North Carolina is arguably playing its best basketball of the season coming off back-to-back road wins and that’s not what Louisville wants to hear. The Cardinals have a nice Michigan State win sitting on their resume, but with two Games against both UNC and UVA on the Conference slate, the losses could stack up in the ACC. Along with the trip to Virginia, this is one of Louisville’s hardest Games of the season and it doesn’t help that it just lost at Pittsburgh.
It’s never a good idea to bet against North Carolina at home and this Game will be no different. The Tar Heels already dropped 103 points against Gonzaga in their biggest home test, while also destroying solid Davidson and Harvard teams just before ACC play. Louisville doesn’t have many advantages in this Game and that’s why it could get ugly. UNC has a turnover problem at times, but Louisville is one of the worst in the Conference at forcing steals. The best thing the Cardinals do defensively is get rebounds and that’s always what the Heels are best at.
UNC has an edge at almost every position, but surprisingly, the biggest one may come in the backcOurt. Freshman Coby White (14.7 ppg, 3.9 apg) has been excellent and his height will cause all kinds of problems for whomever Louisville throws on him, whether it’s Christen Cunningham, Ryan McMahon or Khwan Fore. They could use Dwayne Sutton or VJ King in different defensive roles, but then that’d leave no one to mark Cameron Johnson at the three spot. Senior Kenny Williams also has a size advantage at shooting guard, which won’t help. The consistency of the UNC bigs is another problem between Garrison Brooks, LUke Maye and Sterling Manley. Maye can step out and hit shots while the other two are bruisers down low. Freshman Nassir Little hasn’t even been mentioned yet and Cameron Johnson has maybe been UNC’s best overall player.
To make this Game competitive, Louisville’s defensive rebounding has to show up because that’s how UNC gets points on every possession. The other route to success is leading scorer and rebounder Jordan Nwora (17.9 ppg, 8.3 rpg). He’s having an awesome season, but this could be a long Game for him if he has to battle down low in the trenches. The way it could work in Nwora’s favor is if he’s matched with LUke Maye. Maye is an excellent scorer, but he’s not going to work Nwora down low like Brooks or Manley would do. The problem on the other end is that UNC has multiple guys to deal with Nwora and Cunningham is the only other Cardinal player that scores double digits, which isn’t a recipe for success on the road.
North Carolina gives up a lot of points, but it has good efficiency numbers, which doesn’t help a Louisville team that lacks consistent shooting. A lot of guys will take shots, but McMahon has trouble against bigger defenders, while top shooters Cunningham and Dwayne Sutton have combined for just 87 three-point attempts.
The Cardinals have length, but length often isn’t enough to overcome the speed and power of the Tar Heels. If they can limit White in the backcOurt, they still have to deal with Johnson and Maye and the bigs. The weapons are never-ending for UNC while Louisville relies on Nwora and simply hopes someone else catches fire.
Our Pick – NC -11.5