College Basketball Betting: NCAA Championship – NORTH CAROLINA TAR HEELS vs. VILLANOVA WILDCATS (4/4)

COLLEGE BASKETBALL — April 4

NCAA Championship @ Houston
NORTH CAROLINA vs. VILLANOVA

(America’s Bookie Line: North Carolina -2, Total 149) — Villanova has been cutting a swath through its opposition, quite obviously, shooting almost 50% from the arc and almost 60% for the tournament. What is amazing is how they have navigated the normally tough conditions at NRG Stadium into a torrid shooting night against Oklahoma, where they hit eleven of their 18 tries while everyone else failed. This has indeed been an incredibly efficient offense, although there is a challenge awaiting them in North Carolina, which has allowed only ONE team in the last 28 games to even shoot as high as 45% (Notre Dame in the Elite Eight – a 14-point UNC victory. Villanova has proven that it can win even when not shooting too well, but that was a game in which they weren’t facing as much size as they are here. The Tar Heels can start 6-10 Brice Johnson (an All-American who’s had three 20-10 games already) and 6-9 Kennedy Meeks (a load) and then come off the bench with the likes of 6-10 Joel James and 6-9 Isaiah Hicks, who weigh 490 pound between them. And then throw in 6-8 Justin Jackson (lots of length) at small forward, and this is a lot of size when compared with Villanova’s four-guard lineup, where the “frontliners,” in effect, are 6-6 Kris Jenkins and 6-5 Josh Hart.

When you couple all of that with North Carolina’s proficiency on the boards, where they have a +8.5 rebound margin and are seventh in the nation in offensive rebounding (14 a game), you wonder how Villanova, with all due respect to 6-11 center Daniel Ochefu, is going to be able to prevent second-shot opportunities. Remember that the Wildcats had permitted 46%, 53% and 45% in their three previous games prior to Oklahoma’s meltdown, and they also allowed NCAA-bound Seton Hall and Providence to shoot 45% and 49% in the Big East tournament. In other words, teams can make shot against them. And now here comes the team that has the best chance at getting the easy baskets (50 in the paint vs. ‘Cuse, with 16 second-chance pts.).

North Carolina hits just 32% from three-point range, and so they don’t want to have to rely on that kind of thing. But the good news is that they don’t. They don’t need to here. They can either get out in transition, or penetrate with Marcus Paige and Joel Berry, while they park Johnson and his associates inside the seams of Villanova’s various zones. Of course, the Wildcats could change the dynamic if they could get hot again from the outside, but don’t lose sight of the fact that they are only 35.9% accurate themselves on an overall basis. So a rough shooting night in a rough place to shoot threes isn’t out of the question. The ‘Cats are second in the nation in free throw percentage, but UNC isn’t all that far behind at 75%. And with the third best assist-turnover ratio in the land, the Heels aren’t likely to let ‘Nova get a lot of cheap possessions, as they did against the Sooners (forcing 17 turnovers). With all the hoopla over Villanova’s 71% performance in the semi-final game, perhaps not enough attention has been paid to UNC’s 16.2-point average margin of victory, their ten-game win streak, which has come completely against NCAA tourney qualifiers, and their current 8-1 ATS run. Roy Williams’ experience in this position probably shouldn’t be discounted either; he is now in his fifth title game, and he has won twice with the guys in powder blue. He’ll cut down the nets again. Lay this very manageable number.

PLAY BY JAY: NORTH CAROLINA -2 ****

(All information is for news matter only; All games are graded on a scale of 1-4 stars. Lines are subject to change)