NCAA Basketball Picks: Villanova vs. North Carolina

David Lawrence

Monday, March 18, 2013 6:14 PM UTC

Monday, Mar. 18, 2013 6:14 PM UTC

The Villanova Wildcats are ahead of schedule. The North Carolina Tar Heels are behind schedule, but catching up. The two teams meet in a fascinating 8-9 game in the NCAA’s.

College Basketball Betting – Villanova vs. North Carolina Picks

Villanova can win because…

It is an overachieving team going up against an opponent that can shoot itself out of games. First, the Villanova side. The Wildcats were not expected to be an NCAA tournament team this season. The Wildcats looked horrible at times in November and December. They did not have a full boat of talent and had been losing skilled players over the past two years. Villanova had been undergoing a steady downturn over the past three seasons. The Wildcats, who went to the Final Four in 2009, got knocked out in the round of 32 in 2010 and the round of 64 in 2011. They didn't even make the NCAAs last year, and many people wondered if head coach Jay Wright had met the end of the line in Philadelphia. However, just when all hope seemed lost, this team rallied in 2013. Villanova was able to win each big home game on its slate, beating Syracuse and Louisville in the same week and later knocking off both Marquette and Georgetown. Those four wins got Villanova into the NCAA field. An overachiever is a team to respect at tournament time. The Wildcats are going to feel that they have nothing to lose in this contest, and that's the actual fact of the matter as well.

The other thing to realize about this game is that North Carolina can get drunk on the three-point shot. The Tar Heels were a powerful low-post team last year, but the NBA claimed their foremost interior performers. This season's team is younger and more perimeter-based, and if it can't get to the rim via dribble penetration, it often settles for the deep shot, chucking up 25-footers instead of running a structured halfcourt set. This is the kind of team that can be one-and-done in the NCAAs without much of a thought.

North Carolina can win because…

The Tar Heels have been steadily gaining momentum and confidence in the latter half of the season. North Carolina reeled off seven straight wins in the Atlantic Coast Conference, finishing with a 12-6 record in the league after muddling through January as a team that was in danger of falling to the NIT. North Carolina head coach Roy Williams switched to a small-ball lineup, using quickness and shooting to overcome his team's lack of size and strength. The change worked, and freshman point guard Marcus Paige - who has been hitting big shots for this team in recent weeks, including Saturday's ACC semifinal win over Maryland - has matured a great deal in a short period of time. North Carolina's players are fitting into their roles and are acquiring more comfort on the court. On Sunday in a competitive ACC Tournament loss to Miami, P.J. Hairston scored 28 points on 6-of-13 shooting from three-point range, an impressive display that should only make him more confident heading into this contest.

The other thing to note about this game is that Villanova's four big wins, mentioned above, all came at home. Villanova has beaten only one NCAA tournament-level team on the road this season, the Connecticut Huskies. UConn was ineligible for the tournament, but it would have gotten in if it had been eligible. Villanova needs to show it can beat another good team away from home in Philadelphia, which is why it’s hard to take them with our NCAA basketball picks.


Outlook & College Basketball Betting Prediction:

This is a coin-flip game as the NCAA basketball odds makers have indicated. North Carolina could shoot its way out of the tournament and come up empty, but Villanova is weak against good teams away from home. The steadiness of North Carolina's progress over the past three weeks is what moves the needle to the Tar Heels' side for our sports picks.

College Basketball Pick: UNC -3.5 at Bet365

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