Friday March 22 7:47 p.m. EST on TBS
NCAA Basketball Spread: North Carolina -10.5
Ohio is the Cinderella of the Sweet Sixteen, but they face a tough matchup with the North Carolina Tar Heels. North Carolina was the consensus number one team in the nation before the season and they have been playing great basketball of late. One major problem for the Tar Heels, Kendall Marshall broke his right wrist last game against Creighton. Marshall’s status for this game is uncertain, but there is no way he’ll be 100%.
John Groce has done a terrific job with the Ohio Bobcats. Ohio knocked off Michigan and South Florida in two close games this past weekend. D.J. Cooper leads the team in scoring at 14.9 points per game. Cooper is a play maker who can create off the dribble or shoot it from long range. Walter Offutt is a transfer from Ohio State who is capable of carrying the team as he did in their win over South Florida. Offutt is extremely quick and he likes to drive the lane and get to the hoop or the free throw line.
If Marshall is unable to play for Carolina, you have to assume that Ohio will put some full court pressure on the Tar Heels. The Bobcats don’t have much depth on the interior, but they are very athletic on the outside. Opponents shoot just 29.3% from beyond the arc against Ohio’s aggressive man defense. The key for the Bobcats will likely be keeping North Carolina off the offensive glass.
Roy Williams either genuinely doesn’t know much of anything about Marshall’s injury, or he is playing it very close to the vest. Williams says the team is preparing as if it will be without Marshall. Stillman White is likely to get most of the time at point guard if Marshall can’t go, but Justin Watts might be an option as well. Both of them average about one point per game, so they clearly haven’t been a big part of the team this season. It will be up to guys like Harrison Barnes, Tyler Zeller, and John Henson to step up big if Marshall isn’t in the lineup.
Barnes has had a great sophomore season for the Heels. He leads the team in scoring at 17.2 points per game. Zeller averages 16.4 points and 9.4 boards per game. Henson averages 13.8 points and 10.1 rebounds per contest. North Carolina is the best offensive rebounding team in the nation. The Tar Heels will likely still look to push the tempo, but it remains to be seen how effective that will be without a healthy Marshall at the helm. North Carolina averages 82 points per game.
Ohio should be able to bother the Tar Heels with their aggressive defense in this one. North Carolina should control the boards and pick up the win, but I think this game stays pretty close.
Free College Basketball Pick: Ohio +10.5
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