the Tribune Content Agency through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.