North Carolina Tar Heels vs Iona Gaels Pick
Iona Gaels (17-15 SU, 13-19 ATS) vs. North Carolina Tar Heels (27-6 SU, 21-10-2 ATS)
When: Friday, March 22, 2019 – 9:20 PM ET
Where: Nationwide Arena, Columbus, Ohio
By: Dan Jamison, College Basketball Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: IONA +23/UNC -23
Total: O/U 166
Last Time Out: Iona beat Monmouth 81-60; North Carolina lost 74-73 to Duke.
Scouting the Gaels:
The Gaels aren’t a great team, but they’re on a bit of a run, having won 10 in a row to get to this point. Iona has found its way to the Dance for the fourth straight year, and this year looks like it’s going to have a hard time measuring up. The Gaels are loaded with juniors, not seniors, with Rickey McGill being the only senior who plays much of a role for Iona. E.J. Crawford leads the Gaels with 17.9 points, and Iona will push the ball as often as it can, ranking in the top 50 in tempo. That tends to work pretty well against the mid-majors on Iona’s schedule, but against North Carolina, a team tends to find pretty quickly that running with the Heels is almost always a bad idea.
Scouting the Tar Heels:
When it comes to Roy Williams in the first round of the NCAA tournament, set it and forget it. The veteran coach is as automatic as it gets in the first round of the event, owning a lifetime record of 28-0 in the opening round. That’s not a misprint. While Mike Krzyzewski of Duke has losses to the likes of Lehigh and Mercer on his resume and Virginia coach Tony Bennett lost to 16 seed UMBC as a 1 seed last year, Roy Williams has never lost his first game in the NCAAs. He should have no problem making that 29-0 because of the quality of his team. Coby White has grown up as the season has progressed, and Cameron Johnson and Luke Maye have given the Tar Heels quality senior leadership all season. Put simply, Carolina is dangerous.
NBA Free Pick: Spurs versus Rockets
Experience. Even though Iona is almost devoid of seniors, the Gaels do have the experience of three previous trips to the NCAA tournament to fall back on. There’s no way Iona is going to be intimidated by the prospect of facing a top team from the ACC’s elite, because the Gaels did that last year when they played Iona. On the other side, Carolina, a bit of a rarity in the one-and-done era, features a wealth of experience in its senior starters. The Heels know what they’re doing as soon as they get the ball, which is why they’ve been able to play so quickly without being a mistake-prone squad. That only comes from years of experience playing together, and it’s a vital intangible during this month.
Iona will Cover if:
The Gaels can make their possessions count. Iona is the furthest thing there is from a deep team, and it’s too late for the Gaels to change around what they do in order to match them up well with what’s facing them in Carolina. In order to have a chance, Iona has to make sure it’s as efficient as possible and wastes very few trips.
North Carolina will Cover if:
North Carolina can go for the early kill. The games featuring higher seeds have mainly been an exercise in domination by one seed, with the exception of MSU and Bradley. The one exception to the rule was also the only game involving a one or two seed that was close from start to finish, as the Braves got themselves in position early and just would not go away. Carolina has to bury Iona early and prevent the Gaels from getting the idea that they can potentially hang with the Heels. The longer Iona stays in the game, the tougher a cover becomes.
Dan’s Pick to Cover the Spread:
North Carolina plays quickly at all times, and the Tar Heels love to squeeze as many possession as possible into the game. Carolina is the very rare blend that has put together quality basketball with a breakneck pace, as Buffalo and Duke were the only other schools to finish in the top 20 in tempo and make the NCAA tournament. Iona isn’t going to be one to run away from speed, and that could lead to these teams putting up some huge numbers.
Given that both of these teams are going to be playing their preferred style of basketball, I’m going to go with the one that plays it better, and that’s Carolina. The Heels are more talented than the Gaels in every way and have the experience to match. This is the kind of game that should be a first-round blowout, and I’m going in expecting that. North Carolina is my selection.