For the second time in three years, the ACC tournament title will come down to a matchup between Virginia and North Carolina, who will meet Saturday night at the Barclays Center.
The ACC championship starts at 8:30 p.m. ET and will be broadcast nationally on ESPN. If you don’t have cable or can’t get to a TV, you can watch the game live on your computer, phone or other streaming device by signing up for one of the following cable-free, live-TV streaming services:
Hulu With Live TV: In addition to their extensive Netflix-like streaming library, Hulu now also offers a bundle of live channels, including ESPN. You can sign up for “Hulu with Live TV” right here, and you can then watch a live stream of the game on your computer via the Hulu website, or on your phone, tablet or streaming device via the Hulu app.
DirecTV Now: ESPN is included in all of DirecTV Now’s four main channel packages. You can sign up for a free 7-day trial no matter what package you choose, plus you can get a free Amazon Fire TV if you prepay two months. Once signed up, you can watch the game live on your computer via the DirecTV Now website, or on your phone, tablet or streaming device via the DirecTV Now app.
Sling TV: ESPN is included in the “Sling Orange” channel package. You can sign up for a free 7-day trial, and you can then watch the game live on your computer via the Sling TV website, or on your phone, tablet or streaming device via the Sling TV app.
Note: You can also watch the game on your computer via ESPN.com, or on your phone, tablet or streaming device via the WatchESPN app. You’ll need to sign in to a TV provider to watch this way, but you can use your Hulu, DirecTV Now or Sling TV credentials to do that.
Transition vs tempo. The Tar Heels, who average 71.3 possessions per game, love to push the pace. The Cavaliers, who average a molasses-like 59.6 possessions per game, prefer to slow things down and frustrate opponents with their physical, pack-line defense. That strategy has generally worked against the Heels, as Virginia has won five of the last eight head-to-head matchups, including the lone meeting this year, which came at Chapel Hill.
“They’re the No. 1 team in the country,” North Carolina coach Roy Williams said. “They are the No. 1 team unanimously, and they beat us by 77 points or whatever. So we’ve got to go in there and try to play the perfect game and play as close as we can possibly play to that, then we’ll have a chance to win.”
Virginia only won by 12 during that first matchup, but 12 can often feel like 77 against the Cavaliers, who own one of the best defensive efficiencies in the KenPom era (data goes back to 2002). They also won the battle of tempo in that one, as they controlled the pace and limited the Heels to just 59 offensive possessions, which was by far their lowest of the season.
But while scoring points against Virginia is often about as easy as beating The Rock in an arm-wrestling match, North Carolina’s recent defensive play should leave room for optimism. The Heels held Duke, one of the best offensive teams in the country, to just 0.96 points per possession in the semifinals on Friday, and that’s a number that would look even better if they didn’t lose focus in the final five minutes of the game.
Virginia is regarded as the best team in the country for a reason. They’ve lost one game since December 6, and that was a one-point defeat in overtime against Virginia Tech. It takes near perfection to beat them, but with the way North Carolina is playing on both ends of the court, with their ability to create second chances on the offensive glass, and with the jump Theo Pinson had made over the last month, they have the pieces to challenge the Cavaliers as well as anyone.
Both of these teams have greater aspirations than an ACC tournament title, but that won’t make it any less entertaining.