Arkansas ATS is the NCAA Basketball Pick vs. North Carolina

LT Profits Sports Group

Saturday, March 21, 2015 5:24 PM UTC

Saturday, Mar. 21, 2015 5:24 PM UTC

Each day LT Profits Sports seeks an overlay side that has a better chance of cashing than its spread, offering long term value. Here is their Side Value Play for Saturday.


The points seem worth taking in what should be a nail-biter in the NCAA Tournament Round of 32 in the West Region Saturday night when those fifth seeded Arkansas Razorbacks (27-8, 10-6 away/neutral) take on the fourth seeded North Carolina Tar Heels (25-11, 15-6 away/neutral) at Jacksonville Veterans Memorial Arena, in Jacksonville, FL at 8:40 ET in a game televised nationally on TNT.

The point spread at Pinnacle Sports has Arkansas as a moderate underdog for this contest with the current line at +4½ with odds of -106.

Both Teams Narrowly Escaped Upsets
Both of these teams narrowly avoided upsets in the second round. North Carolina appeared to be on its way to an easy win over Harvard when it opened up a 16-point lead in the second half, but the Tar Heels crumbled down the stretch and even temporarily lost the lead before re-rallying for the 67-65 win. North Carolina finished fifth in the ACC during the regular season, but it advanced to the ACC Tournament Championship Game where it lost to Notre Dame.

Arkansas had its own narrow escape vs. a game Wofford team before being the winning NCAA Basketball pick 56-53. The Razorbacks were second in the SEC behind only undefeated Kentucky, and then advanced to the SEC Championship Game where they lost to those Wildcats 78-63. Still, the 27-8 Hogs have lost just six other games all season to teams other than Kentucky and all eight of their losses came to teams ranked in the Top 100 on the Pomeroy Ratings.

Arkansas Seems More Comfortable in Half-Court
Both of these clubs like to play at phrenetic paces, with Arkansas ranking 17th in the nation in tempo rating and North Carolina ranking and even quicker 13th, but as you can tell by the scores in the Round of 64 Thursday, both teams allowed their opponents to slow the pace of those games down. However, Arkansas appeared the more comfortable of these two teams getting drawn into a half-court game.

No, the Razorbacks did not get as many easy buckets in transition as they usually do, but they still held the Terriers to 31.6 percent shooting while shooting 45.8 percent themselves. That percentage is actually better then the 44.8 percent Arkansas is shooting for the season despite ranking 19th in the country in scoring with 77.4 points per game, as a lot of that scoring stems from the fast pace and easy points off of turnovers.

Turnover Differential a Major Key
Conversely, North Carolina did not seem comfortable in the half-court game committing 17 turnovers vs. the Crimson despite the game only having 60 possessions. And that came on the heels of committing 13 turnovers in the ACC Championship Game vs. a Notre Dame team not particularly renowned for its defense.

That is certainly a bad omen here vs. an Arkansas defense that has still not varied that much from the “40 minutes of hell” days under Coach Nolan Richardson way back when. You see, this 2015 version of the Razorbacks is 20th in the country in defensive turnover percentage at 22.4 percent, safely above the national average of 19.1 percent.

On the flip side, North Carolina applies hardly any pressure defensively ranking just 265th in defensive turnover percentage at 17.6 percent. Considering just how close these teams are in just about every other area, that expected turnover differential just might determine the outcome of this game, or at the very least allow the underdogs from Arkansas to take this contest right down to the final buzzer.

North Carolina Struggling ATS vs. Winning Teams
Finally, there is a feeling in some camps that North Carolina is a bit overrated, and it is tough to argue that when you consider that the Tar Heels are only 4-11-1 ATS in its last 16 games vs. teams with winning records while handling the lesser teams they have faced rather easily.

Well, Arkansas is certainly a winning team so look for those North Carolina struggles to continue as the Razorbacks at the very least cover this point spread with an outright upset not at all impossible in Jacksonville on Saturday.

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NCAA Basketball Pick: Arkansas +4½ (-106)

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