NCAA Basketball Betting: UNC versus Texas
By: Willie Bee
Friday, December 17, 2010
Jordan Hamilton, a 6-foot-7 soph, tops Texas with 18.9 points per game.
It's been one day shy of exactly a year since the Texas Longhorns and North Carolina Tar Heels met on the hardwood. If Saturday's matchup at Greensboro Coliseum (1 p.m. PT, CBS) is anything like the previous battle, then strap yourselves in for a high-scoring ride.
The Dec. 19, 2009 meeting was greatly hyped with the two squads entering Cowboys Stadium on that Saturday ranked in the top 10. Texas was 9-0 with triumphs over Pitt, Iowa and USC. The Tar Heels were already showing signs of trouble with a 7-2 record against a fairly tough beginning slate, the two losses to Syracuse and Kentucky.
College basketball odds closed with the Longhorns giving up seven, a spread they would eventually beat by about double the margin in the 103-90 victory. Texas Longhorns held that 13-point lead at the end of the first half and dominated the Heels on the glass with a 56-36 rebound gap. The 'Horns only shot 41.4 percent from the field, but 29 offensive boards helped make up for that with four Texas players scoring at least 20 points.
The Longhorns (8-2 straight up, 4-2 against the spread) come into this year's rematch ranked 22nd by the writers, 25th by the coaches. Rebounding is once again a huge strength with Texas sitting seventh nationally at 43.1 per game. Shooting is also once again a bit of a bugaboo; the Longhorns are converting 44.7 percent of their field goals, 141st on the charts.
They've really had just two off games to date, a narrow 62-59 win at home versus Rice as huge 21-point chalk and a 73-56 loss at USC about two weeks ago. Texas closed as five-point road favorites in that game. The other loss came to Pitt, 68-66, in mid-November as 4½-point underdogs at Madison Square Garden in the 2K Sports Classic Championship.
Rick Barnes' squad is relying a lot on youth this season. Sophomore Jordan Hamilton leads the team with an 18.9 scoring average, also contributing 6.9 rebounds per night. Freshmen Tristan Thompson (11.3 PPG) and Cory Joseph (11.0 PPG) are the only players averaging more than 30 minutes of floor time per game.
Roy Williams' crew once again got off to a rather slow start by dropping two of its first four games, three of the first six. All three losses came outside the great state of North Carolina, slipping back-to-back in Puerto Rico to Minnesota and Vanderbilt before a true road loss at Illinois at the end of November.
The Tar Heels failed to cover as small favorites in the losses to the Gophers and Commodores, and were six-point underdogs in the 79-67 fall to the Fighting Illini. North Carolin Tar Heels is 7-3 overall, but just 3-5 versus the number. The Heels were 19-point favorites last Saturday at home versus Long Beach State, and held on for a 96-91 win. The 49ers played fairly even with the Heels on the boards and shot over 50 percent from the field, sinking 10-of-31 from long range.
Junior Tyler Zeller tops UNC with a 15.8 scoring average and adds 7.7 rebounds per contest. The 7-footer is complemented inside by 6-foot-10 sophomore John Henson (10.5 PPG, 9.9 rebounds) and 6-foot-8 frosh Harrison Barnes (11.9 PPG, 6.4 rebounds). That trio sets up a very interesting game matchup with Texas' Big 3 – Hamilton, Thompson and senior Gary Johnson.
This should be a fast-paced game that I like settled by a bucket on the final scoreboard. Late free throws, as always, will be important. Henson has been the worst shooter from the charity stripe for the Heels, hitting just 34.3 percent of the time (15-for-44); Thompson is Henson's counterpart on the Texas roster with a 48.1 percent mark (37-for-77). I'll take the crowd factor in the end and see UNC by an 84-82 final.
Texas will stay on the road for its next encounter, a Dec. 22 date in East Lansing versus Michigan State. North Carolina returns to Chapel Hill to host William & Mary next Tuesday (Dec. 21).