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Joe Boozell | | February 11, 2019

North Carolina-Virginia prediction: These 3 factors will predict who will win this top-10 matchup

Kansas State makes a move and Kentucky is up to No. 4 in Andy Katz's Power 36

Just two days after dropping a hard-fought game to Duke, Virginia travels to Chapel Hill to take on the North Carolina Tar Heels. You can watch the game on Monday night at 7 p.m. ET on ESPN.

Here are three factors that will determine who wins.

Virginia plays at the slowest pace in the country. North Carolina plays at one of the fastest.

The Tar Heels play at the fifth-fastest tempo in the nation, while the Cavaliers are their usual slowpoke selves. North Carolina is going to look to run at every opportunity, while Virginia will look to screech the game to a halt. Whose agenda will prevail?

North Carolina's defense will have plenty to do with this. Get stops, and you can play any style you'd like. Virginia ranks fifth in the country in offensive efficiency, but has struggled a bit lately: the Hoos lost to Duke and only put up 56 points in their previous outing against Miami. But UNC's recent seven-game winning streak has a lot more to do with scoring than point prevention. The Heels allowed 85 to that same Miami team on Saturday, and surrendered 96 to an N.C. State bunch that had just put up 24 (!) against Virginia Tech.

If North Carolina can force some live-ball turnovers and late shot-clock heaves early, it could impose its will on the game. The first 10 minutes will be crucial.

Does North Carolina have anyone to guard De'Andre Hunter?

Outside of the obvious statement that Duke is, you know, awesome, part of the reason the Blue Devils have Virginia's number is because they are the only team that has someone who can match Hunter's strength and athleticism in Zion Williamson. Hunter is a matchup nightmare for just about everyone else.

Katz's Power 36 | Top 16 reveal

That includes North Carolina. Cam Johnson will probably draw the Hunter assignment from the tip, and he's a solid defender. But Johnson is a bit slender; he's listed at 210 pounds, and he disrupts opponents with his length more than his strength. You need both to contain Hunter. North Carolina will probably have to send help when Hunter backs Johnson down, and Virginia has the shooting to make you pay for doing so.

It will be fascinating to see how much run Nassir Little gets on Hunter. He's a bit smaller, but he's North Carolina's best option from a physical tools standpoint. Little is a freak athlete with wiry strength, but he's foul-prone and often strays from the defensive scheme. He's been much better lately, but will Roy Williams trust him in a matchup of this magnitude?

We can't wait to find out.

The Tar Heels are an excellent 3-point shooting team, but the Cavaliers are even better at defending the 3

As is life in college basketball in 2019, so many games come down to the 3-point shot. Virginia only allows foes to make 26.5 percent of their 3s, which ranks second in the land. But Duke torched them from range on Saturday, finishing 13-of-21. That was the difference in the game.

The Tar Heels are a really good 3-point shooting team. They make 37 percent of them, and they can roll out lineups featuring five shooters at the same time. Johnson, Coby White, Kenny Williams, Brandon Robinson and Luke Maye are all dangerous from out there. White, especially, has been on a tear lately; he hit seven 3s against the Hurricanes.

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Virginia's defense is designed to make teams shoot bad, contested 3s. It actually accomplished that goal against Duke. The shots just fell. North Carolina probably won't get many open looks on Monday, but if it's able to sink well-guarded 3s, all the Cavaliers can do is tip their cap.


This is such a quick turnaround for Virginia, the Tar Heels are playing their best ball of the season. The Hoos are on a bit of a skid (by their own standards, anyway. They've mostly been winning, but they haven't looked great doing so).

North Carolina just has so many ways it can beat you, and guys who can step up on a given night. And it's only lost one game at the Dean Dome this season.

Score: North Carolina 71, Virginia 69

How we're doing with these predictions

We're at 8-7 on the year, recovering after a mid-season slump.

Duke vs. Virginia

  • Our pick: Virginia
  • Result: Loss

North Carolina vs. Louisville (Feb. 2)

  • Our pick: North Carolina
  • Result: Win

Kansas vs. Kentucky (Jan. 26)

  • Our pick: Kentucky
  • Result: Win

Michigan State vs. Iowa (Jan. 24)

  • Our pick: Michigan State
  • Result: Win

Kentucky vs. Auburn (Jan. 19)

  • Our pick: Auburn
  • Result: Loss

Virginia vs. Duke (Jan. 19)

  • Our pick: Virginia
  • Result: Loss

Virginia Tech vs. Virginia (Jan. 15)

  • Our pick: Virginia Tech
  • Result: Loss

Ohio State vs. Michigan State (Jan. 5)

  • Our pick: Michigan State
  • Result: Win

Virginia vs. Florida State (Jan. 5)

  • Our pick: Virginia
  • Result: Win

Kentucky vs. North Carolina (Dec. 22)

  • Our pick: North Carolina
  • Result: Loss

Gonzaga vs. North Carolina (Dec. 15)

  • Our pick: North Carolina
  • Result: Win

Kansas vs. Villanova (Dec. 15)

  • Our pick: Kansas
  • Result: Win

Gonzaga vs. Tennessee (Dec. 9)

  • Our pick: Gonzaga
  • Result: Loss

North Carolina vs. Michigan (Nov. 28)

  • Our pick: North Carolina
  • Result: Loss

Duke vs. Auburn (Nov. 20)

  • Our pick: Duke
  • Result: Win

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