Auburn North Carolina Sweet 16 Pick

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North Carolina

Sweet 16



If you love pace, shooting and tons of scoring, this is your must-watch Game for the Sweet 16. North Carolina does all of those things well, but Auburn has been unconscious, making at least 12 threes in its last seven Games. The Tar Heels, as the better overall team, were -4.5 point favorites as of Tuesday at 5Dimes Sportsbook.

Both of these teams are playing well so it wouldn’t be surprising to see one get really hot and come close to 100 points. Auburn almost did that in the second round in an 89-75 win over Kansas and has now won its last 10 Games. That’s a huge stat for a team that loves to shoot threes, taking more than 45 percent of their shots from deep in Conference play. North Carolina may not have the same winning streak, but that’s only because it lost to Virginia and then on a neutral to Duke by one point. Otherwise, the Heels don’t have another loss in their last 19 Games. 

The best and maybe only chance Auburn has to win this Game is if it continues to hit threes at a high percentage. It takes a bunch and makes close to 40 percent of them, while that’s one of UNC’s biggest weaknesses on the defensive end, finishing ninth in the ACC in three-point defense. However, the Heels have most of the other advantages, from a better overall lineup to having much better rebounding numbers.

Auburn is on a nice winning streak because of the threes, but also because its athleticism has overpowered almost every other opponent, especially in the recent win against Kansas. The same won’t happen against UNC because that’s exactly how the Heels want to play. Auburn’s most important players, Jared Harper and Bryce Brown, both love to run and shoot, but that’s how Coby White and Kenny Williams play. Both have a few inches on the Auburn guys, while Williams is known for his defense on the perimeter. It’s a wonder if Auburn tries to lean on big man Chuma Okeke a little more if LUke Maye guards him because he’ll have the athleticism edge. Unfortunately for the Tigers, those are their only three consistent scorers, while everyone else is a bit of a mystery. Big men Horace Spencer, Anfernee McLemore and Austin Wiley may play more due to UNC’s size, but none are dominant offensive forces. And while others like J’Von McCormick and Samir Doughty have had moments, they’ve mostly come when Auburn is running the other team off the cOurt. If UNC is leading and Auburn needs a bucket, it’s a wonder if those guys will be able to step up.

The difference between these teams is that the likes of UNC leading scorer Cameron Johnson and sixth-man Nassir Little haven’t been mentioned yet. Johnson does a little bit of everything offensively, including shoot 46.3% from deep, and Auburn doesn’t exactly have a great match up for him with guys like Doughty and Malik DuNBAr. Then there’s the freshman Little, who has racked up 39 points in 38 minutes in the Tournament, which is the definition of difference maker. 

While Harper and Brown have been great for Auburn, they both take the majority of their shots from three. Those could drop and the Tigers will stay competitive, but it’s hard to see this defense being good enough to stop the variety of scoring UNC has. For example, White can match the shooting of those guys, but he’s also bigger and quicker and can get layups whenever he wants. Throw in Auburn’s defensive rebounding that ranks near the bottom of the charts in the country and the Tar Heels should lead the majority of the way. Auburn is a scary team to go against because of its shooting, and that will be the case here, but UNC has a better overall team and that’s easier to trust.

Our Pick – NC -4.5

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