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The two teams have met four times, most recently in 1994, with the Tar Heels holding a 3-1 advantage in title-game meetings.
North Carolina and Virginia have met four times in the ACC Tournament Championship, with each matchup decided by seven points or less. The average margin of victory for winning teams in the meetings is a mere five points, and while the last meeting was 22 years ago, history suggests that Saturday night’s final in the Verizon Center should be a thriller.
Before you watch the 2016 ACC Tournament Final between the Heels and ‘Hoos, take a look back at the previous conference championship meetings between the two perennial powers.
1976: Virginia defeats North Carolina 67-62, Wally Walker wins Tournament MVP
The first championship meeting between the two schools was a long shot to even occur, as the Cavaliers entered the ’76 tournament as the six seed after finishing the regular season with a 4-8 ACC record. Led by Wally Walker, UVA emerged as Cinderella, winning three games in three days to capture the school’s first ever ACC Title.
The ‘Hoos beat NC State and Maryland in consecutive days before beating UNC in the championship, the only time the Cavaliers have ever beaten the Tar Heels in a conference title game. They’ll attempt to hand UNC another loss Saturday night.
While the Cavaliers captured lightning in a bottle and won the conference title as a six seed, the team didn’t have similar luck in the NCAA Tournament. UVA fell in the first round to DePaul, while North Carolina had a similar fate and was routed by Alabama on the event’s opening day.
1977: North Carolina defeats Virginia 75-69, John Kuester wins Tournament MVP
North Carolina took full advantage of the top overall seed and the only first round bye in the 1977 tournament, winning the conference title in relatively easy fashion. After soundly beating NC State by 14 points in the semifinals, UNC exacted revenge for the previous year by edging Virginia in the final game. John Kuester was a main reason for the Tar Heels success, as he was voted UNC’s best defensive player in addition to capturing MVP honors in the ACC Tournament. North Carolina followed their ACC Tournament title with a run to the National Championship game that season, defeating Purdue, Notre Dame, Kentucky and UNLV before falling to Marquette in the finals by a score of 67-59.
1982: North Carolina defeats Virginia 47-45, James Worthy wins Tournament MVP
After four consecutive seasons without an appearance in the ACC Tournament championship (a long dry spell by North Carolina’s lofty standards), James Worthy led the Tar Heels back to the top of the conference in 1982. The ’82 tournament, held in Greensboro, North Carolina, was one of the lowest-scoring tourneys in the history of the event, with the Heels never scoring more than 58 points en route to the title. 2016 ACC Legend Worthy was the key cog in leading Dean Smith’s team to the title, as he teamed up with Sam Perkins to form a nearly unstoppable duo.
North Carolina’s magic continued in the NCAA Tournament, as Smith added yet another chapter to his legacy as UNC knocked off Georgetown 63-62 in the National Championship game. The Tar Heels had a rocky start to the tournament, defeating ninth-seeded James Madison by just two points to limp into the next round. The team would settle in, however, as a 10-point win over Villanova in the Elite 8 propelled the team to its 9th Final Four in school history. After defeating Houston by five in the National Semifinal, the Heels beat the Hoyas by a single point, 63-62, and captured the school’s second National Title.
1994: North Carolina defeats Virginia 73-66, Jerry Stackhouse wins Tournament MVP
The most recent ACC Tournament Championship meeting between the Tar Heels and Cavaliers came in 1994, when the fourth-ranked Heels earned the tournament’s two-seed and rode the play of Jerry Stackhouse all the way to an ACC Tournament title. After a blowout win over seventh-seeded Florida State, the Heels edged Wake Forest 86-84 to set up their fourth title game meeting with UVA.
Stackhouse averaged 19.2 points and 8.2 rebounds during the season, propelling his draft stock high enough that he left school after just two years to turn pro. The 6-foot-6 star was drafted with the third overall pick in the NBA Draft in 1995.
The Tar Heels earned a one seed in the NCAA Tournament after winning the ACC, but the team was upset by ninth-seeded Boston College 75-72 in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.
While North Carolina has history on its side, everything points to the Heels and Cavaliers being an even match on Saturday night. Virginia won the two teams’ regular season meeting by five points and the ‘Hoos have the ACC Player of the Year in Malcolm Brogdon, but the Brice Johnson-led Tar Heels will be eager to prove that the February 27th result was an anomaly instead of a trend. Tune in Saturday night at 9 p.m. to watch another chapter of the storied North Carolina-Virginia postseason rivalry unfold.