Kentucky Wildcats vs. North Carolina Tar Heels
Date and Time: Sunday, March 26, 2017, 5:05 p.m. ET
Location: FedEx Forum, Memphis, TN
College Basketball Odds: North Carolina -3, 155.5
Kentucky vs. North Carolina TV Coverage: CBS
The Wildcats were nothing special through their first two Big Dance matchups against Northern Kentucky and Wichita State. They only logged a 79-70 win and non-cover as 20 point favorites versus the Norse, and then escaped with the 65-62 push as 3 point favorites against the Shockers in the second-round. One very important aspect that came out of those wins was the Wildcats ability to ball at the defensive end of the court. That carried over in a big way in their Sweet 16 tilt against UCLA’s potent offensive attack.
Though the Bruins got out to an early lead, it was all Big Blue Nation from that point forward with De’Aaron Fox making history in leading the Cats with a game-high 39 points. That tally now stands as the most ever scored by a freshman in the Big Dance. Though the Bruins converted at a 52.7 percent clip, Kentucky was able to seize control of the game by taking advantage of their miscues. The Wildcats forced 13 turnovers and prevented Lonzo Ball and company from hurting them in transition all game long.
A week removed from almost getting upset by the Arkansas Razorbacks, you would have expected a much tighter effort put forth by the South Region’s No. 1 seed. While they got out to a commanding 52-36 lead at the break, Butler found a way to close the gap to 10 with just over eight minutes remaining in the game giving those that laid the points flashbacks to the embarrassment that went down against the Hogs just last Sunday. UNC did manage to pull out the 92-80 win and cover, but there were some glaring deficiencies that must be highlighted.
Besides almost coughing up what looked to be a sure-fire cover, the offense was way too dependent upon Justin Jackson and Joel Berry II. The duo combined for 50 of the team’s 92 overall points. Though big man Luke Maye also chipped in with 16, I would have liked to of seen Kennedy Meeks and Isaiah Hicks get more play down low. Sometimes the jump shots fall, and sometimes they don’t. They did on Friday night, but that certainly doesn’t mean they will once again on Sunday. Thirteen missed free throws also leave cause for concern. The Heels simply can’t afford to leave points off the scoreboard against a team like Kentucky.
These teams played to one of the most thrilling games of the season back in the middle of December when they went at one another from T-Mobile Arena. It was a game of runs that was mostly dictated by Kentucky, but UNC took its first lead of the second half at 98-95 and then 100-98 with just 47 seconds left. Then Malik Monk hit the biggest shot of his young collegiate career by ignoring Calipari’s request to take it to the rack. Instead, he let it go from beyond the arc and hit nothing but nylon. After a Tar Heels miss and a couple free throws, the Wildcats put the finishing touches on the 103-100 outright win as 1 point favorites. Justin Jackson set a career high with 34 points, but it wasn’t enough to get the best of Monk who went for an insane 47.
Kentucky vs. North Carolina Free Picks
The South Regional championship is of the blueblood variety with both Kentucky and North Carolina two of the most successful programs in the history of college basketball. With as much firepower each brings to the table, this game is certain to deliver with a number of players certain to be playing at the next level as early as next season. However, I don’t expect the results of this game to differ much from the one that went down on a neutral court months ago.
North Carolina is a fine team. It has some very nice pieces to go along with some solid depth. However, it’s running up against a Kentucky team that’s won 14 straight versus the odds at BookMaker.eu and plays in the better overall conference evidenced by three of the Elite 8 entrants coming out of the SEC. UNC is the only left standing out of the ACC which has proven to be the much weaker of the two conferences with the other seven entrants failing to even make it to the Sweet 16. While UNC is the favorite and the region’s top seed, Kentucky is simply playing a better brand of ball at both ends of the court. UNC already had a nail put in its coffin by Arkansas. Look for the Wildcats to hammer it through tonight!
Kentucky vs. North Carolina ATS Pick: Bet Kentucky at BookMaker.eu
Kentucky vs. North Carolina Score Prediction: Kentucky 91 – North Carolina 80