NCAA Tournament Picks: Providence vs. North Carolina

David Lawrence

Monday, March 17, 2014 12:30 PM GMT

Monday, Mar. 17, 2014 12:30 PM GMT

The Providence Friars very possibly got into the NCAA tournament by winning the Big East Tournament this past weekend. The team got a No. 11 seed by winning the tournament, suggesting that if it hadn't won the tournament, it might not have been in the field. Given this big opportunity, how will Providence fare against a young but talented North Carolina squad?

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The Friars can win because…

North Carolina has been one of the most perplexing teams in the country this season, partly because one of its most important players at the beginning of the season, wing P.J. Hairston, was not allowed to play due to an NCAA ruling on his playing status. When Hairston was removed, North Carolina took a big hit. Yet, even though the Tar Heels were shorthanded, they won at Michigan State and beat Louisville on a neutral court. North Carolina then lost focus, though, in losses against UAB and Belmont, and it started 1-4 in the Atlantic Coast Conference, losing to mediocre teams in the process. However, the Tar Heels fixed their problems, winning 12 in a row to shoot up the standings, and it seemed everything was fine. Then North Carolina lost two straight games and bowed out of the ACC Tournament early. This is another team that's hard to read. 

What emerges from this larger team profile is that North Carolina does not have a dominant low-post presence. James Michael McAdoo is a player capable of great feats, but also great disappointments. He will shine in some situations but then disappear in his next game a few days later. If McAdoo is not focused or in rhythm, North Carolina becomes an extraordinarily vulnerable team in the paint. Providence really attacked the backboards this past Saturday against a Creighton team that's seeded third in this tournament. If the Friars can do damage there, they can also do damage to North Carolina and McAdoo on the glass as well.

The Tar Heels can win because…

They have a player who can neutralize Providence star Bryce Cotton. Marcus Paige is North Carolina's point guard. His matchup with Cotton is going to be worth the price of admission in this game. Paige is a very resourceful and quick point guard who will be able to keep up with Cotton on defense. Paige is also a lefty, something that will make him even more difficult for Cotton to guard. Cotton is a tremendous player, but the fact that North Carolina can match up well with him takes away a big advantage from the Friars. This gives the Tar Heels a big opening in this game and should enable an inconsistent team to find its footing.

What should also be of value to North Carolina in this game is that the Tar Heels' early loss in the ACC Tournament to Pittsburgh should not be seen as that bad of a development. North Carolina won 12 in a row, and the expectations generated by that streak seemed to overwhelm the Tar Heels as they moved along. Losing early in the ACC Tournament gave these young players a chance to rest both physically and mentally. This team should not be mentally tired versus Providence. One should expect the kind of effort that will be too much for Providence to handle. You should see North Carolina's best, not its worst, in this game, which will lead to a cover on the NCAA basketball odds.

Outlook & Pick

North Carolina will play with a level of energy that will catch Providence off guard, so take them with your NCAA basketball picks. The Friars have done well to make the NCAA tournament, but their run will probably end here on Friday.

NCAA Tournament Pick: North Carolina -4 at Bodog

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