This isn’t a rivalry, but this Game is plenty important for both teams given the upcoming Schedule. Louisville is on the bubble and still has three road Games in addition to hosting Conference leader Virginia. North Carolina isn’t on the bubble, but is far from having a top-Four seed locked up and travel in three of its final Four Games. In the only meeting between these teams, it’s expected to be tight and that’s seen in the spread.
UNC has been far from easy to trust on the road, already with Four losses in ACC play. Louisville is better at home, although lost its last two against decent competition in FSU and Syracuse. Beating Georgia Tech and Pittsburgh by more than 20 points is nice, but neither of those teams is worth much. The biggest stat that separates these teams is UNC’s ability to rebound and that could be the ultimate difference. The Cardinals rank near the bottom in the Conference in rebounding, while the Tar Heels are the best at getting offensive boards and one of the best on the defensive end.
The other factor for Louisville is that Deng Adel has missed the last two Games due to an ankle injury. While his absence hasn’t meant much against bad teams, he’s still a guy that leads the team in scoring (15.5 ppg) and minutes (33.6 mpg). If he can’t play, that will only take away someone that can help on the glass.
That said, Louisville is always a team that’s deep with lengthy players that can guard numerous positions. VJ King and Jordan Nwora have seen more minutes at small forward with Anas Mahmoud and Ray Spalding seeing most of the time in the frontcOurt. It’ll be important for them to win the rebounding battle against smaller, athletic guys like LUke Maye and Cameron Johnson. The hardest thing for Maye will be finding a shot against the length of Mahmoud. Theo Pinson will have the job of dealing with Adel if he plays, otherwise it’ll be King and Nwora.
The backcOurt is where the Heels have the biggest edge with Joel Berry and Kenny Williams against Quentin Snider and whoever fits in. As of late, freshman Darius Perry has been playing more for Louisville and he’ll split time with Ryan McMahon. The Cardinals are best at forcing turnovers and limiting easy looks from distance, but UNC excels at not turning the ball over and isn’t a great shooting team as it is. Williams is the better shooter, while Berry is more lethal when he attacks his defender and in this case, that will be Snider.
against better competition, Louisville has struggled to Scoreconsistently and if Adel can’t play, that will continue to be a problem. Snider is the team’s second-leading scorer, but he’s also 11-of-38 from the field in his last five Games. Louisville has length, but that can only get you so far when shots aren’t falling. Because of their ability to rebound, the Heels are in a great position to steal a win on the road.
Our Pick – NC +1.5