North Carolina looks to keep pace with the ACC leaders on Saturday when they host the Florida State Seminoles. Join us for a preview of the clash plus a free college basketball pick.
If the college basketball odds are any indication, Roy Williams and the North Carolina Tar Heels are catching a break Saturday in advance of a very tough 3-game stretch on the Atlantic Coast Conference schedule.
Sitting 5-1 in the ACC and a game behind league frontrunner Virginia, the Tar Heels will have the home crowd behind them when the Florida State Seminoles come to Chapel Hill. They also have a 15½ point line of chalk to consider, that number down from an initial -17, and SBR's NCAA basketball odds was the first to pick up a 145½ point total from the sports books. ESPN will carry the broadcast starting at 2 PM (ET).
Saturday's clash is the only one scheduled between the two teams, the second consecutive year the 'Noles and Heels meet just once in the regular season. North Carolina has won the last four encounters to build a 46-12 record in the series overall.
It was close to five years ago that FSU last tasted victory in Chapel Hill, a 77-67 decision in February 2010 as 2 point road chalk. The Tar Heels have covered each of the four wins in their current streak, and seven of the last nine meetings have hurdled the totals on the NCAA basketball odds.
'Noles Treading Water Since Suspension Of Leading Scorer
Leonard Hamilton can move into second place all-time on the wins list for Florida State (10-9 straight up, 6-10 against the spread) head coaches with a Seminole upset. Now in his 13th season at the helm in Tallahassee, Hamilton has 229 victories at FSU, good enough also for 11th-most in ACC history.
Hamilton will have to achieve win No. 230 without junior guard Aaron Thomas who was suspended in mid-December for the remainder of the season due to academic eligibility. The 6-5 Thomas was leading Florida State in scoring (14.8 ppg) at the time of the suspension, and the 'Noles are 6-5 since he was dismissed.
Thomas' suspension came just before the team opened conference plat at Notre Dame, an 83-63 setback as 10½ underdogs, and FSU went on to lose three more ACC contests in a row before stopping that skid this past Monday with a 59-55 upset victory at Clemson. The Seminoles benefited from a pathetic performance at the line by the Tigers (16-of-31), and were led by Xavier Rathan-Mayes' 17 points, the fourth time in the last five games the freshman reached double-digits in the scoring column.
Heels Take Aim At 5th-Straight Victory
In addition to looking for a fifth consecutive win over FSU, North Carolina (15-4 SU, 11-8 ATS) hits the floor Saturday searching for its 5th-straight win overall after suffering the only conference loss to Notre Dame on January 5. It would be the second 5-game stretch of dubyas for the Tar Heels this season, the other starting in mid-December and including a neutral-court triumph over then-No. 12 Ohio State in the SBR Sports Classic and a road win at Clemson to open the conference slate.
After playing three successive close games against the Irish, Louisville and NC State, those matches decided by a combined four points, UNC has posted back-to-back coasters against Virginia Tech and Wake Forest. The Heels didn't have quite enough to cover the spread in the 68-53 decision vs. the Hokies, but had more than enough to beat the NCAA odds in Wednesday's 87-71 thumping of the Demon Deacons in Winston-Salem.
Brice Johnson and Kennedy Meeks sparked the offense in the victory at Wake as the Heels shot a season-high 60.3% from the field. Ranked 15th by both the writers and coaches, one of the toughest schedules in the country is helping North Carolina to the 10th spot in the latest RPI.
One concern I have for UNC getting the cover is the fact there are games on deck with Syracuse, Louisville and Virginia, the matchup with the Cardinals on the road. The Heels' backcourt rotation will also be a little thin with Theo Pinson (broken foot) out of action and Joel Berry II missing his fourth consecutive game. My NCAA Basketball Pick is the 'Noles plus the points.
Free College Basketball Pick: Florida State +15.5 at BetOnline
Season: 26-30 (-7.0)