NCAA Basketball Picks: Look Northwestern to Keep it Close vs. NC

Willie Bee

Monday, November 23, 2015 1:42 PM UTC

Monday, Nov. 23, 2015 1:42 PM UTC

Coming off their first loss of the season, the North Carolina Tar Heels are favorites on the college basketball odds board against Northwestern in the semis of the CBS Classic.

We're still a week away from this season's Big Ten/ACC Challenge, which this year tips off with Wake Forest visiting Rutgers next Monday, but we get a little taste of that tonight when the Northwestern Wildcats take on the North Carolina Tar Heels in the semifinals of the CBE Classic.

The tourney opens with a 7 PM (ET) tip between Missouri and Kansas State, expect the 'Cats and Heels to hit the floor of the Spring Center in Kansas City around 9:30 PM. SBR's live NCAA basketball odds caught an 11 point line on North Carolina when the numbers first came out, that spread now down a half at BetOnline. Scoreboard bettors are looking at a pretty high tally for their total wagers, all sports books presently going with 148½ for the mark.

There isn't much history between these clubs with just four encounters having taken place, and it has been a long time since they last met in 1978. North Carolina won that clash to take a 3-1 lead in the series; Northwestern's only win over the Tar Heels came all the way back in 1946.


'Cats Off OT Squeaker Vs. Columbia
Doug Collins, now in his third season running the Northwestern (3-0 straight up, 0-2 against the spread) program, brings his squad into this event with an unblemished record, but there have already been a couple of close calls. They failed to cover a 15 point home spread last week in a 79-72 victory over Fairfield, a team the Tar Heels pasted by a 92-65 count, then needed overtime on Friday to get past Columbia, 83-80, as 5½ point chalk.

Both of those contests carried 140 point totals, so 'over' bettors have been happy with NW's performance so far. The Wildcats are averaging just above 80 points per game in the early going, putting them in the top quarter of the country on the scoreboard.

Collins has already lost one important piece on a squad expected to at least contend for an NIT invite. Sophomore forward Vic Law will miss the entire season with a shoulder injury after scoring 7.0 PPG a year ago and logging the fourth most minutes. Law was also second on the team in rebounding (4.8 rpg). Now Northwestern may miss another sophomore forward for this game and possibly beyond after Gavin Skelly turned an ankle in the victory against Columbia.

The Wildcats still have a nice frontcourt led by 7-foot center Alex Olah and freshman Aaron Falzon, both averaging double-digits on the scoring end and combining for 11 boards a game. True freshman Bryant McIntosh leads the team in scoring (21.3 ppg) and is joined in the backcourt by senior Tre Demps (15.3 ppg).


Heels Blow 16-Point 2nd-Half Lead At NIU
We all expected Roy Williams to bring North Carolina (3-1 SU, 2-2 ATS) into this one with a perfect record, but Northern Iowa changed all that this past Saturday with a 71-67 upset in Cedar Falls. The Tar Heels closed as 6½ point road favorites, marking their second consecutive failed cover after a 78-58 triumph over Wofford as 23 point chalk.

Much was made of the absence of Marcus Paige in Saturday's loss, beginning with the fact the senior guard is from nearby Marion, Iowa. Paige led the Heels in scoring (14.1 ppg) and assists (4.5 apg) a year ago, but broke a bone in his right hand before the season started and is expected to miss at least two more weeks, possibly returning for the team's December 6 home matchup against Davidson.

North Carolina led by as many as 16 in the second half against Northern Iowa before the Panthers took charge with a 29-8 run. Twelve turnovers -- to 6 for the Panthers -- played a part in the defeat, as did 5-of-18 shooting from beyond the arc.

The keys to a UNC cover tonight will be the play of guards Nate Britt and Joel Berry II.  The duo combined to go 3-of-13 from the field in the loss to NIU. North Carolina wins it, but Northwestern keeps it close enough to take the points for my free NCAA basketball pick.

NCAA Basketball Pick: Northwestern +10½ at BetOnline

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