Virginia Cavaliers vs. North Carolina Tar Heels Pick
Virginia Cavaliers (20-2 SU, 16-6 ATS) vs. North Carolina Tar Heels (19-4 SU, 14-7-2 ATS)When: Monday, February 11, 2019 – 7 PM ET
Where: Dean Smith Center, Chapel Hill, N.C.
By: Dan Jamison, College Basketball Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: UVA -1/UNC +1
Total: O/U 142.5
Last Time Out: Virginia lost 81-71 to Duke; North Carolina escaped Miami 88-85 in overtime.
Scouting the Cavaliers:
The offense was better than it’s been for the Cavaliers against Duke, but it didn’t matter because the Blue Devils shot 58 percent from the floor and 62 percent from behind the 3-point arc, which isn’t supposed to happen against Virginia’s vaunted defense. However, the defensive issues with Duke can easily be remedied by playing against a non-Duke opponent, as virtually nobody can match the likes of the Blue Devils’ athletes this year. However, Virginia’s offense was a major concern given the Cavaliers’ struggles against N.C. State and Miami, teams that aren’t exactly known for playing fantastic defense. To score 71 against Duke, which plays consistently excellent defense, says that Kyle Guy and Virginia have the offense back where it needs to be.
Scouting the Tar Heels:
It’s hard to believe that Roy Williams has never been 9-1 in the ACC before, but that’s exactly where the Hall of Fame coach finds himself as the Heels prepare to welcome Virginia to the Smith Center. Things got a little hairy against a below-average Miami team, but the Tar Heels rode Coby White’s 7-of-10 shooting from behind the arc to stave off the Hurricanes and win in overtime. However, they’re likely going to need a new strategy in this game, given that Virginia just got lit up by Duke from beyond the arc. Instead, the Heels will try to prove that they can do what they failed to do against Michigan: score in bunches against a good defense. Carolina ranks second only to Gonzaga at 88.3 points per game, but the Heels could only put up 67 against Michigan in a blowout loss earlier this year. North Carolina has to get its offense clicking the way it has been in ACC play to pull off a win.
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Tempo and style. Earlier this month, North Carolina scored 113 points on N.C. State. Virginia, meanwhile, played a game earlier this month against Miami, where the two teams combined to score 102 points. In short, these two teams could not be more different in the way they approach the game. Virginia is built around patience and good defense; North Carolina is offense-first all the way. By the same token, the Cavaliers will attempt to slow the game down and limit possessions, while the Tar Heels want as many possessions as possible. Whichever team gets what it wants is almost certainly going to end up getting the victory.
Virginia will Cover if:
The Cavaliers get the job done on the boards. Specifically, Virginia has to make sure that it doesn’t get pounded on the offensive glass. The Tar Heels are one of the nation’s best rebounding teams, and their rebounds always have a purpose: to quickly create another possession. What Virginia can’t do is let North Carolina extend possessions by getting offensive boards. The Cavaliers need to keep the possession number at about 60 to 65 per team to follow their game plan, and that can’t happen if North Carolina is getting two or three chances per trip because of offensive rebounds.
North Carolina will Cover if:
The Tar Heels get the job done on defense. Contrary to what their scores might indicate, North Carolina can play defense and actually plays it pretty well most of the time. The Tar Heels just give up a lot of points because their style of play leads to a lot of possessions for both teams, and the law of averages dictates that when you give your opponents many chances to score, they’re going to do exactly that. However, this game might not be the kind of run and gun style that Carolina loves, and if that’s the case, the Heels’ defense will be critical. Virginia is almost impossible to come back against because of its style, but by the same token, the Cavaliers have a hard time digging out of deficits. The way to avoid falling behind is to match Virginia’s defense with excellent defense of your own, something North Carolina is capable of doing.
Dan’s Pick to Cover the Spread:
This isn’t the same North Carolina team that lost to Texas and wasn’t competitive at Michigan. But that said, I still like Virginia in this contest. The Cavaliers still have some offensive problems to work out, but they mainly got back to what they do best in the loss to Duke. On the other hand, North Carolina played a much weaker foe in Miami and still barely escaped thanks to some hot shooting late.
Though the Heels got the win and the Cavaliers didn’t, I’m more impressed with how Virginia stayed in the game with Duke despite the Blue Devils shredding their biggest strength than I am with North Carolina just barely escaping Miami. The fact is, Virginia hasn’t lost back-to-back games in more than two years, and given that they’re only giving a point to the Heels, a failed cover would mean that Virginia would take its second loss in as many games.
I’m not taking a chance on that. Unless the opponent is Duke, Virginia has been able to exert its will on all of its opponents this season, and the same might happen to Carolina. Even if they are playing at home, I don’t think that will be enough for them to hold on against the Cavaliers. I like Virginia to get back on track and get a win it needs to stay in the race for a No. 1 seed.