These teams may not be familiar with each other, but the coaches are. Washington head coach Mike Hopkins spent all of his early years at Syracuse under Jim Boeheim. That’s relative because the Huskies are all about the 2-3 zone, which is what North Carolina has to play against every year. As expected, the Tar Heels are -11.5 point favorites at 5Dimes Sportsbook.
UNC played Syracuse only a few weeks ago and it was an extremely high scoring Game in a 93-85 win. It was close for the first half, but then Coby White started hitting some shots en route to 34 points with Cameron Johnson next at 16 points. The Heels didn’t shoot well at 9-for-29 behind the arc, but they attacked the zone and took 37 free throws, while also grabbing 18 offensive rebounds (a problem in the zone). If they Scoreand rebound like that again, Washington probably won’t have a chance because it’s not a team that regularly scores above 70 points. The Huskies don’t do anything well defensively, turning the ball over on almost 20% of possessions and if their defense doesn’t work, they may not be able to cover.
The Heels started slow in the first Game and didn’t end up covering because the Gaels hit 15 threes. Otherwise, the offense did what was expected, scoring 1.21 points per possession. OUtside of leading scorer Cameron Johnson (17.1 ppg), the Heels don’t have any great shooters and that’s the reason Washington can stay competitive. Then again, White will likely attack the zone, while Johnson, LUke Maye and Garrison Brooks feast on the offensive glass. In the zone, Washington’s main problem is getting rebounds and that’ll more than likely be an issue in this Game as it’s actually worse in collecting defensive boards than Syracuse with a 34.7 rebounding percentage. In comparison, UNC is one of the best defensive rebounding teams in the country at 22.8%.
To stay competitive, the Huskies will somehow need to repeat their shooting from the first Game when they went 10-for-17 from three. While Washington should make some threes, it’s unlikely it has a similar number since only two of its players are better than 36%. Jaylen Nowell is by far the best shooter on the team and leads the Huskies in scoring at 16.3 points per Game, and Kenny Williams, UNC’s best defender, will likely mark him. To have a chance to win, the Huskies will need a little more from everyone else, whether that’s Noah Dickerson matching what LUke Maye does, or someone like David Crisp or Matisse Thybulle having more of an offensive impact.
Washington is coming off a nice win, but it could easily get run off the cOurt if it can’t hit close to 40% of its threes and the zone defense doesn’t work. Considering the experience Roy Williams has against this zone, it’s hard to see the Heels being flummoxed, and with arguably three of the best offensive players in this Game in White, Johnson and Maye, it’ll be hard to back the other side. As of note, the last time Syracuse beat UNC was in 2014 when the Heels were a 6-seed in the NCAA Tournament.
Our Pick – North Carolina -11.5