North Carolina Tarheels vs. Gonzaga Bulldogs Preview and Pick

No. 4 Gonzaga Bulldogs +8.5 (28-5) vs. No. 1 North Carolina Tarheels (30-4) -8.5 Memphis, T.N., Friday, 9:57PM Eastern
By Jay Horne of

The North Carolina Tarheels sport the number 1 seed in the South and have looked very solid in Tournament play. The Tarheels will square off with 4th seeded Gonzaga Bulldogs this Friday to determine who advances to the Elite Eight. North Carolina is the overall favorite to win the entire tournament at 3/1 odds, but that is not to undermine a solid Gonzaga team who will be trying to cast the upset when these two take center court in Memphis. The Bulldogs barely escaped Western Kentucky in round two winning 83-81 and will have to play better against North Carolina. The Tarheels were pretty impressive in their win over LSU and they will be trying to put together another similar effort. The winner of this battle will get the winner of Syracuse and Oklahoma in the Elite Eight.

Gonzaga will enter the contest trying to slow down one of the most potent scoring offenses in the country in North Carolina. However, many people do not realize the Bulldogs are a highly effective scoring team as well. Gonzaga could be the very type team to pose difficulties for North Carolina if they could manage to put together a lot of points. Gonzaga has scored 79 points per game this year and has knocked down a very solid 49% from the floor this season. Gonzaga will need a big shooting night if they are to keep up with the Tarheels and get the upset that many do not believe they can pull off.

North Carolina offense is perhaps one of the scariest looking rosters in basketball. The Tarheels are loaded with offensive weapons and any of their starters could have breakout games. Ty Lawson had a terrific performance in his first game back from injury scoring 23 points. Lawson took control of the game scoring at will against LSU and if he continues that play it would make the Tarheels even tougher to beat. Wayne Ellington is the other guard on that will take to floor with Lawson and also had a solid night against LSU scoring 20 points. The North Carolina backcourt is nearly impossible to defense when they are shooting the ball well and they will try to be unstoppable on Friday.

Betting shops opened the betting line favoring the North Carolina Tarheels by 8.5 points over the Gonzaga Bulldogs. The over/under is posted at the 162 mark due to both teams tentative high scoring nature.

Gonzaga sports a pretty solid defense to support the high scoring offense. The Bulldog rank in the top 40 scoring defenses in America holding opponents to only 61 points per game. The Bulldogs have also held opponents to a staggering low 37% shooting from the field that ranks 2nd in the country. Leading the charge for the Gonzaga offense is a cast of solid performers. Josh Heytvelt and Matt Bouldin are both averaging right at 14 points per game to lead the Bulldogs offense. Also Austin Daye and Jeremy Pargo are both averaging double figures as well giving Gonzaga a bunch of weapons from the floor similar to North Carolina.

North Carolina has averaged 90 points per game this season which ranks 2nd in the country. The Tarheels are led by the play of the ACCs all-time scoring leader and former Player of the Year Tyler Hansbrough. Hansbrough has been solid like the rest of the Tarheels starters during the tournament averaging just less than 20 points per game. North Carolina will look for Hansbrough along with the two stellar guards to be the biggest impact players to lead the Tarheels into the Elite Eight and possibly make their run towards a championship.

Betting Trends
North Carolina is 3-7 ATS in their last 10 games while reaching the under total in 5 of their last 5 games as well. North Carolina is 16-2 SU in the last 18 games while Gonzaga is 5-0 SU in their last 5 games. Gonzaga is 8-1-1 in terms of the over vs. under total in their last 10 games.

Pick: Gonzaga gives North Carolina a hard time and keeps it close. Bulldogs +8.5.