NC Kentucky Elite 8

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North Carolina



Elite 8

College Basketball



In the only region without any major upsets, North Carolina and Kentucky will meet in arguably the most talked about Elite 8 Game of the weekend. These teams met in the middle of December in a crazy Game with the Wildcats winning 103-100 off 47 points from Malik Monk. With bettors expecting some Tar Heel revenge, UNC opened as -2.5 point favorites as seen at 5Dimes Sportsbook.

But just like the UCLA-UK rematch, this one will likely go a bit differently as these teams are much different than early in the season. Maybe the most noticeable difference between the teams is that Kentucky is actually playing defense in the Tournament and that led to a rather unexciting finish to the UCLA Game. To go with that, De’Aaron Fox looks to be on another level after showing up Lonzo Ball for 39 points in that win. Still, it can’t be overlooked that Joel Berry returned to his scoring ways against Butler as he dropped 26 points to go with Justin Jackson’s 24.

Considering there was no defense played in that first Game, it’s hard to take much of it into account, especially since Kenny Williams played 34 minutes for the Tar Heels and didn’t help much on either end. He’s out for the season. The most interesting stat about that first Game was that Kentucky actually outrebounded UNC, one of the best rebounding teams in the country. If that happens again, it’s hard to see the Tar Heels winning. And with how Fox is playing and if Monk gets on a roll for the Wildcats, it’s hard to see many teams stopping them, especially if they’re playing good defense.

Theo Pinson will likely be tasked with defending Monk most of the time and while he has some height, that may not matter if Monk gets going. Fox should have a free run to do what he wants again as long as he’s equally motivated as last Game. But will Kentucky get production from elsewhere? Edrice Adebayo did nothing against UCLA, while Isaiah Briscoe looked too scared to shoot most of the time, although he finished with seven boards and Four assists. The biggest x-factors against the Bruins were Derek Willis and Dominique Hawkins as they combined to hit five threes. But expecting Adebayo and Briscoe to be completely shut down in consecutive Games is a stretch, so North Carolina has its work cut out for them.

Still, the Tar Heels are favored for a reason. Their height will likely be a bigger factor in this Game than the previous meeting. Kennedy Meeks will be matched with Adebayo, while Isaiah Hicks will hope to bounce back after a bad Butler Game and he’ll draw Willis most of the time. Off the bench, LUke Maye played the Willis role for UNC last Game as he scored 16 points to go with three treys. The question remains if the Cats have anyone to defend Jackson because he’s playing as well as anyone right now. Listed at 6-foot-8, he’ll likely be guarded by 6-foot-3 Briscoe most of the Game unless UK decides to do something else defensively. Fox held down Ball last Game, but Berry kind of broke out against the Bulldogs and his play will be important on both ends of the cOurt.

Kentucky seems like the better team to back here given how it’s playing, but size can take away a lot of deficiencies and that’s what could happen here, especially with Justin Jackson likely having success against anyone that defends him.

Our Pick – NC -2.5