For some reason in all of the 8-9 matchups this year, there is one hands down favorite with the general public. This Game is no different as roughly 70 percent of people are picking North Carolina to advance. Even though the Tar Heels are -4 point favorites, this Game is usually closer to a toss-up.
The thing about North Carolina is that even though they are playing better lately, they still don’t have very many good wins on the season. They only have two wins over Tournament teams and those were both at home to UNLV and NC State. So, why all the love? Well, it’s mainly because of their name. If you see a team like North Carolina in an 8-9 matchup, wouldn’t you automatically pick them? And of course, everyone is looking foward to that Round of 32 matchup as Roy Williams could face Kansas once again.
It won’t be that easy though, as it never is in March Madness. Villanova has wins over Louisville, Syracuse, Marquette and Georgetown. All of those teams are a Four-seed or better. Of course, you can also throw in their home loss to Columbia, but no one really remembers that from back in November. While some of those results don’t make sense, it’s hard not to notice what they are able to do. Led by the slasher JayVaughn Pinkston on the offensive end, the Wildcats have ability at all positions. Ryan Arcidiacono and James Bell can both shoot from long-range while big man Mouphtaou Yarou mops up down low in the paint. Darrun Hilliard averages 1.6 steals per Game and causes problems with his length.
As a team, Nova has a big problem of giving it away as they average 16 turnovers per Game. The bad thing in this matchup is that’s where the Tar Heels capitalize. UNC forces 9.2 steals and 16.2 turnovers per Game while only giving up 10.4 themselves. It’s going to be a major problem if the Wildcats can’t hold onto the ball. They have Four players that average at least two turnovers per Game.
For North Carolina, since inserting P.J Hairston into the starting lineup, the team has been a lot more successful. It’s been a different look from UNC who doesn’t typically play small ball. While Nova has their two shooters, the Tar Heels have two even better shooters and two more on top of that. Hairston and Reggie Bullock have made over 80 threes on the year while Marcus Paige and Leslie McDonald have made 41 apiece. To beat this team, you have to defend the three. Of course, you can’t forget about James Michael McAdoo down low, their leading scorer. As their de facto center, it will be interesting to see what McAdoo will be able to do against the stronger Yarou of Villanova.
The Tar Heels are maybe a little more athletic and better shooters, but Nova played in a tougher Conference and is a team that you can’t overlook. Many teams have already done so and ended up on the wrong side of the result.