UNC’s Bacot says it’s a sense of urgency to beat Virginia

By Jerry Ratcliffe

Photo: University of North Carolina Athletics

Armando Bacot said there’s a sense of urgency to beat Virginia on Saturday for a couple of reasons: one, the Tar Heels want to win the ACC regular season to hang a banner in the Dean Dome, and, two, to end UNC’s losing streak in Charlottesville.

“I definitely want to beat them,” Bacot told reporters on Friday. “We want to say we were the Carolina team to beat UVA at UVA.”

The Tar Heels haven’t won in Charlottesville since 2012, and even though it may seem like Bacot has played at UNC for that long, it’s really only his fifth year. Bacot is a 6-foot-11 center from Richmond who has experienced success and failure against the Cavaliers.

“I had probably my best college game ever versus UVA, but also my worst game,” Bacot said. “But we are different as a team this year, especially the actions we run and different things we do, so feeling confident.”

One of the principles of Virginia’s “Pack-Line” defense is to not let an opposing big man beat you, so the Cavaliers traditionally double the post against quality big men like Bacot. The Carolina center has seen that so much in his contests against UVA, he is accustomed to facing that strategy.

“It’ll be pivotal,” Bacot said of how he handles Virginia’s defense. “As somebody who’s part of the game, I need to get the ball in my hands, as coach said, but it’s also making the right reads, get guys open and not do too much like throw cross-court passes.

“[Virginia] is so physical in the way they double. Once you’ve got the ball and they get you in the corner, it’s going to be a turnover every time, so I’ve just got to be smart. Harry playing the forward definitely helps me a lot because they double the 4-5 and he can really shoot the ball.”

Harry is 6-7 wing Harrison Ingram, who transferred from Stanford and is averaging 12.5 points per game (44 percent FG). If Ingram is on his game, it makes it difficult to double-team Bacot.

Bacot hasn’t always been healthy and has missed some of the games, or portions of games against Virginia in the past. When he’s been healthy, though, he has been difficult to stop.

Virginia will likely go with Jordan Minor and double Bacot with either Ryan Dunn or Jake Groves, possibly even 6-11 freshman Blake Buchanan, who doesn’t match up well with Bacot’s size and physicality.

While he hasn’t been a part of some of the former UNC teams to lose at Virginia during the losing streak in Charlottesville, Bacot is well aware of the series of losses and the dynamics of the rivalry.

“[Virginia’s] playing style is tough because we’re a fast team and they’re a slow team, so it’s just weird,” Bacot said. “Luckily I’ve been able to beat them a couple of times, but this one for sure means a lot to us because we haven’t beaten them in 12 years. It’s a huge game for us.”

There are plenty of new faces on this particular team, faces who haven’t gone up against Virginia’s “Pack-Line,” so Bacot knows it may be a bit of a shock for Carolina newcomers, facing the unique defense for the first time.

“I guess it’s different because they’re not coming in with a sense of pressure or understanding of what it is,” Bacot said. “No matter how they defend, it’s just going to be tough.”