Published November 20, 2014
Both teams own identical 5-1 records to this point in the season, and this game represents the fourth meeting between the two all-time. Michigan has won two of the previous three encounters, and the teams haven't met since the 1989 NCAA Tournament. The Wolverines defeated the Cavaliers, 102-65, in the finals of the Southeast Regional on the way to winning the national title that year.
Michigan recently came back from a trip to Hawaii where it won two of three games to finish in third place at the prestigious Maui Invitational. The Wolverines, who opened the season with wins over Ferris State, Towson and Western Illinois, took out Memphis in their first game out on the island, but then lost to Duke in the next round. Coach John Belein's team bounced back though, taking a 79-63 decision from UCLA on the final day of the event.
Michigan is the highest ranked non-conference opponent to visit Charlottesville since No. 10 Arizona in the first game ever played at John Paul Jones Arena on November 12, 2006.
Virginia brings a three-game win streak into this clash, with its latest win being a 68-42 dismantling of Green Bay at home last Friday. The victory had extra meaning for coach Tony Bennett as Green Bay is his alma mater. The Cavaliers haven't beaten what many would classify a quality opponent yet, and its lone loss came against TCU as part of the Paradise Jam in St. Thomas on November 18.
Michigan's strength this season has been its ability to play stingy defense, as evidenced by the fact that opponents are scoring just 56.8 ppg while committing 15 turnovers per outing. Offensively, the Wolverines are netting 68.2 ppg in hitting 49 percent of their field goal attempts. Coach Belein would like to see the three-pointer fall with more regularity (.328), but he has to be happy with the play of one guy in particular, Tim Hardaway, Jr. A 49.3 percent shooter who hands out three assists per outing as well, Hardaway is scoring 17.2 ppg and is coming off a 20-point effort in last week's win over UCLA. Zack Novak (9.8 ppg) led the Maize and Blue in that clash with a career-high 22 points.
As good as Michigan has been defensively this season, Virginia has been even better. Through six games, the Cavaliers are giving up just 45.3 ppg behind typical shooting outputs of 33.5 percent overall and 23.8 percent from beyond the arc. Coach Bennett's club owns favorable margins in both rebounding (+5.0) and turnovers (+2.0), and comes up with twice as many blocked shots per game (3.0) than its opponents (1.5). Mike Scott has been a beast for the Cavs thus far, averaging a double-double consisting of 14.8 points and 10.0 caroms per contest, and Joe Harris is the team's only other double-digit scorer at the moment, checking in with 11.7 ppg behind a club-best nine three-pointers. Scott tallied 15 points and 10 rebounds in the recent win over Green Bay, while KT Harrell came off the bench to net 14 points. The keys to the game -- advantages in field goal percentage (.511 to .300), points from the foul line (20-10), and rebounds (37-26).