North Carolina Tar Heels vs. Ohio State Buckeyes Preview and Pick – Point Spread

North Carolina Tar Heels (3-0 SU, 0-2 ATS) vs. Ohio State Buckeyes (2-0 SU, 2-0 ATS), 9:00 p.m. EST, Thursday, November 19, 2009, Madison Square Garden, New York, N.Y. TV: ESPN
by Ryno of

Point Spread: North Carolina -2.5/Ohio State +2.5
Over/Under: N/A

The Coaches vs. Cancer 2K Sports Classic semifinals at Madison Square Garden features two of the top teams in the country, as North Carolina and Ohio State battle in an early season non-conference matchup.

This will be one of the best college basketball games in the first month of the season. It features the youth and size of North Carolina and the talented wings at Ohio State, plus a matchup of two elite coaches in UNC’s Roy Williams and OSU’s Thad Matta.

North Carolina started the season 3-0 with wins over Florida International, NC Central and Valparaiso. The Tar Heels scored 88 or 89 points in each of those three games. NC Central is not a very good team, so a 47-point win there isn’t worth much. Florida International, coached by Isiah Thomas, lost by 16 to UNC but lost by more than that to Monmouth and Tulsa, so UNC’s win there doesn’t look so great. In UNC’s last win, an 88-77 win over Valparaiso, it was almost the same exact score (88-78) as Valpo’s loss to Ball State. To sum it up, UNC’s three wins aren’t as good as they appear to be. The young Tar Heels are still trying to figure everything out in the early going.

The Tar Heels have terrific size with Deon Thompson, Ed Davis, Tyler Zeller, John Henson, Travis Wear and David Wear down low. Thompson is a senior leader and leads the team in scoring and rebounding with 17.7 and 8.3 per game, respectively. Coming off an injury, lanky 7-footer Zeller is scoring 12 points per game off the bench. Davis, who is projected as a top five pick in the NBA Draft, is averaging 11.7 points and 8.3 rebounds per game. He is an incredible talent with good athleticism and an excellent lefty hook shot. Henson and the Wear twins are freshmen who are still getting into the flow.

The question mark for the Heels was their guards, but Marcus Ginyard, Larry Drew III and Will Graves have all been shooting well from outside. Ginyard and Drew are both shooting over 44 percent from beyond the arc. Drew is doing a nice job running the point so far with six assists per game.

Ohio State is 2-0 with a pair of blowout wins, a 100-60 win over Alcorn State and a 72-44 win over James Madison. All-American candidate Evan Turner has been exceptional thus far with 19 points, 17 rebounds and seven assists per game. He had a triple-double in the first game against Alcorn State. Sophomore guard William Buford is scoring 15.5 points per game. Junior guard Jon Diebler, who has been an inconsistent shooter in his first two years, is shooting the lights out at 58.3 percent from 3-point range and scoring 14.5 points per game in the first two games. David Lighty and Jeremie Simmons are also averaging double digits in points.

Ohio State starts four wings and one big man. Turner, Buford, Lighty and Diebler are all wings, while Kyle Madsen plays down low. Turner, who is 6-foot-7, acts as the team’s point guard most of the time. Simmons and Walter Offutt can come off the bench to run the point. Dallas Lauderdale and Nikola Kecman can come off the bench to play down low. UNC will always have at least two big men out there and possibly three with Henson playing small forward. The Heels will have a rebounding and size advantage, so Turner and Lighty must help out down low. Ginyard will be able to defend Turner fairly well. The Heels can match up on the perimeter with the Buckeyes except for the one big man that will have to guard a wing. Davis will likely start out on Lighty, but that matchup likely won’t hurt the Heels too much.

Ryno’s Pick: This game has all the makings of another down-to-the-wire excellent matchup in the early college basketball season. Whichever team wins this game will have a huge advantage on its resume. Ohio State has definitely been playing better than UNC overall thus far. But the Heels have the size advantage and can match up well on the perimeter. The key could be how well UNC shoots from outside, but Ginyard, Drew and Graves have looked plenty capable of knocking down 3-pointers. Besides the matchups, it’s hard to imagine Roy Williams won’t figure out his team can pull out such a big early season game. Take North Carolina -2.5.