Before taking the floor against No. 2-ranked North Carolina Saturday night in Charlottesville, coach Terry Holland thought about his Virginia team's 8-0 record overall, its 1-0 Atlantic Coast Conference record and its lofty national ranking.
"We've got a couple of new players and we made a few little changes," Holland said, but the biggest difference in this team is its confidence. It's subtle, but it's important.
"We feel we are a good team and we honestly feel we should win every game we got into, and not just hope we will."
The Cavaliers had little difficulty beating James Madison, Virginia Military Institute, Randolph Macon, Old Dominion and Penn. They had also beaten Temple and Southern California on the road and when they topped Wake Forest Wednesday in the ACC opener, practically all of Charlottesville started going wild.
But on Saturday night, the visiting Tar Heels mixed up their defenses, moved the ball on offense and played with poise in beating Virginia, 76-61.
North Carolina shot an incredible 77 per cent for the game and made 16 of 17 shots in the second half.
It was one of the basketball cliche games that was not as close as the score indicated. North Carolina led, 74-47, late in the game before sending in its reserves and losing the ball on seven of its last 10 poessessions.
"When you get your fannies kicked like we did, it hurts," Holland said. "We have to build our confidence back up again, now. This game sets us back some, that's for sure."
The game was also important because it was North Carolina's second straight conference victory on the road.
Virginia was determined to prove it was in North Carolina's class and deserved its national ranking (13th by the Associated Press, 14th by United Press International). Meanwhile, the Tar Heels wanted to establish early in the conference race that they are the team to beat.
Virginia has a lot of talent, more than it has had in a long time. But if the Cavaliers have a problem, it is that they don't like to play a fastpaced game, and don't have the people to control the tempo against a good team.
Their strengths are Mare Iavaroni's rebounding and freshman Jeff Lamp's shooting.
One of the changes Holland made was "to put the guards in some posting situations to take advantage of the height advantage we'll have there most of the time."
That strategy, with the 6-foot-5 sharpshooting Lamp, often works.
When North Carolina was in a man-to-man defense, Lamp took his man low along the baseline and shot over him. But in college ball, there is something to take care of mismotches - it's called a zone defense.
Much of Virginia's offense seems to be designed to get the fall to Lamp, but against a zone he is often looking at a 6-7 or 6-8 forward when he goes down low. Against North Carolina, he moved more outside and made only six of 17 shots.
But Lamp is Virginia's future. He is averaging 18 points a game and while he isn't very flashy and he doesn't drive to the basket much, he works well without the ball and doesn't force much.
"He's just so very volid," said Holland. "You aren't impressed with him being all that spectacular, but the more you see him, the more you have to like him."
That's just the way North Carolina coach Dean Smith feels about Lamp.
That's just the way North Carolina competitor and Iavaroni is going to make a great pro," he said. "With those two and some of the other people they have, Virginia is a very good team.
"All this game Saturday really meant was that we'll win at least two games in the conference."