Greensboro, NC (SportsNetwork.com) - A Top-25 matchup in the ACC Tournament semifinals is on tap at the Greensboro Coliseum on Friday evening, as the third-ranked and top-seeded Virginia Cavaliers take on the 19th-ranked and fifth-seeded North Carolina Tar Heels.
The winner will play either Duke or Notre Dame in Saturday's championship game.
Virginia won the ACC regular-season championship for the second season in a row and hope to add another tournament title as well. It was a banner year for Tony Bennett's Cavs, who are now 29-2 on the season. The success led to a second straight ACC Coach of the Year award for Bennett, whose team lost to only conference powers Duke and Louisville this year. Virginia took out Florida State in Thursday's quarterfinals, 58-44.
North Carolina finished outside the top four teams, picking up the five-seed. The Tar Heels opened tournament play with a lopsided 81-63 victory over Boston College and followed with Thursday's 70-60 decision over Louisville. North Carolina is now 92-43 in the event, with 17 tournament titles.
Virginia won the only regular-season matchup between these two teams, a 75-64 victory in Chapel Hill on Feb. 2.
North Carolina is a potent offensive team normally, averaging 78.0 ppg, on .472 shooting. All-ACC Third-Team selection Marcus Paige (13.6 ppg) leads the team in both scoring (13.6 ppg) and assists (4.6 apg). Forwards Brice Johnson (13.0 ppg, 7.9 rpg) and Kennedy Meeks (11.9 ppg, 7.5 ppg) are a strong one-two punch down low. Other key assets include Justin Jackson (10.1 ppg) and J.P. Tokoto (8.5 ppg).
Johnson came up big in the second half, scoring 18 of his game-high 22 points to help UNC pull away from Louisville and advance in the ACC Tournament. Paige added 13 points, Jackson put up 10 and Meeks finished with nine points for North Carolina, which shot .424 from the floor, but held the Cardinals to a mere .349 effort, which included an ugly 4-of-22 from behind the arc (.182).
It wasn't easy by any stretch of the imagination, but Virginia put the defensive clamps on Florida State in the last three+ minutes and pulled away for a 14-point in on Thursday. Evan Nolte and Mike Tobey led the charge with 11 points apiece for the Cavaliers, who received 10 points from leader Malcolm Brogdon and nine from Anthony Gill.
Virginia has played short-handed of late as they lost Justin Anderson (13.4 ppg) down the stretch to a hand injury and then sidelined after having his appendix removed. He did play 12 minutes against FSU, but didn't score. Brogdon led the way this season at 13.7 ppg, en route to All-ACC First-Team honors. Gill (11.6 ppg, 6.7 rpg), Darion Atkins (7.6 ppg, 5.9 rpg), Tobey (7.2 ppg, 5.2 rpg) and London Perrantes (6.3 ppg, 4.7 apg) were also vital role players in Virginia's strong season. Brogdon was named the ACC Co-Defensive Player of the Year, while Tobey was tabbed the ACC Sixth Man of the Year.