(1) North Carolina Tar Heels (36-2), -3, o/u 158.5 vs. (1) Kansas Jayhawks (35-3), +3, o/u 158.5, Alamodome, San Antonia, Texas, 8:47 p.m. Eastern, Saturday
by Oracle of Predictem.com
With all the hoopla surrounding head coach Roy Williams instead of his players heading into Saturday, it’ll be remarkable if North Carolina and Kansas even play an NCAA Final Four game at the Alamodome.
All sarcasm aside, Williams is getting the bulk of the headlines because he has to coach against Kansas the place that put a permanent stamp on an illustrious coaching career from 1988 to 2003. He now coaches at his alma mater in North Carolina where he won an NCAA Championship in 2005.
Admittedly, Williams doesn’t know what kind of emotions this game will bring out in him. He coached against Dean Smith and his Tar Heel squads in 1991 and 1993, winning the first and losing the second.
He has repeatedly said that he loves Kansas and will never play them in the regular season. So the only time they could ever meet would be in a tournament situation.
Such is the situation on Saturday.
The Jayhawks have faired well under head coach Bill Self during the post-Williams era. Self’s name ironically has come up at his alma mater at Oklahoma State as their new head coach. Self and his Jayhawks have won three Big 12 championships in his tenure and have gone to the Elite Eight three times, however, this is the first time he has gone to the Final Four not only with Kansas, but in his entire coaching career.
Enough about the coaches, right? This game is about the players. There will be a plethora of them on the floor Saturday night that will no doubt find themselves in an NBA uniform someday.
Tyler Hansbrough, who was a unanimous First Team All-American selection this year, leads the nation’s best offensive team (89.2 points, 49.1% FG), as he scored 28 points and grabbed 13 boards in their Elite 8 win over Louisville.
Hansbrough has been helped by a number of players throughout the tourney, though, as Danny Green’s services haven’t gone unnoticed. Green, who is well known for his pre-game dancing routine, has shown his moves on the hardwood by thriving in his 6th man role. Green scored 11 points against Louisville and recorded two big steals during a UNC run in the first half. Green also scored 15 points and recorded another three steals in the teams Sweet 16 win against Washington State.
Maybe more importantly is the fact that point guard Ty Lawson appears to be as healthy as ever. Lawson has slowly but surely come back from an ankle injury that noticeably bothered him during the ACC Tournament. Lawson has shown no ill-effects as of late, averaging 15.7 points and 5 assists per game in the tournament, not to mention turning the ball over just six total times in the last four games. Another positive step for Lawson is the fact that he’s averaged about 30 minutes in the past two ball games, something he hasn’t done since before his injury.
His UNC team is in familiar territory, as they’re the favorites coming into this contest, giving 3 to Kansas. The over/under is at a huge 158.5 points as well.
The Jayhawks have the ability to run with UNC, though. With that in mind, this game should be a fast-paced, exciting match up.
The backcourt of Brandon Rush, who would have turned pro a year ago if it weren’t for a knee injury, Mario Chalmers and Russell Robinson have been lights out for Kansas. The trio has combined to hit 24 three-pointers in the tourney, including 10 alone from Chalmers.
If bettors are looking at X-factors for Kansas in order to cover the spread, look no further than two players Sherron Collins and Sasha Kaun.
Kaun’s minutes have gone down just a bit from earlier in the year mainly because of the play of Darrell Arthur and Darnell Jackson in the paint. But Kahn made a big splash against their win over Davidson in the Elite 8, going 6-for-6 from the floor and making some big plays down the stretch.
Like Green for UNC, Collins has been a huge factor coming off the bench. He’s another great on-the-ball defender in the backcourt and has the ability to slash to the lane or hit the three-pointer, as evidence of his three triples in against Portland State in the first round. Sure, he went just 1-for-8 from the field against Davidson, but he showed no fear down the stretch in taking the big shot.
Neither team has a blatant weakness, but with the way North Carolina has played in the tournament so far averaging 93 points per game Kansas may have a tough time keeping up with them.
The over is 3-1 in the tourney for UNC so far and 22-12-1 overall on the year. Surprisingly, though, the under is 4-0 in the NCA Tournament for the Jayhawks (they average 81 points per game).
Betting wise, both teams have trends that look alike because of their NCAA Tournament domination. UNC has covered in all four of their games and are 5-1 ATS in their last 6 games against the Big 12.
Kansas isn’t used to being an underdog, but when they are, they tend to cover. The Jayhawks are 6-1 in their last seven games as a dog and 4-0 in their last four as a dog on a neutral court.
Both teams know that to be the best they have to beat the best. This is exactly what they’re going to get the rest of the tournament with all four No. 1 seeds in the Final Four.
With all of the great college players and future NBA players on the court, along with the storied tenure of both coaches, it should be a great contest from top to bottom.
Oracle’s Pick: This game is a coin flip relative to the point spread. We envision a ton of points being scored in this game though and while you won’t find us on the over in many big games, we think these teams blow past the current OVER of 159.5.