NCAA Basketball Spread: Off
North Carolina was the huge favorite to win it all going into the season, while Virginia wasn’t expected to be too competitive in the ACC. The Tar Heels have underperformed to this point, but the Cavaliers have been a great success story. These teams met just two weeks ago, and it was the Tar Heels coming out with 70-52 win at home. Virginia is 13-1 at home, so it will likely be tougher this time around for North Carolina.
North Carolina still may well be the most talented team in the nation, but they have some areas to work on in the next few weeks. The Tar Heels have struggled to close games out this year. The offense has been very good most of the time, but the defense is inconsistent. Having said all this, the Tar Heels are still a force to be reckoned with. Harrison Barnes leads the team in scoring at 18 points per contest. Barnes is knocking down 43% of his shots from beyond the arc. Kendall Marshall isn’t a scorer, but he is the perfect point guard for this fast paced offense. Marshall has racked up an amazing 275 assists already this year.
The Tar Heels frontcourt of John Henson and Tyler Zeller is a major strength for this team. Both of these guys are far quicker than the average big man, and that helps North Carolina get a lot of easy baskets in transition. Zeller averages 15.6 points and 9.4 rebounds per game. Henson averages 14 points and 10.4 rebounds per game. The length and athleticism they bring to the table is tough to counter.
Virginia is 21-6 and fourth in the ACC standings. Tony Bennett’s philosophy of tough defense and ball control has worked wonders with this team. Virginia gives up just 52.1 points per game, which is the second best mark in the nation. It’s next to impossible to find a good shot against this team in the half court set. The way the Cavaliers control the tempo of the game, it can be very tough to get into the flow of the game.
Mike Scott is the clear leader of this Cavaliers team. Scott is one of the best players in the conference, and he really can do it all. Scott is a great low post player, but he can also step out and knock down the long range jumpers when needed. He shoots 82% from the line, which is important since he gets to the line quite frequently. Overall, Scott averages 17.3 points and 8.2 rebounds per game. Joe Harris is the team’s best three-point shooter, and he averages 11.4 points per game. Jontel Evans is the best distributor on the team, and Sammy Zeglinski is capable of heating up from the outside as well.
This will be a real tempo battle. Virginia wants a half court game with a few possessions, while North Carolina wants to run and push the pace. I think Virginia stays close here, but the Tar Heels frontcourt should give them a rebounding edge that will be crucial.
Prediction: North Carolina 65 Virginia 60
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