NCAA Basketball Picks: Underdog Miami To Cover +6.5 Against UNC

Jay Pryce

Friday, February 19, 2016 10:21 PM UTC

Friday, Feb. 19, 2016 10:21 PM UTC

No. 11 Miami and No. 5 North Carolina battle for first place in the ACC on Saturday (1 p.m. ET). Can the Tar Heels rebound from a devastating loss to rivals Duke? Pick and analysis here. 

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Free NCAA Basketball Pick: Miami +6
Best Line Offered: at BetOnline


No. 11 Miami and No. 5 North Carolina battle for first place in the ACC on Saturday (1 p.m. ET). The Tar Heels dropped their fourth in a row to Tobaaco Road rivals Duke 74-73 on Wednesday night as overwhelming 8-point favorites. Can they rebound against the streaking 'Canes, winners of five straight? It may be a challenge.


North Carolina Tar Heels (21-5 SU, 10-15-1 ATS)
The Tar Heels' defense is better than usual NCAA basketball odds boards this season. Their 95.6 points allowed per 100 possessions ranks 35th nationally, but some of this success is partly due to the team's offensive efficiency (117.7 points per 100 possessions). Coach Roy Williams, never an elite X's and O's guy, can pluck some gifted scorers from the recruiting trail. Getting the most out of their talents, he sets his offense into a transition-flooding, tempo machine. Often times, ahead in games and pushing the pace, the unit tires out opponents, forces poor shot selection, and urges them to chase.

Where Williams and company run into trouble, though, are against conference opponents with efficient offenses that shoot lights out. In their last 28 games against ACC foes dropping 47.5 percent from the floor or better on the season, the Tar Heels are 9-19 SU and 8-20 ATS. In all but six games, UNC tipped off the favorite. In fact, after the Duke loss on Wednesday, Williams is 1-6 SU and ATS in his last seven in this scenario. The Hurricanes enter shooting 47.6 percent from the field..


Miami-Florida Hurricanes (21-4 SU, 15-8-1 ATS)
This Miami team is one of coach Jime Larranega's more balanced groups, ranking in the top 25 in both offensive (114.6 points per 100 possessions) and defensive (94.4 per 100 possessions) efficiency.

Since taking over the Hurricanes, Larranega is 15-4-2 ATS as a road dog in ACC play. Two of these covers were outright wins against UNC in Miami's last two trips to the Dean Smith Center in 2012 and 2013. In both those contests, the veteran coach's stingy defense held the high-flying Tar Heels to 35 percent from the floor and sub 60 points (68-59, 63-57). Can the 'Canes pull off another defensive gem? Maybe.

Its no secret the Tar Heels ignore the arc both offensively and defensively, which may be a boon for the 'Canes. They (Heels) allow a 36.8 percent opponent success rate per game (282nd nationally) while draining just 30.9 percent (316th) themselves. Nevertheless, how UNC shoots from downtown can be a difference-maker to bettors playing against the spread—despite it averaging a paltry 16.9 attempts . In UNC's 15 ATS losses this year, it has shot just 26.4 percent, while knocking back 36.4 percent in its wins above the number. Against ACC teams allowing less than 34.2 percent on the season, Williams' bunch is 1-4 ATS, shooting 26.6 percent from the arc, and have failed to reach their projected team total in all but one. Miami guards the line above average, yielding a 33.2 rate to opponents.


Final Analysis
Much like Duke, Miami offers some matchup problems all over the hardwood. Expect Larranega's slow play (only 55.8 field goal attempts per game) to frustrate the Heels. His backcourt's ability to protect the ball (only 10.8 turnovers per game) will allow the team to make the most of every possession. They may not come out of this one with another outright upset, but they'll be in it late. The line opened UNC -5.5 offshore, quickly adjusting to -6.5. For my NCAA basketball pick, I'll go against the movement and make Miami +6.5 the play.  

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