Previewing Virginia

It's Senior Night in Chapel Hill as the Tar Heels take aim at their sixth straight win Wednesday against Virginia. Tip-off is scheduled for 9 p.m. at the Smith Center and will be televised by R/JP.

North Carolina (19-6, 10-4) vs. Virginia (14-11, 7-7)
Chapel Hill, N.C. -- Dean E. Smith Center
Wednesday, 9:00 p.m., R/JP (Bob Rathbun, Dan Bonner)

Quotables:

"They've got tremendous guard play and are really confident. Coach Smith just called me last night and he was worried about them being fired up since they lost this weekend and I said, ‘Coach, we better be fired up because we lost to them last time.' Dave Leitao has done a great job with them. Singletary, J.R. and those guys in the backcourt, we've got to do a great job on them … and we've got to get the ball to Tyler inside without those guys hanging all over him like they did up there." -- Roy Williams

"From a maturity standpoint, they've solved the issues that were ailing them earlier in the season - in terms of turnovers. The last five games they have a very positive assist-to-turnover ratio. They're not giving it back to you, are getting more possessions off the backboards and are making their shots, which makes them an extremely dangerous team to play." -- Dave Leitao

PREGAME NOTES

Season To Date: If anyone is going to give Roy Williams a run for ACC Coach of the Year honors, it should be Dave Leitao. With only eight scholarship recruits, the first-year coach inherited a team that was a unanimous pick for a last place finish. Instead, the Cavs are a stunning 7-7 in conference with a legitimate shot at the NCAA Tournament. It's admittedly a down year in the ACC and UVa didn't play a loaded non-conference schedule, but there have been a number of impressive performances. Out of conference, the Cavs notched a win in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge against Northwestern, and, perhaps most impressive of all was the December game at No. 10 Gonzaga, as the Cavs actually were ahead mid-way through the second half before falling apart late (Singletary posted a career-high 35 points). In conference, UVa has beaten two ranked teams in UNC and Boston College. If Virginia can beat the Heels and then Maryland in the finale, it'd be hard to keep them out of the Field of 65 -- but Leitao says he isn't looking that far in advance. "I'm not even thinking about that now," he said. "The NCAA Tournament is something that happens at the end of the year that is a reward for playing your tail off. We're in year one and we've got eight scholarship guys and we're just trying to figure it out."

What Happened?: Virginia is coming off a surprisingly miserable loss. With major ACC and NCAA implications in the balance, the Cavs were routed at Clemson on Saturday. In committing 16 first-half turnovers -- and 29 total -- UVa lost 90-64 to the Tigers. Sean Singletary cited a "lack of maturity and discipline" as the reasons for the flat performance.

Single-Star: In a conference that lost a number of elite point guards to the NBA last spring, Virginia sophomore Sean Singletary was arguably the best one that returned. This season, he's been the Cavs' all-around star. Singletary is averaging 18.3 points, 4.5 assists, 4.3 rebounds and 1.9 steals, while hitting 89.1% of his free throws in conference play. In other words, he's looked upon to do just about everything for this team, and that sometimes leads to turnovers. Singletary is averaging 3.6 turnovers per game and had nine miscues in the loss at Clemson over the weekend. Leitao, though, wasn't complaining. "I'll take his nine turnovers any day," the coach said. "That's more of him trying to force the issue because we're not playing well." Singeltary's three-point shooting has fallen off in conference matchups. He shot 46.8% from long range prior to the ACC season, but has shot just 29.5% in the ACC.

No Name Frontcourt: Tunji Soroye, Jason Cain, Laurynas Mikalauskas. You probably don't know much about them, but this is the trio that did an impressive job in the first meeting against Tyler Hansbrough. Soroye and Cain weigh 212 pounds a piece, but are active shotblockers, while Mikalauskas is a brute in the paint. Against UNC, the trio combined for 17 points, 11 rebounds and 6 blocks (Cain had five of those blocks by himself). In conference play, the Cavs have a +4.6 rebounding advantage.

No Place Like Home: Only two of Virginia's 14 wins have come on the road. The Cavs are 2-9 overall in road games and 1-6 in the ACC. The team stats speak further to the difference. In conference, Virginia is shooting 45.2% and committing 11.7 turnovers at home, while in away games they are shooting 37.6% and committing 18.1 turnovers. Leitao's explanation? "We sometimes get overly disturbed about our circumstances on the road. That's part of what being inexperienced and being young brings you."

First Meeting: The Tar Heels shot a mere 36% from the field (31% 3pt) in the 72-68 Jan. 19 loss in Charlottesville. UNC's frontcourt committed 10 turnovers, while the Cavs recorded 12 team blocks and shot twice as many free throws as the Heels. Tyler Hansbrough had a hard-fought 18 points and 11 rebounds, while Sean Singletary and J.R. Reynolds combined for 34 points for UVa. "They're a totally different team," Leitao said this week, reflecting on the first meeting.

Series History: Carolina leads the series with Virginia, 118-48. UNC leads the series, 18-2, in games played at the Smith Center and 60-5 in games played in Chapel Hill. UVa has won in the Smith Center in 2000 and 2002 and also won in Chapel Hill in 1911, 1973 and 1981. The Tar Heels swept a pair of games from the Cavaliers last season — a 110-76 decision in Charlottesville and an 85-61 win in Chapel Hill. This is the first time in 20 years that Virginia has been UNC's senior day opponent (Carolina claimed an 85-79 win over the Cavaliers on senior day in 1986). (courtesy UNC Athletic Comm.)

Projected Starters:
44 Sean Singletary (6-0, 174, So.) – 18.3 ppg, 4.5 apg
02 J.R. Reynolds (6-3, 197, Jr.) – 16.2 ppg, 3.3 apg
30 Adrian Joseph (6-7, 195, So.) - 10.3 ppg, 4.7 rpg
33 Jason Cain (6-10, 212, Jr.) – 8.0 ppg, 7.8 rpg
21 Tunji Soroye (6-11, 212, So.) - 2.1 ppg, 4.0 rpg, 1.7 bpg

Key Reserves:

24 Mamadi Diane (6-5, 185, Fr.) – 6.4 ppg, 3.8 rpg
11 Laurynas Mikalauskas (6-8, 241, Fr.) – 5.8 ppg, 4.2 rpg
15 T.J. Bannister (5-11, 176, Jr.) – 2.7 ppg, 2.2 apg
12 Billy Campbell (6-0, 184, Sr.) – 1.2 ppg

UVa Info
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Singletary ... Reynolds


Diane ...Cain


Joseph ... Soroye

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