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No. 12 North Carolina Collars No. 4 Gonzaga In Chapel Hill Saturday

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No. 12 North Carolina Collars No. 4 Gonzaga In Chapel Hill Saturday

Willie’s NCAAB season picks record: 20-14-2 (+5.25 units)

No. 12 Gonzaga (9-1 SU, 7-3 ATS) at No. 4 North Carolina (7-2 SU, 4-3-2 ATS)

Saturday, 7 p.m. ET (ESPN2)

Free NCAAB Pick: Heels -2.5

Best Line Offered: BetOnline

Don’t ask me why, but it seems longer than 21 months ago when Gonzaga and North Carolina met in the NCAA championship game. That matchup saw the Tar Heels score the game’s final eight points for the 71-65 win, redeeming themselves following a buzzer-beating loss to Villanova a year earlier in the finals and keeping the Bulldogs from winning their elusive first crown.

Mark Few and the Zags have a shot at exacting a little revenge for that defeat in Chapel Hill on Saturday, but they’ll have to get it as small underdogs on a jam-packed NCAA basketball odds card that finds 19 ranked teams in action and this marquee encounter the second of two top-25 matchups (see preview of Villanova-Kansas).

Zags 1-4 SU/ATS Last 5 On NCAAB Picks Vs. ACC

Idle since his team suffered its first loss of the season last Sunday to then-No. 7 Tennessee, Few is no doubt disappointed but at the same time has to feel good about sitting 9-1 on the season playing a tough slate without Killian Tillie. The leading returning scorer from a year ago, Tillie (ankle) is expected back in early January when Gonzaga starts its West Coast Conference schedule. That’s about the same time Few gets another key part of his rotation, guard Geno Crandall, back after the senior transfer suffered a broken hand last month.

Roy Williams sends his club on the floor for the first time in 10 days, the Tar Heels’ latest result coming in a 97-69 scrimmage at home against UNC-Wilmington, the final pushing a -28 closing spread at BetOnline. They’ll take another week off before battling Kentucky in Chicago, then host Davidson and Harvard in advance of the ACC fixture. North Carolina was without starting point guard Coby White for the game against Wilmington, and the freshman is listed as questionable for this matchup due to a sore ankle.

Heels Favored In Three Prior Clashes

All three of the previous meetings between the Bulldogs and Tar Heels took place on neutral courts, the most recent two during NCAA Tournament where UNC came out on top each time. In addition to the finals showdown in Arizona, the schools squared off in the Sweet 16 round of the 2009 tourney, a 99-77 rout by the Tar Heels, and in November 2006 at Madison Square Garden in the NIT Preseason, Gonzaga’s lone win over North Carolina with an 82-74 decision. The outright winner covered each time, with two of the three staying ‘under.’

In their losses to Texas and Michigan, the Tar Heels were lousy on defense; you can bet Williams has been working on that ahead of facing Gonzaga’s shooters. In a game that pits the top 2 scoring offenses in the country, I’ll bank on the Heels getting a little defensive help from the crowd with my free NCAA basketball pick.