Virginia’s Kihei Clark plays against Boston College during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game, Saturday, Jan. 9, 2021, in Boston. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)
- The Virginia Cavaliers host the North Carolina Tar Heels Saturday, Feb. 13
- Both teams are playing well, as UVa only has one conference loss and UNC has won seven of its last nine
- Read below for odds, analysis, and our best bet for this matchup
The Virginia Cavaliers (14-3, 10-1 ACC), winners of three straight after suffering their only conference loss two weeks ago, host the North Carolina Tar Heels (12-6, 7-4 ACC) Saturday, Feb. 13. Tip is set for 6pm ET at John Paul Jones Arena.
The last time we saw the Tar Heels, they were celebrating their 91-87 victory at Duke without masks. That irresponsible move prompted the abrupt postponement of Monday’s scheduled home game against Miami. Now, it’s back out on the road to face vaunted Virginia — a program UNC has lost six straight to. Meantime, UVa handed Georgia Tech its first conference home loss Wednesday in a 57-49 victory in Atlanta.
Now, the Wahoos are favorites over the Heels in Charlottesville.
North Carolina vs Virginia Odds
|North Carolina||+6.5 (-110)||N/A||Ov 129.5 (-110)|
|Virginia||-6.5 (-110)||N/A||Un 129.5 (-110)|
Odds taken Feb. 12 at FanDuel
Whole Lotta Love
North Carolina is playing better now than at the beginning of the season for several reasons, chief among them the play of freshman floor general Caleb Love.
𝘾𝙖𝙡𝙚𝙗 𝙇𝙤𝙫𝙚 ➡ 𝘼𝘾𝘾 𝙁𝙧𝙚𝙨𝙝𝙢𝙖𝙣 𝙤𝙛 𝙩𝙝𝙚 𝙒𝙚𝙚𝙠 (Again)💪
— Carolina Basketball (@UNC_Basketball) February 8, 2021
Last week, the St. Louis product averaged 17.0 points, 4.5 rebounds and 4.0 assists in splitting a pair of games between Clemson and Duke. against Duke. Love scored a career-high 25 points in the win over the Blue Devils. He was fantastic in that game on Saturday, hitting clutch shots all game to keep the Tar Heels ahead.
Love’s numbers aren’t earth-shattering (he’s averaging 11.1 points, 3.3 assists and 2.6 rebounds per game), but has show steady improvement with shot-making .
He’s the third player from Roy Williams’ program to win the ACC Freshman of the Week award this season, joining R.J. Davis and Day’Ron Sharpe. But Love is the only one of the trio to win it twice so far. Talent-wise, he’s superior to his counterpart at Virginia.
Kihei is a Key
Cavalier junior point guard Kihei Clark is averaging a rather pedestrian 10.0 points per game. But his 4.6 assists per game clip ranks fourth-best in the ACC. And most importantly, the 5-foot-9 L.A. native has demonstrated a penchant for hitting big shots when they matter the most.
Clark’s pull-up jumper to break a 62-all tie was his only bucket of the game against G-Tech two weeks ago and proved to be the game-winner. Facing the Yellow Jackets again Wednesday, Clark scored all 14 of his points in the second half and was a key part of a big road win for Tony Bennett’s club.
With defenses focusing on Virginia’s leading scorers Sam Hauser and Jay Huff, Clark is a veteran player that has — and will continue to need to — step up in clutch situations.
While Love is the more gifted player from an athleticism standpoint, Clark brings a veteran moxie that is one of those intangibles. Which point guard outlasts the other will be critical Saturday.
In Search Of
Virginia is the undisputed class of the ACC, boasting a No. 9 overall rating on KenPom. Furthermore, Bennett’s club has never fallen out of the top-25 this season — going from as high as No. 4 to as low as No. 23 and currently sit at No. 9.
But for all the success they’ve enjoyed, it’s impossible to ignore the simple fact that the Cavaliers’ best win is against Clemson, KenPom’s No. 48 team. UVa has been solid and has won most of its games (even nearly winning two ifs three losses). But Virginia is still in search of a true quality win. Even though UNC isn’t ranked, a victory Saturday — and a resounding one — feels like it would fall into the category.
UNC is rated No. 38 on KenPom and features the second-best offensive rebounding percentage in the country. That’s a stat UVa is far interior in (No. 309). But if Bennett’s club can neutralize Garrison Brooks and Co., in the paint and limit second-chance points, the Cavaliers may be on their way to getting one of those big wins it needs to bolster NCAA Tournament seeding.
The Hoos have knocked off the Heels in six straight meetings — and six straight times in C’ville (with Carolina’s last win coming in 2012). I say Virginia handles its business in this spot and covers the spread.
The pick: Virginia -6.5 (-110)
Blair Johnson is a veteran journalist and seasoned sports content creator. He has been writing and producing content as long as he can remember, with such familiar names as CNN, NFL Media and Yahoo. Blair currently lives and works in the greater Los Angeles area.