ACC Tournament 2018: UNC vs. Virginia TV Schedule, Live Stream, Predictions

Joe Tansey@JTansey90Featured ColumnistMarch 10, 2018

NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 08: Joel Berry II #2 of the North Carolina Tar Heels works against Chris Lykes #2 of the Miami (Fl) Hurricanes in the first half during the quarterfinals of the ACC Men's Basketball Tournament at Barclays Center on March 8, 2018 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City.  (Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images)
Abbie Parr/Getty Images

A heavyweight clash is on tap for the 2018 ACC tournament final Saturday night at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York.

Virginia, an outfit many men's basketball experts see as the top team in the nation, faces North Carolina with one of the most coveted titles in the sport on the line.

Following wins over Miami and Duke, North Carolina thrust itself into the discussion for a No. 1 seed in the NCAA men's basketball tournament.

If the Tar Heels win their second ACC tournament crown in three years, they would stake a legitimate claim for one of the top four positions in the field of 68.

Conversely, Virginia's first ACC tournament championship since 2014 would knock the Tar Heels away from the No. 1 seed conversation and solidify the Cavaliers' chances of earning a No. 1 overall seed in the Big Dance.

                   

Date: Saturday, March 10

Time: 8:30 p.m. ET

TV: ESPN

Live Stream: WatchESPN

                     

Is North Carolina Worthy of a No. 1 Seed?

At the start of Championship Week, the four No. 1 seeds for the Big Dance appeared to be locked up, with Virginia, Villanova, Xavier and Kansas residing in those positions.

The situation has changed, as North Carolina knocked off Miami and Duke, while Xavier fell to Providence in the Big East tournament semifinals.

There are plenty of variables when it comes to the No. 1 seed discussion, and Kansas plays in the Big 12 tournament final before the Tar Heels take on the Cavaliers.

Even if they don't beat Virginia Saturday, the Tar Heels possess 11 victories over teams in the top 50 of the RPI, including two each over Duke and Syracuse.

NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 09:  Garrison Brooks #15 of the North Carolina Tar Heels celebrates against Duke Blue Devils  during the semifinals of the ACC Men's Basketball Tournament at the  Barclays Center on March 9, 2018 in New York City.  (Photo by Al Bello/
Al Bello/Getty Images

North Carolina's resume stands out even more because it contains a single bad loss to Wofford from nonconference play.

Adding a victory over Virginia to that resume would make the selection committee think hard about where the Tar Heels stand on Selection Sunday.

If you needed any extra details to reinforce North Carolina's case for a No. 1 seed, it has the top strength of schedule in the nation.

The Tar Heels boast one of the most experienced rosters of any program, with seniors Joel Berry II, Cameron Johnson and Theo Pinson combining with juniors Luke Maye and Kenny Williams at the top of the most of the team's statistical rankings.

Only Berry and Williams found success against Virginia in the 61-49 loss January 6, as they reached double digits. Maye and Pinson combined for 10 points.

CHARLOTTESVILLE, VA - January 6: Joel Berry II #2 of the North Carolina Tar Heels looks to pass in the first half during a game against the Virginia Cavaliers at John Paul Jones Arena on January 6, 2018 in Charlottesville, Virginia. Virginia defeated Nort
Ryan M. Kelly/Getty Images

While plenty has changed in the men's basketball landscape since then, Virginia's stingy defense hasn't, which leads to a bit of concern for the Tar Heels.

But you also have to consider UNC's loss to Virginia came at the end of a five-game span in which it lost on three occasions.

Saturday's ACC tournament championship tilt should be a closer affair given North Carolina's recent surge, but it must avoid an early slump that would give Virginia's defense more confidence.

                     

Virginia Looking for Perfect Finish to ACC Play

Only Gonzaga achieved the same success as Virginia in conference play.

The Cavaliers went 17-1 in the regular season and advanced to the ACC tournament final with victories over Louisville and Clemson.

In each of its games at Barclays Center, Tony Bennett's squad held its opponent to 58 points.

Since the start of February, the Cavaliers have conceded fewer than 60 points in eight of their 10 games.

CHARLOTTESVILLE, VA - MARCH 3: Isaiah Wilkins #21 of the Virginia Cavaliers cheers in the second half during a game against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish at John Paul Jones Arena on March 3, 2018 in Charlottesville, Virginia. Virginia defeated Notre Dame
Ryan M. Kelly/Getty Images

Virginia's defensive efficiency comes from its tenacious work rate, with everyone involved in the silencing the opposition's star players.

With no pressure on its shoulders, Virginia is expected to play loose against a North Carolina team with everything on the line.

Thanks to its 17-1 ACC regular-season mark and 11 wins over teams in the top 50 of the RPI, Virginia is head and shoulders above the other candidates for No. 1 seeds.

The Cavaliers also have few blemishes on their resume, with their worst loss coming to Virginia Tech, which is 58th in the RPI by one point in ACC action.

CHARLOTTESVILLE, VA - MARCH 3: Mamadi Diakite #25 of the Virginia Cavaliers drives between Nikola Djogo #13 and Matt Farrell #5 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish in the second half during a game at John Paul Jones Arena on March 3, 2018 in Charlottesville,
Ryan M. Kelly/Getty Images

In order for the Cavaliers to stop the red-hot North Carolina offense, it must smother the three-point line and give little space to Maye and others in the paint.

Although they don't get talked about much on a national level, Isaiah Wilkins and Mamadi Diakite could be the X-factors for the Cavaliers on Saturday.

Diakite came off the bench to score 10 points in Friday's semifinal win over Clemson, while Wilkins is a jack of all trades.

               

Prediction

Virginia 65, North Carolina 55

North Carolina won't be able to cross the 60-point plateau, as Virginia will once again play a stout defensive game.

Look for Kyle Guy and Devon Hall to make a few big shots down the stretch for the Cavaliers to bury the Tar Heels and win the ACC tournament for the first time since 2014.

                

Follow Joe on Twitter, @JTansey90.

Statistics obtained from ESPN.com.

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