Approximately 30 minutes after Virginia and Florida State conclude; those making college basketball picks can turn their attention to second afternoon ACC clash between Louisville and North Carolina.
This contest is a four-seed versus a five-seed, but the opening sportsbooks line had the lower seeded Tar Heels as two-points favorites on the NCAA Basketball odds, which given the state of Rick Pitino’s squad, sounds about right.
Here is breakdown against the betting odds as the possible occurrences for this contest.
Louisville wins and covers because ….
They play with abandon from the opening tip and keep the pressure on North Carolina for 40 minutes. The loss of point guard Chris Jones has hurt Cardinals offense, but because of their defense, Pitino’s team can manufacture points to overcome their meager half court offense.
In recent victories over Miami-Fl., Georgia Tech and the home loss to Notre Dame, the Cardinals were not emotionally engaged from the outset and played uphill. This is a dangerous way to play and they need Montrezl Harrell and Terry Rozier to set the right tone and play with the passion needed to take down North Carolina.
Louisville loses and fails to cover because ….
The lack of a true point guard has left the offense searching and for the most part and the best shot attempt is a missed one, where Louisville can go hunt down rebounds to score in a frenetic situation.
Though the Tar Heels do not run as much as in the past as witnessed by college basketball handicappers and those dispersing sports picks, off their own missed shots, Louisville will sometimes be lazy in getting back and that was the key reason why the Fighting Irish were able to mount a working margin on the road and hand the Cards one of their four home setbacks.
North Carolina wins and covers the spread because….
They keep the ball in Marcus Paige’s hands on offense and let him be a playmaker as a passer or scorer. The Tar Heels roster does not have many players other than Paige who can create their own shoots, thus when Paige controls the flow, Roy Williams team is much more effective.
Also, North Carolina should run at every opportunity and see how well Louisville consistently gets back on defense. Based on the season, there are 8-10 points available to UNC if they aggressively push the ball.
North Carolina fails to cover the spread because….they don’t pay attention to detail. How can North Carolina be one of the best offensive rebounding teams in the country, yet truly mediocre on the defensive glass? This points to players relying on athleticism and not boxing out on one end of the floor.
With Louisville’s jumping ability, guys like Harrell can own the offensive glass and the Heels can give up a ton of points by not doing the simple basketball elements.
Also, if Paige is any sort of foul trouble, who consistently brings the ball up against the Cardinals press?
What to Expect
These teams split two games this season, each winning at home in dramatic fashion. In the first meeting on Jan. 10, North Carolina overcame a 13-point deficit with 8 1/2 minutes left to stun the Cardinals 72-71 as three point favorites. The Redbirds returned the favor at the Yum Center three weeks later, coming back from 18 down in the second half to win a 78-68 in overtime and managed to cover the five-point spread.
Besides pressing, Pitino will use plenty of zone defense, because the Tar Heels average just 14 three-point attempts and convert five on average. In the previous two clashes, UNC was 10 for 28.
Coach Williams’s crew has to work the offensive glass stay engaged and discourage the ‘Ville.
While this is not a vintage Louisville team, I like their chances against the college basketball odds since they are 6-0 ATS in conference tourney games the past two years and engineer the minor upset, so I'll take Louisville with my college basketball picks.
NCAA Basketball Pick: Louisville +2 at The Greek