"We tied for third. We tied for third," Pinson said. Both are true and both will shortly be immaterial if Carolina can whip past Virginia and claim a 19th ACC Championship. They'd be first then, no ifs, ands, or buts.
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So how to get there? Virginia choked out Roy's crew in Charlottesville way back in early January, but there's been an entire season's worth of hoops since then. Carolina is different and better, UVA has also improved. The Hoos and Tony Bennett have a proven formula that results in some exceptional consistency. Rarely, if ever, do the Cavaliers lay an egg.
Virginia makes you work for everything at both ends of the court. The first trick is to turn that back on them. The Heels played some exceptional defense against Duke last night and while Virginia is an entirely different challenge, the same principles apply. As Kenny Williams said - "stay locked in for the whole 30." Make the Cavs work hard to get good looks, keep them out of their favorite spots on the court and then, perhaps most importantly, REBOUND the ball when they miss.
The most demoralizing UVA possessions are when they run the clock down, miss, gather the ball back and then run 30 more seconds off before scoring. By the time you've got the ball back in your hands, you're almost too exhausted to score at the other end.
Carolina's young bigs have been very good so far in the tournament. This will be their biggest challenge. Garrison Brooks and Sterling Manley need to make good decisions with the ball. No easy turnovers. Get on the glass, keep the ball moving and finish at the rim.
Theo Pinson didn't score last night at the same rate he had in the previous two games, but he orchestrates things for UNC. He's playing at an entirely different level for the Heels right now and changes this game in my opinion. Luke Maye looked more like himself last night. Joel Berry is still struggling with his shot but showed some of his clutch ability last night. You know he'll be ready to battle to add another ACC Championship to his legacy.
It's a five-point or fewer game in my opinion. Will Virginia win an incredible 20th conference game this year or can Carolina stop that freight train and hang the 19th banner? Four wins in four days is a big ask, especially when the fourth one is against the regular season champs. I think the Heels are up to the task.