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North Carolina

March Madness



This is a typical 2-15 matchup with North Carolina a big favorite against Lipscomb, a team that didn’t win the Atlantic Sun regular season, but stole the conference tournament. As expected, the spread was up to -19.5 points for the Tar Heels at 5Dimes Sportsbook for the game in Charlotte.

Lipscomb tested itself in the non-conference, but it’s hard to say if those did anything. It lost by 22 points at Alabama, 23 at Texas and 32 at Purdue. Its closest game against a relevant opponent ended up being an 81-71 loss against Tennessee. On the other end of that, the Bisons are rolling and rightfully won its conference after close the season with 12 wins in 13 games. Most impressively is that they dropped 108 points in the A-Sun tournament final.

North Carolina usually isn’t a great matchup for smaller schools, but this version is different than others in that it doesn’t use imposing size as its main strength. That could lead to a closer game than people expect, especially if Lipscomb is hitting some shots. The Heels lost at home to Wofford earlier in the season and that’s the biggest blip on their schedule.

The interesting thing about Lipscomb scoring 108 points is that it dropped 12 threes in that game, yet rank as one of the worst three-point shooting teams at 33 percent. That’s good news for the Heels because that’s their biggest fault on the defensive end. So unless the Bisons catch fire from deep again, which doesn’t appear likely, UNC should be in business. On the other end, Lipscomb’s best defensive trait is defensive rebounding, which is a good thing to have against UNC. In fact for most stats, it appears one team’s strength is also the other team’s strength and the same can be said of weaknesses.

The question is if that defensive rebounding for the Bisons will show up against a bigger team. They roll with a lineup that features one player at 6-foot-10, while the rest are shorter with Eli Pepper and Rob Marberry the main guys down low. They aren’t a huge team, but apparently they know how to box out. Maybe most helpful for Lipscomb is that Tennessee has similar size to UNC and that may be reason enough for the Bisons to cover. They held strong on the glass in that game.

The Bisons offense exploded at the end of the season as none of their numbers imply a team that scores 80-90 points every night. They have two players that average double digits in Marberry (16.0 ppg) and Garrison Mathews (22.1 ppg). Mathews is one of two true shooters on the team and is the biggest threat to go off. Luckily for the Heels, they have a defensive specialist in Theo Pinson to try and contain him.

The other end could be a problem for Lipscomb as this is the type of game that Luke Maye dominates. While Lipscomb ranks well at defensive rebounding, it doesn’t have great overall numbers and allows better than 52 percent from two-point range. That should bode well for Maye, Cameron Johnson and of course, Joel Berry.

If Pinson can lock down Mathews, that could lead to a 20-point win for the Heels. If not, the Bisons offense has been rolling and has a real chance to keep this closer than expected. Still, nothing points to them being able to contain Maye or really anyone on UNC, which means 90 points is definitely attainable for the Heels.

Our Pick - NC -19.5

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