Villanova vs. North Carolina Picks and NCAA Tournament Odds
by Alan Matthews - 3/22/2013
I probably could have picked an easier game to forecast in Friday's second-round NCAA Tournament play than the matchup between No. 8 North Carolina and No. 9 Villanova in Kansas City, but what fun would that be? Plus, everyone not a Villanova fan likely wants to see the Heels advance to the Round of 32 and have Roy Williams face off against his former Kansas squad. He likely won't be treated well by what should be a very partisan Jayhawks crowd.
But first things first. The Tar Heels (24-10) are in their 43rd NCAA Tournament and third straight. They have advanced to at least the regional final in six of their last seven appearances. UNC hasn't lost its Big Dance opener since being shocked by Weber State in 1999.
Villanova (20-13) makes its 32nd appearance and first since 2011 when it lost in the first round to George Mason. The Wildcats were definitely sweating an at-large bid as late as March 3. That day they lost at Pittsburgh 73-64 in overtime to drop to 18-12 overall and 9-8 in the Big East. They were very much on the bubble, with ESPN having them among the last four in. But Villanova likely cinched its spot in its next game, upsetting No. 5 Georgetown for the school's third win over a Top-5 team this season -- all at Philly's Wells Fargo Center.
Villanova vs. North Carolina Betting Story Lines
I have no clue what North Carolina is. Following a blowout loss at Miami on Feb. 9 that dropped the Heels to 16-7 and 6-4 in the ACC -- and had some questioning their NCAA Tournament at-large chances -- Williams had seen enough. He yanked forward Desmond Hubert from the starting five and inserted P.J. Hairston to give UNC a four-guard lineup of Hairston, Marcus Paige, Reggie Bullock and Dexter Strickland. Carolina played very well its next game, a five-point loss at No. 2 Duke, and then won its next six in impressive fashion. Duke brought UNC back to earth with a dominant victory in the regular-season finale, but the Heels reached the ACC Tournament final, where they lost to Miami for a third time. UNC is averaging only 9.2 turnovers in the 10 games since the switch.
Hairston has been arguably the team's best player since starting, while Hubert barely plays now. In the past 15 games overall, the only UNC losses are to Miami and Duke. Really, though, this team only goes as far as James Michael McAdoo, a preseason National Player of the Year favorite, takes it. McAdoo has been good, averaging 14.4 points and 7.4 rebounds this season, but not quite the potential No. 1 overall NBA pick he was projected to be. As usual, the Heels are among the nation's highest-scoring teams (77.2) and in the assist leaders (17.3 per game). Defense has been an issue, with UNC ranking No. 236 nationally in allowing 69.1 points per game.
Villanova coach Jay Wright loves his guard-heavy lineup, and this year is no different as he starts three. The team's best player, however, is 6-foot-7 sophomore forward JayVaughn Pinkston, who averages 13.1 points and 4.9 rebounds per game. Leading rebounder Mouphtaou Yarou (9.7 ppg, 7.8 rebounds per game) likely will check McAdoo.
Villanova isn't a great offensive team, averaging 67.8 points (No. 167 nationally) and shooting 41.5 percent from the floor (No. 262). Another problem is that Villanova is No. 323 in turnovers per game (15.7) and No. 296 in three-point field goal percentage defense (36.6). UNC is among the national leaders in turnovers forced (15.3) and No. 44 in three-point shooting (37.4 percent). The Wildcats are 6-8 when an opponent hits at least nine three-pointers in a game, and UNC is No. 32 in three-pointers made nationally (7.5 per game).
Villanova is 4-10 all-time against the Tar Heels and 1-4 in the NCAA Tournament -- the teams last met in the 2009 Final Four when that excellent UNC squad won easily on the way to the National Championship in Detroit. In every previous NCAA Tournament matchup of the two teams, one of them went on to the Final Four. The Wildcats are 2-4 all-time as a No. 9 seed. The last time UNC was a No. 8, it made an improbable run to the 2000 Final Four, losing to Florida in Coach Bill Guthridge's final game (he was Dean Smith's first replacement).
Villanova vs. North Carolina NCAA Tournament Betting Odds and Key Trends
At WagerWeb, UNC is a four-point favorite (-185 on moneyline) with the total at 143. Villanova was a Big East-best 19-10-1 ATS this season (8-3-1 away) and 12-16-0 “over/under” (4-7 away). The Heels were 19-12-0 ATS (7-5 away) and 14-17-0 O/U (4-8 away).
Villanova is 0-4 ATS in its past four NCAA Tournament games. The Wildcats are 4-0 ATS in their past four this season after a loss. They have covered four of their past six nonconference games. The Heels have covered two of their past seven neutral-site games. They have covered five of their past six this season after an ATS loss. The under is 5-0 in Villanova's past five nonconference games. The over is 4-0 in UNC's past four neutral-site games.
Villanova vs. North Carolina Picks and Betting Predictions
Staying out of foul trouble will be vital for UNC's starters as the club isn't deep at all -- only guard Leslie McDonald plays significant minutes off the bench. A victory would be the 700th of Williams' coaching career, putting him in an exclusive club with Mike Krzyzewski, Jim Boeheim and Bob Huggins as active coaches with at least 700.
Which Villanova shows up? The one that beat Louisville, Georgetown, Marquette and Syracuse or the one that lost to Columbia, Seton Hall and Providence twice? That's the thing: All of the Wildcats' quality wins have been a home. I think UNC would win this game close in Philly and wins it handily Friday. Also take the over.
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