North Carolina Tar Heels vs. Iowa Hawkeyes Pick
North Carolina Tar Heels (3-1 SU, 2-1-1 ATS) vs. Iowa Hawkeyes (3-0 SU, 2-1 ATS)
When: Tuesday, December 8, 7 p.m.
Where: Carver-Hawkeye Arena, Iowa City, Iowa
Point Spread: UNC +4.5/IOWA -4.5 (Bookmaker - LIGHTNING fast payouts!)
Total: O/U Off
Last Time Out:
North Carolina lost 69-67 to Texas; Iowa hammered Western Illinois 99-58.
About the Matchup:
This situation is the type that legendary North Carolina coach Dean Smith would have loved. Rarely are North Carolina squads a genuine underdog at this point in the season, but that’s the situation that exists because Iowa believes it has Final Four potential and has shown no signs to suggest that’s a crazy notion. Through three games, the Hawkeyes have gone through their opponents like a hot knife through butter, blistering their first three foes to the tune of 99.7 points per game.
But North Carolina represents a massive difficulty spike for an Iowa team that hasn’t even been past the second round of the NCAA tournament since 1999. The Hawkeyes might believe they’re Final Four material, but they’ve got to prove themselves against someone a little better than the likes of Western Illinois. North Carolina represents the first real test of the year for Iowa; can the Hawkeyes prove that what they’ve shown so far is truly for real?
Scouting the Tar Heels:
Chapel Hill might be the one place in the country that didn’t mind seeing last year’s NCAA tournament canceled because of COVID because it allowed the Tar Heels to write off last season’s disastrous campaign as irrelevant. North Carolina appears back to being North Carolina, as it fought Texas all the way in the Not Maui Invitational final, falling on a buzzer-beating jumper despite shooting 11 percent from behind the arc.
And that’s Carolina basketball, in a nutshell, this year: the Tar Heels are going to live and die on rebounding and defense because this Carolina team cannot shoot. North Carolina has shot just 42 percent from the floor and a very weak 27.1 percent from downtown. Other than R.J. Davis, North Carolina doesn’t have a deep threat on the team. The Heels also struggle to score from inside, as four of their starters shoot 45 percent or less from the floor.
The reason Carolina is 3-1 so far is because the Heels rebound like nobody’s business and don’t allow opponents to get long possessions. Through four games, Carolina has yet to allow any squad to top 70 points, a major reason why they were able to make a run in Asheville. Against UNLV, the Tar Heels fell behind 13-0 but proceeded to outscore UNLV 78-38 over the rest of the game.
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Scouting the Hawkeyes:
This is where Luka Garza needs to take over the game. If he can keep Carolina from dominating the glass, the Heels don’t have a chance against the Hawkeyes. Garza is a matchup nightmare because he has the body to dominate in the paint and the shooting touch to hit from deep, which is why he’s basically been a man among boys in the early going. Opponents have had little defense for him other than fouling, but that hasn’t worked either because Garza has shot 81 percent from the stripe this year.
The concern is that Garza has been a full third of Iowa’s offense to this point in the season, and it remains to be seen whether the rest of the Hawkeyes can pick up the slack if Garza finds himself in a game that he cannot singlehandedly take over. To date, Iowa has had no problem doing whatever it wanted against lesser opponents, but schools in the MEAC, SWAC, and Summit League don’t feature players who are 6’11” and 265 pounds. North Carolina isn’t going to be intimidated by that kind of size, which means someone like Joe Wieskamp or Patrick McCaffery might have to step up and make the difference.
Cupcakes. Iowa has looked outstanding, but it’s pretty easy to look outstanding against the quality of opposition the Hawkeyes have seen to this point. The best defense the Hawkeyes have seen to this point is North Carolina Central, which isn’t in the top half of defenses in the nation. Meanwhile, Carolina has been testing its mettle against some challenging opponents. The worst team that the Tar Heels have played is 67 spots higher in Ken Pomeroy’s ratings than the best team Iowa has faced.
Sometimes, a team that’s beating bad teams is a good team, and it’s certainly not Iowa’s fault that it’s been destroying the teams that were on its schedule. But we saw what happened when Illinois finally ran into a team that could take a punch and delivers one of its own, and it threw the Illini for a loop. Iowa has yet to meet any kind of adversity this season, and North Carolina really has nothing to lose on this trip.
North Carolina will Cover if:
The Tar Heels can keep Garza from taking over the game. North Carolina has the rebounding ability needed to keep Garza from dominating the contest by holding him to just one shot per trip, and the Heels will have to be at their best on the boards in order to keep Iowa from running away with the contest.
The Tar Heels are not a great offensive team and need to keep Iowa to 75 or less to have any realistic chance of getting a win here. If North Carolina can take Iowa out of its game, the Heels will be in great shape. If the Hawkeyes are allowed to play their brand of basketball, the Tar Heels won’t be able to keep up with them.
Iowa will Cover if:
The Hawkeyes get off to a strong start. Iowa has played three weak opponents to start the year, and the Hawkeyes could easily lose their confidence if North Carolina comes out and punches them in the mouth.
Iowa has to establish right away that it’s the better team and can dictate the way that this game goes. Even though Carolina crashed last year, this is still a program that’s won three national championships and been to six Final Fours since Iowa last made it as far as the Sweet 16. The Tar Heels know what it takes to win against quality teams, but the Hawkeyes haven’t proven their ability to do that yet.
Dan’s Pick to Cover the Spread:
This is going to be a tough one to figure out, as both teams’ strengths play into the other one’s strengths. Iowa needs to get a strong performance on the interior from Garza, while Carolina puts everything into its rebounding. Both teams like to run, and both are looking to prove something.
However, Carolina can’t shoot, and Iowa can. The Hawkeyes haven’t played anyone of Carolina’s caliber yet, but they’re playing at home, and they’ve got an advantage that the Tar Heels don’t in Garza. I think Carolina hangs around for a while, but in the end, Iowa will be too strong. Give me the Hawkeyes. Note: Are you still betting on games at -110 odds? Imagine how much money you would save if you were only laying -105? Make that thought a reality by making the switch to BAS Sportsbook! Reduced odds, bigger wagering menu, HUGE teasers! A much better option that will save you BIG money! Click here to start betting smarter today!