Heading into the final game of the regular season without Justin Anderson, Virginia will be playing with little of consequence on the line. With the Hoo’s status as a number one seed likely locked up with a decent showing in the ACC Tournament, Virginia will be playing for little more than pride on the road against No. 16 Louisville Saturday. But don’t let that fact fool you–Virginia will be ready to play, and they will play well. With Tony Bennett on the sideline, there is no other option. The Cavs won the first matchup 52-47, holding Louisville to 13 points in the first half–including a 12-minute scoreless stretch by the Cards.
Louisville will be having its Senior Night Saturday, honoring Wayne Blackshear and Junior Montrezl Harrell, who will be leaving for the NBA after this year. Louisville will need to beat Virginia to secure the number 4 seed in the ACC Tournament and the double-bye that goes along with it. Without a win Saturday, Louisville will need losses from multiple other ACC squads to secure the tiebreakers over UNC. Louisville had a chance to greatly improve the probability that they would get a top-four seed by beating Notre Dame at home Wednesday. Unfortunately for Cards fans, Louisville tried to get into a shootout with the Irish, something few teams are able to do, but especially this shooting-challenged team. If the Cards are going to pull this upset, they’ll need Terry Rozier to play like the All-American he was at the beginning and middle of the season, and they’ll need shooters like Blackshear, Quentin Snider, and Anton Gill to show up when it matters most.
For Virginia, it will all be about letting the system do the work. Even without Anderson–who was out since the last Louisville game with a broken finger, but recently had an appendectomy–Virginia’s offense should still get plenty of threes for their snipers, Anthony Gill and Malcolm Brogdon. Combine that with their trademark Pack-Line defense that plays to Louisville’s weaknesses–namely the Cards’ inability to shoot from the outside–and Virginia appears to be in good shape for this one, despite everything going against them. To win on the road in emotionally charged games, it normally helps to have role players step up. Mike Tobey came up big in the first-half of the last matchup between these two teams, which proved to be key when the Hoos were outscored in the second-half.
*Section Photo credit to Mitchell Layton, Getty Images; Featured Photo (above) credit to Jamie Rhodes, USA Today Sports