When Virginia and North Carolina met just over a week ago, the Cavaliers scored just 41 points in a 24-point loss to the Tar Heels, and fell in the midst of their longest losing streak in seven years. North Carolina, on the other hand, won its second straight and has since won two more in a row to bring its winning streak to four heading into its big Monday showdown with Virginia.
The Tar Heels are likely to improve their No. 8 ranking with back-to-back top 15 wins over Virginia and Louisville, and after their 18-point win at Pittsburgh on Saturday, are playing some of their best basketball of the season. The win over the Panthers gave North Carolina at least a share of the regular-season ACC title.
"Coach always says there hasn't been a national championship team that hasn't been able to play defense," North Carolina guard Justin Jackson said after the Tar Heels' win over Pittsburgh.
More from FoxSports
Jackson scored 23 points in the win but pointed out North Carolina's recent success on the defensive end. The Tar Heels held Virginia to a season-low 41 points before holding No. 7 Louisville to 63, and a Pittsburgh team that can shoot the ball to 67 points.
A win over the Cavaliers would give North Carolina their second straight outright regular-season ACC title and the 31st in school history, a task that won't be easy in Charlottesville.
Despite their recent struggles, the Cavs still boast one of the nation's top home-court advantages and looked as though they shot their way out of their recent slump with a 15-point win at N.C. State on Saturday. The Cavaliers knocked down 11 of their 16 3-pointers after connecting on just 10 in their previous three games combined.
"We talked about just keep playing the defense to keep you in there and sooner or later we'll knock down some shots," Virginia head coach Tony Bennett said. "That's what we've been talking about in all of these games."
Virginia was held to 2-20 from the 3-point line in its first matchup against North Carolina and will have to continue to shoot the ball well against a Tar Heels team who is finding themselves on the defensive end of the floor.
"We can score pretty well and so sometimes we just might not take, put enough energy on defense," Jackson added. "We're starting to key in on what we're supposed to do and if we can continue that effort on defense, we will be alright."
A scary thought for opposing teams as North Carolina ranks seventh in the country in points per game scoring at an 86 points per game clip. The Tar Heels keying in on the defensive side of the ball is something that can put them over the top come March.
Virginia got valuable minutes from freshmen Ty Jerome and Kyle Guy in their win over the Wolfpack, something that Bennett hadn't gotten from his two frosh in the last month. Guy scored a game-high 19 points and will need to continue his hot shooting in the Cavaliers' final two games of the regular season.
North Carolina and Virginia tip off at 7 p.m. ET on Monday night.