|-4 UNC (-111) @ pinnacle|
5 of 6 Experts (83%) with a pick against the spread are aligned. 9* play on the North Carolina Tar Heels (Spread).
Dan Kaiser: THE PROFESSOR’S CBB SITUATIONAL CURB-STOMPING
Analysis to come.
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North Carolina has endured one of the worst single season free falls that we have ever seen. After starting the 2019-20 season 5-0 and ranked in the Top 10, they ended up losing 18 of their final 26 regular season games and in a three-way tie for last in the ACC. But now the ACC Tournament begins and that gives the Tar Heels a “clean slate.” Before losing the final regular season game at Duke, UNC had won and covered its last three games. So there were some signs of a potential breakthrough. The first round tournament opponent is Virginia Tech. They lost to the Hokies 79-77 in January, but did cover the 7.5-point spot. This time UNC is favored as the game isn’t in Blacksburg. Since it defeated UNC, Va Tech has won just twice in 12 games. They are 3-8 straight up and against the spread as underdogs.
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Roy Williams' Tar Heels were ranked No. 9 in the AP's preseason poll but when "all the dust had settled" in the ACC's regular season, North Carolina owned a 13-18 overall record, including 6-14 in the ACC (tied with Pitt and Wake for the league's worst mark). It would be hard to make this up! Te Tar Heels open ACC tourney paly against the Va Tech Hokies, who are 16-15, including 7-13 in the ACC. Mike Young spent 17 years at Wofford, where he led the Terriers to five NCAA appearances, including last season. Wofford defeated Seton Hall 84-68 in LY's Big Dance, giving him the first NCAA Tournament win of his career. He took over at Va Tech, when Buzz Williams used Tech's Sweet 16 appearance last season to take the Texas A&M job. Young lost Va Tech's leading scorer from last year (Alexander-Walker at 16.2) to the NBA and couldn't convince the 6-10 Blackshear (14.9 & 7.5) to stay (he's a graduate transfer at Florida). The Hokies surprised by opening 6-0 and after a two-OT win over UNC on Jan 22, were14-5 (5-3 in the ACC). However, 'the bottom fell out' for Va Tech, as the Hokies went 2-10 SU and ATS over their final 12 regular season games.
Losing streaks of four, five and seven games have already made this a forgettable season in Chapel Hill, but North Carolina had won three in a row before losing 89-76 at Duke on Saturday. UNC freshman guard Cole Anthony began his college career with a bang by scoring 34 points in his debut. North Carolina opened the season 5-0 but Anthony went down with a knee injury in early December and didn't return until the beginning of February. He's played well since his return and checks in with a line of 19.6-5.7-4.1. Fellow freshman, the 6-10 Bacot, has averaged 9.6 & 8.2, while junior forward Garrison Brooks has had a strong season, averaging 16.7 & 8.8. Senior guard Robinson went down with an ankle injury just as Anthony returned but he's been back in the lineup the last SIX games and checks in at 11.9 PPG.
SEVEN of Va Tech's top-eight scorers are guards. Two freshman lead the way, Landers Nolley II (15.6 & 5.9) and Tyrece Radford (10.4 & 6.4). Guards Alleyene (9.0) and Bede (5.2-3.6-5.5) plus 6-5 SF Horne (7.6 & 4.2) complete the starting-five. Horne is the lone frontcourt player of note but note that Va Tech's two freshman guards are the team's top rebounders (see above).
One of North Carolina's MANY frustrating losses came at Virginia Tech back on Jan 22, when Tyrece Radford hit the game-winning shot with 0.4 seconds left in overtime. As noted, Va Tech's imploded since then (see above) and enters this contest with many (most?) of its best players struggling. Horne snapped out of a four-game slump in which he totaled 16 points on 6-of-24 shooting with 17 points on 6-of-10 from the floor in Wednesday's victory over Clemson and paced the Hokies in scoring again with 14 points on 5-of-9 shooting vs Notre Dame. However, freshman guards Nolley and Radford (team's top scorers and rebounders) have both failed to score 10 points in THREE of the team's last four games! The Tar Heels may not last past Wednesday's second round but expect UNC to earn a "revenge win" and COVER vs Va Tech, as the Hokies are 0-15 ATS in their 15 losses this season!
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Obviously it's been a horrible season for the Tar Heels, who have endured several long losing streaks this season. UNC has the best player on the floor in this one though in Cole Anthony and I believe the dynamic player will be a difference maker in this one. UNC did lose to Duke in its finale for a second time this season, but it did play much better down the stretch. The Tar Heels play with revenge here too after a 79-77 double OT loss to the Hokies on January 22nd (previous to the loss to Duke, UNC had won four straight). VT lost in its finale to Notre Dame. The Hokies only average 69 PPG and they're a terrible 2-12 ATS in their last 14 overall. UNC averages 72 PPG and it's 4-2 ATS in its last six overall.
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UNC finished with a 6-14 ACC record which was their worst mark since 2010. This is obviously a program that is used to winning as they’ve averaged 13 ACC wins over the previous 9 seasons leading into this year. They have talent, including a lottery pick in PG Anthony, who is back after missing much of the season. We think the Heels are a dangerous team right now for that reason. It’s a new season and if the win the ACC tourney they go to the NCAA tourney. New life for this team. They were playing well down the stretch winning 3 of their last 4 with their only loss @ Duke over the weekend. UNC lost that game by 13 but it was a 2-point game with under 10 minutes remaining. This team was playing their best basketball of the season heading into Saturday’s game @ Duke as over the last 5 games they’ve averaged 80 PPG shooting 47% overall and 37% from deep. Anthony, one of the best players in the country, missed 11 games from December 15th through the end of January. Even though he’s a freshman, he should be fresh for this tourney. Not only did Anthony miss time but Brandon Robinson, the Heels 3rd leading scorer, also missed a number of games this year including 4 straight between Feb 3rd and Feb 11th. Both are back and healthy. Since mid December, those 2 players have started and played together in only 6 games because of their injuries. This is a full strength North Carolina team that was simply haven’t seen for much of the season. Virginia Tech is an extremely young team with 5 freshmen in their top 7 including 3 starters. Many times freshmen can struggle late in the year because it’s such a long season and a grind they are not used to. We’ve seen that with the Hokies who’ve only won 2 of their last 12 games with those freshmen playing significant minutes. This will be VT’s 4th game in the last 10 days with 3 of those coming on the road, including a loss @ Notre Dame just a few days ago (Saturday). These two met once this season with Tech winning at home in OT 79-77. The Tar Heels were very short handed for that game with both Anthony & Robinson out and still took the Hokieks to OT on the road. UNC had some stinkers this year but for the most part they were competitive in their losses. Six of their last nine losses have come by 6 points or less and that includes games vs Duke (lost on OT at home), Virginia (lost by 2) and FSU (lost by 6 on the road).
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Best of luck!
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