Boston College Eagles vs. North Carolina Tarheels Preview and Pick

Boston College Eagles (12-6) +18.5, 160 O/U at North Carolina Tar Heels (19-1) -18.5, 160 O/U, Dean Smith Center, Chapel Hill, N.C., 7 PM Eastern, Thursday
by Badger of

The No. 4-ranked North Carolina Tar Heels will try and hand their ACC counterpart Boston College Eagles a third straight conference loss when they host them at the Dean Smith Center Thursday night in the first game of a doubleheader on ESPN.

North Carolina will be well rested having taken a full week off since their last game, a 98-82 victory over Miami in Coral Gables, Fla., on January 23rd. The Tar Heels will be back in the Dean Dome for the first time since their only loss of the season, an 82-80 stunner at the hands of Maryland.

Boston College meanwhile has been stumbling through their ACC schedule of late, taking a beaten at the hands of the state of Virginia the past week. First, the Eagles lost at Virginia, 84-66, on Jan. 19th. They followed that one with a heartbreaking loss to Virginia Tech on Jan. 26th, an 81-73 defeat in overtime. The back-to- back losses were hard on the Eagles, especially since they opened up ACC play with impressive victories over Wake Forest and Miami.

The Oddsmaker in Las Vegas opened the game with North Carolina as 18- point favorites, with a 160-point total. The Tar Heels are also a heavy favorite on the moneyline at most offshore betting websites, starting at -2800, with Boston College listed at +1840.

North Carolina boasts one of the countrys premier offenses, averaging 91.4 points per game (2nd overall in NCAA). Forward Tyler Hansbrough is a monster inside, averaging 22 points and 10.1 rebounds per game, and the Heels complement him well with a steady flow of guards and wings like Wayne Ellington (16.8 ppg), Ty Lawson (13.9 ppg), Danny Green (12.1 ppg) and Deon Thompson (8.8 ppg) that can all slash and put the ball in the basket.

The Tar Heels shoot nearly 50 percent from the floor (48.3), have one of the top rebounding teams in the land (plus 11 margin – 2nd), and are equally strong from behind the 3-point arc (37.2 percent). Add all of this up and you have a versatile, inside-out, balanced attack that will be playing long into March and April when the rest of the country is just watching.

The Boston College offense goes through guard Tyrese Rice. Rice is the team leader in points (20), assists (5.1) and steals (1.5) per game and is rarely taken off the floor as his 45-minute, 27-point effort versus Virginia Tech would indicate. Backcourt mate Rakim Sanders (12.6 ppg) and forward Shamari Spears (11.2 ppg, 7.4 rpg) are nice complementary players for the Eagles, but with a 73.8 points per game average, the Eagles might not have enough weapons to hang in an up-n-down battle versus the Heels at home.

The lone weakness for the Tar Heels is their defense. When they score 90-plus points a game it doesnt really matter, but it is the reason they lost to Maryland, a really strong defensive team that made the Heels work for every point on every possession. North Carolina allows 71.8 points per game and also allows decent shooting percentages overall (42.3 FG%, 32.9 3-point%), but again, it hardly matters when they are racing down the floor to convert easy hoops on the offense end.

Boston Colleges numbers on defense mirror the Tar Heels (68.7 ppg, 41.9 FG%, 33.3 3-point%), so dont expect either offense to have a huge struggle to get the ball into the hoop. The Eagles arent especially strong at rebounding either (just a 1.9 margin), which will kill them if they give Hansbrough and the rest of the Heels a lot of second chance points in the paint.

North Carolina has been a cash cow for bettors this season, sporting a rock-solid 13-4 ATS record so far. A lot of that money was made on the early portion of the schedule tough, as they are just 2-3 ATS in ACC play. Bettors have also been cashing in on the over in Tar Heel games, as they are 12-5 versus the total this year including five in a row and 11 of their last 15 on Thursday night.

Boston College is a disappointing 6-7 ATS this year, but they have been a stronger road team over the past few seasons (32-15 ATS last 47 road contests). The Eagles are also a strong over play, going over the total in 10 of their 13 games with a total listed this season.

North Carolina won both games versus the Eagles last year straight up, but only covered the spread in the home game at the Dean Dome (a 71-56 win as 11-point faves). BC not only won both games versus NC in 2006, but they covered the number both times as well. Both games last season ended up coming in under the total, one year after both games come in over the total in 06.

Badgers Pick: I normally dont like huge favorites in college basketball, there are too many intangibles involved in the whole college atmosphere. North Carolina will win this game, and they will flirt with the 18-to-20 margin of victory as well, but in the end I think the Eagles will play inspired versus the top-ranked Tar Heels and keep it close enough to cover. So take BC plus the points in this game.