NCAA Basketball Spread: North Carolina -5
North Carolina suffered one of the tougher losses of recent years last week against Duke. The Tar Heels have to still be fuming about letting that one slip away. They did respond well by taking down Virginia in convincing fashion this past weekend. Now, North Carolina must go on the road against a dangerous Miami Hurricanes team. Jim Larranaga’s Hurricanes have won five of their last six games, including a key win at Cameron Indoor Stadium against Duke. This should be an interesting ACC battle.
North Carolina was the clear favorite to cut down the nets when the season started, but there have been plenty of bumps in the road so far this season. Dexter Strickland and Leslie McDonald are out for the season with injuries, and that has hurt the team’s depth in the backcourt. The team seems to lose its focus from time to time, which is a big concern moving forward. The 90-57 loss at Florida State was inexplicable, as was blowing a ten point lead late in the Duke game. Still, North Carolina has all the pieces in place to be the team to beat in the NCAA Tournament.
Harrison Barnes leads the team in scoring at 17.4 points per game. Barnes is knocking down 42.5% of his three-point shots. Tyler Zeller and John Henson form an extremely athletic frontcourt duo that can run the floor as well as any big men in the country. Both of them average ten rebounds per game. Kendall Marshall may not be a scorer, but he has an amazing 240 assists already this year. North Carolina leads the nation in points per game at 83.5.
Miami became a much better team when Reggie Johnson returned to the lineup after his injury earlier this year. Johnson gives the team a solid post presence who can change the game in a big way. Johnson averages 11.4 points and seven boards per game. Kenny Kadji didn’t play last year, but he leads the team in scoring this year at 12.6 points per game. Kadji is a guy who does a little bit of everything. He averages 5.7 rebounds and shoots 45.7% from beyond the arc. Malcolm Grant and Durand Scott give the Hurricanes a very talented backcourt. Scott averages five boards per game from the point guard spot. Grant is ultra-athletic, but he is shooting just 34% from the floor this year.
Miami was outrebounded 44-27 in their first meeting with North Carolina. They must find a way to keep guys like Zeller and Henson off the offensive glass in this one. The Hurricanes have had trouble on the defensive glass all year long. Miami is giving up 66.8 points per game this year.
Miami should play an inspired game here and keep this one close. In fact, I think this one goes right down to the wire.
Free College Basketball Pick: Miami +5
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