This is an intriguing matchup only because North Carolina used to be a team just like Texas A&M led by a huge frontcOurt. Now it gets to face its former self with a smaller team. For the Game in Charlotte, the Tar Heels are a -6 point favorite at 5Dimes Sportsbook.
UNC got off to a slow start against Lipscomb, but eventually separated and had no issues in an 84-66 win. The Heels have plans of reaching another Final Four, but getting there will be harder than previous years. They’ll have to go through the Aggies, which also got off to a slow start against Providence, but eventually pulled away and beat the Friars by holding the lead for most of the second half.
After starting the season looking dominant, A&M dealt with some injuries and lost its first five Games in Conference play. While it recovered to make here, it’s still a team that has consistency issues and finished 9-9 in SEC play. The same could also be said of North Carolina, which lost at home to Wofford earlier in the season. The Tar Heels at least put together some nice winning streaks in ACC play that includednumerous road wins against Tourney teams.
UNC beat Duke twice and lost once this season and that’s a relevant place to turn for this matchup because Texas A&M isn’t all that different from the Blue Devils. The Aggies have a couple huge guys down low that can dominate and also run a ton of zone on defense. The difference for the Aggies is that their guards aren’t nearly as good as Duke’s and that’s why the Heels have the edge in this matchup.
UNC’s best player is senior point guard Joel Berry and for the Heels to go anywhere in this Tournament he needs to play well. He draws freshman TJ Starks in this matchup, who saw limited time for the Aggies when they were at full strength. That said, Starks has plenty of talent and quickness and is equally as important as Berry to his team. The difference is that Berry is much more easier to trust as a senior.
But whenever playing A&M the biggest thing to worry about is the Tyler Davis and Robert Williams duo, both of whom can dominate the glass and make things difficult to Scoreinside the paint. Funny enough, A&M doesn’t rank that well in terms of defensive rebounding and that’s the area it needs to be strong. The Heels live on offensive rebounds and that’s something the Aggies will need to lock down.
There will be a lot of zone played in this Game so matchups may not be something to worry about. Either way, Williams and Davis should get the ball plenty in the paint with guys like LUke Maye and Cameron Johnson trying to defend them. again, the Heels have dealt with Marvin Bagley and Wendell Carter three times, so facing Williams and Davis shouldn’t be anything new for them. The Heels also have a lengthy and athletic defender in Theo Pinson that can mark up 6-foot-9 DJ Hogg, who plays the three for A&M.
It’s more than possible the Aggies can steal this Game, but that would require Starks to match Berry on both ends of the cOurt and then Williams and Davis to own the paint. However, the Tar Heels have seen plenty of zone this season and have sliced it up most of the time. And with those two bigs, there’s little chance A&M will try and play man defense.
Our Pick – North Carolina -6