Virginia Cavaliers vs. UNC Tar Heels Preview and Pick – Point Spread

Virginia Cavaliers (12-6 SU, 7-6 ATS) vs. North Carolina Tar Heels (13-7 SU, 6-11 ATS), 7:45 p.m. EST, Sunday, January 31, 2009, Dean E. Smith Center, Chapel Hill, N.C. TV: FSN
by Ryno of

Point Spread: Virginia +8.5/North Carolina -8.5
Over/Under: 143

Two teams that desperately need a win will face off in an ACC battle on Sunday night, as North Carolina hosts Virginia at the Dean Dome.

North Carolina, the defending national champion, has lost three of its last four games and four of its last six, including a 2-3 record in the ACC. The disappointing stretch started with a loss in overtime at the College of Charleston. From there, they beat Virginia Tech but then lost three in a row to Clemson, Georgia Tech and Wake Forest. When the Tar Heels defeated Ohio State and Michigan State early in the season and lost to Kentucky by just two points, it looked they were going to have a solid season. But all of a sudden, this perennial powerhouse is looking like an NCAA tournament bubble team that could be on the outside looking in on Selection Sunday if the Tar Heels can’t get their act together soon.

They were able to get a nice road win at NC State, 77-63, in their last game on Tuesday. Maybe that win will propel the Tar Heels into the right direction. Ed Davis, who has been the most consistent UNC player all year long, had 12 points and nine rebounds. Larry Drew II scored 18 points, Dexter Strickland had 14, and Deon Thompson led the team with 20 points. The Tar Heels shot 51 percent from the field and 6-for-13 on 3-pointers. They out-rebounded NC State by seven and committed only 10 turnovers, very impressive for a team that has struggled with turnovers all season long. UNC held NC State to 39 percent shooting from the field.

Virginia did not play well at all in its non-conference slate. The Cavaliers started off 4-4 with losses to South Florida, Stanford, Penn State and Auburn. But they turned it around with an eight-game winning streak, including wins over UAB, NC State, Georgia Tech and Miami (FL). The Cavaliers started 3-0 in ACC play and people were talking about them all of a sudden because of their spot in first place in the conference. But three games into the schedule, it’s not much to brag about. And since then, they have proved they were a bit over-hyped after the 3-0 start. The Cavaliers lost last Saturday at Wake Forest, 69-57, and lost at home to Virginia Tech in overtime on Thursday, 76-71.

In the loss to Virginia Tech, Mike Scott led the Cavaliers with 21 points and eight rebounds. Sylven Landesberg, the team leader and do-it-all player for Virginia, had 18 points and five assists. Sammy Zeglinski, who hit the game-tying 3-pointer at the end of regulation, scored nine points. The Cavaliers shot 44 percent from the field and 6-of-19 on 3-pointers while allowing Virginia Tech to shoot 45 percent from the field and 4-for-12 from 3-point range.

Virginia is 2-5 ATS in its last seven road games. UNC is 2-5 ATS in its last seven games as a favorite, 2-6 ATS in its last eight games overall, 1-4 ATS in its last five home games, 1-4 ATS in its last five games following an ATS win, and 1-4 ATS in its last five games as a home favorite. Virginia is 3-1-1 ATS in its last five games against UNC and 2-5-1 ATS in the last eight games played at North Carolina. The underdog and the road team are both 3-1-1 ATS in the last five meetings between these teams. The total has gone under in each of the last four meetings between these teams.

Ryno’s Pick: While Virginia is playing well lately and North Carolina certainly is not, the Cavaliers really aren’t on the same level as the Tar Heels. And on the road, it’s going to be tough for the Cavaliers to keep it close or win the game at the Dean Dome against a hungry UNC team that is desperate for a win. Sure, Virginia needs a win as well after losing two straight, but who expected Virginia to compete for an NCAA tournament bid this season? The Tar Heels have the talent and the pressure, so they have to win this game at home or they are in deep trouble. Look for Davis and Thompson to dominate down low and the Tar Heels to roll. Take North Carolina -8.5.