The last time the University of Virginia was ranked No. 1 in the nation was December 1982. Jim Larrañaga was an assistant coach on the Cavaliers staff and legend Ralph Sampson was on the roster. Tuesday night, Larrañaga, battling a bad case of the flu, will be on the opposing bench as his Miami Hurricanes play the top-ranked Cavs at the Watsco Center (9 p.m., ESPN).
Here’s everything you need to know going into Tuesday night’s big game:
The Cavaliers are 23-2 and 12-1 in the ACC. The Hurricanes are 18-6, and 7-5 in the conference.
Despite their overtime one-point loss to cross-state rival Virginia Tech last Saturday, the Cavs moved up one spot to No. 1 in this week’s Associated Press Top 25 poll. Virginia is the fourth team since 1990 to go from unranked in the preseason to the top of the poll, along with Baylor (2017), Syracuse (2010), and Duke (1990).
The Hurricanes, meanwhile, slipped out of the rankings from No. 25 after a 72-70 road loss at Boston College. The Eagles held Miami scoreless for the final six minutes of the game. Larrañaga was so sick on Saturday that he stayed in the locker room, was administered IV, and missed the game.
“I had caught the flu bug and, unfortunately, for the first time in my 46 years of coaching I ended up missing the game,” Larrañaga said on Monday. “I was knocked out in the locker room, but my staff did a great job, put us in position to win the game; but Boston College made big shots and free throws down the stretch. It was a tough loss for us. Now we’ve got a very short turnaround to get ready for the No. 1 team in the nation.”
Larrañaga said he is “not fully recovered” but plans to coach Tuesday night.
“I started on some new medication, and hopefully, that will knock it out. I feel a little better,” Larrañaga said. “I listened to the broadcast of the game when I got back. They said I was watching on TV in the locker room. I wasn’t. I was in the locker room laying down with my eyes shut. I was sick and not feeling good. I was basically sleeping the whole time.”
The Canes will face a tough challenge against a Virginia team that leads the nation in points allowed – 52.9. The Cavs are known for their pack-line defense, a variation of man-to-man that is difficult to penetrate.
“I think one of the things (Virginia coach) Tony Bennett and his staff have done is develop a reputation and tradition of playing great defense, pack-line defense,” Larrañaga said. “Their players have experience with it and their style suits their personnel. Their coaches have done a great job of getting the players to embrace it.”
Bennett also praised Miami’s defense, who was ranked among the best in the nation earlier this season, allowing 66.6 points per game.
“They’re committed to (defense), and have good quickness,” Bennett said. “They get after the ball, play four guards mostly, with (Anthony) Lawrence playing the four. They’ll jam the lane. Coach L knows what he’s doing. They make you earn your looks.”
Cavalier players to watch include senior forward Isaiah Wilkins, junior center Jack Salt, senior guard Devon Hall, and sophomore guards Ty Jerome and Kyle Guy.
Jerome is wearing a cast on his right wrist and thumb, and went 1-for-10 against Virginia Tech.
Miami is playing without guard Bruce Brown, who is out for six weeks after foot surgery. Freshman Chris Lykes has been starting at point guard and last week led UM in scoring with 14.5 points per game. Redshirt freshman Sam Waardenburg has also been playing more minutes and is contributing rebounds, defense and a three-point threat.
For what it’s worth, the Cavs are 1-7 on the road against the Canes. The last time Miami hosted a No. 1 team was Jan. 23, 2013, and UM upset Duke that day, 90-63.
UM men vs. No. 1 Virginia
When: Tuesday, 9 p.m.
Where: Watsco Center, UM campus
TV/Radio: ESPN, WQAM 560-AM
Records: UM (18-6, 7-5 ACC), Virginia (23-2, 12-1 ACC)