For years, Virginia could take its men’s basketball team to North Carolina and figure that, win or lose, its power ranking would not plummet.
If there was such a thing as a good loss, that was the case if Virginia lost to a team with a lofty RPI.
The Cavaliers won’t have that kind of hedge when they face UNC at 8 p.m. Saturday at the Smith Center.
As of Friday, Carolina had the 125th RPI in the NCAA rankings.
That put the Tar Heels (10-14, 3-10) behind 12 other ACC teams in the NCAA’s RPI.
Carolina is alone in last place out of 15 teams in the ACC standings, trailing Wake Forest and Miami by one-half game.
“Guys, I’ve been mad all year,” Carolina coach Roy Williams told reporters Tuesday after a 74-57 loss at Wake Forest against a team that had been 3-10 in conference play.
“I told the team I was tired of coming to press conferences like this. I told them I was tired of coming in here and apologizing and all those things, but the bottom line is, Wake Forest had more ‘want to’ out there today.”
Only three days earlier, Carolina was on the verge of a colossal upset against visiting Duke, which trailed by 13 points with 4 ½ minutes remaining, only to rally for a 98-96 victory in overtime.
Virginia could have warned the Tar Heels about Wake Forest, having slipped past the Deacons in overtime 65-63 on Jan. 26 in Winston-Salem.
The Cavaliers (16-7, 8-5) were involved in another overtime affair Tuesday night, when Virginia rallied for a 50-49 victory over Notre Dame after trailing most of the way.
Three days earlier, Virginia had lost on the road to fifth-ranked Louisville, 80-73, in what was a two-point game with 40 seconds remaining.
In virtually every UVa game over the past six weeks, the outcome has remained in doubt until the final minute. Each of Virginia’s past 10 games has been decided by eight points or fewer.
After going 7 for 10 on 3-pointers and scoring 27 points at Louisville, junior college transfer Tomas Woldetensae was 1 for 8 from beyond the arc against Notre Dame. One bright spot for UVa was freshman Casey Morsell, who played just under 20 minutes.
Morsell had played six minutes against Louisville. He hit a 3-pointer against the Irish after going 1 for 13 from beyond the arc in his previous nine games.
Point guard Kihei Clark played all 45 minutes, matching his career high in an earlier overtime game this season, when the Cavaliers lost to Syracuse 63-55 at JPJ. He is averaging 39.5 minutes in ACC games this season and 37.5 minutes overall.
Clark has 137 assists on a team which has nobody else with more than 32, and, at 5-foot-9, reached the 100-rebound mark for the season in Tuesday’s game. He leads the team in minutes played by more than 100.
“He is kind of tireless,” Bennett said. “Of course, you’re always monitoring and watching that. With stoppages in games and timeouts, you can steal some breaks but you rely on his feedback and you have to do what gives your team the best chance to win. He’s such a big part of that.”