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East Regional Final Preview

East Regional Final Preview

UNC vs. Louisville
By Brian Edwards

North Carolina and Louisville are set to collide in Saturday’s Elite Eight showdown at Bobcat Arena in Charlotte. Las Vegas Sports Consultants opened the Tar Heels as five-point favorites with a total of 152.

As of early this morning, most sports books had UNC (35-2 straight up, 23-11 against the spread) listed as a 5½-point ‘chalk’ with the total adjusted into the 154-155 range. Gamblers can back Louisville (27-8 SU, 20-12 ATS) to win outright for a plus 200 return (risk $100 to win $200).

Roy Williams’s team advanced to the East region finals thanks to a 68-47 win over Washington St. as an 8½-point favorite at most spots. The 115 combined points stayed ‘under’ the 142-point total in a game in which UNC was facing its lowest total of the season, while the Cougars were looking at their highest tally of the year.

Tony Bennett’s veteran team led by senior guard Derrick Low and Kyle Weaver kept the game close for the first 12 minutes and change. However, a late first-half run allowed the Heels to take command by a 35-21 count at intermission.

From there, it was all UNC. Tyler Hansbrough, the junior power forward who was named National Player of the Year, finished with 18 points and nine rebounds. Danny Green added 15 points and five boards off the bench.

Rick Pitino’s squad has been just as dominant as UNC in its first three games of the tournament. The Cardinals won their Sweet 16 matchup with second-seeded Tennessee by a 79-60 score, easily cashing tickets for their backers as three-point favorites. The 139 combined points remained ‘under’ the 146-point tally.

As always, Pitino’s troops utilized a balanced attack, with five players scoring in double figures led by Earl Clark with his 17 points and 12 rebounds. The Cardinals led by seven at halftime and Tennessee never really make any sort of serious run.

Prior to taking out the SEC’s regular-season champs, U of L destroyed Oklahoma (78-48) and Boise St. (79-61). Dating back to Jan. 5, the Cards have been a big-time money maker, cashing tickets at a frenetic 17-4-1 ATS clip.

Louisville has only been an underdog four times this season, posting a 3-0-1 spread record in the process. As for UNC, it has a 12-5 spread record as a single-digit ‘chalk.’

North Carolina has won 14 consecutive games, posting an 8-6 ATS record during that stretch. The Heels haven’t lost since a home game against Duke (without Ty Lawson) way back on Feb. 6.

The ‘under’ is 20-12 overall for Louisville. On the flip side, North Carolina has watched the ‘over’ cash at a 21-12 rate.

Tip-off on CBS is scheduled for 9:05 p.m. Eastern.

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Re: East Regional Final Preview

(3) Louisville (27-8, 20-12-1 ATS) vs. (1) North Carolina (35-2, 23-11 ATS)

North Carolina flattened fourth-seeded Washington State 68-47 Thursday in its Sweet 16 contest, easily covering the eight-point spread. The Tar Heels have won 14 straight, and they’ve cashed in all three Tournament contests after going 3-7 ATS in the previous 10.

This is the Tar Heels’ third trip to the Elite Eight in the last four years, and they went 1-1 SU and ATS in the last two appearances, with the win coming in 2005 on their way to claiming the national title. Last year in this round, Carolina blew a six-point halftime lead and got bounced by Georgetown, losing 96-84 in overtime as a 3½-point chalk.

Louisville beat up second-seeded Tennessee 79-60 Thursday, easily cashing as a two-point favorite, moving to 3-0 ATS in the tourney. The Cardinals, who are in the Elite Eight for the first time since going all the way to the Final Four in 2005, are on a 12-2 SU and ATS tear, going 5-1 ATS in the last six.

These two teams haven’t met since the 1990s, squaring off three years in a row from 1997-99. Carolina went 2-1 in those contests, but Louisville cashed in all three games, all as an underdog.

The pointspread trends are almost all positive for Roy Williams’ troops, including 23-10 overall, 5-1 in the Tournament, 8-3 on Saturday, 21-7 against winning teams, 39-14-1 after a spread-cover and 41-17-1 in non-conference play. But the Tar Heels are 3-5 ATS in their last eight as a chalk and 1-7 ATS in their last eight as a favorite of less than seven points.

Like UNC, the Cardinals are on several positive ATS runs, including 18-5-1 overall, 6-2-1 in the Tournament, 4-0 against the ACC, 5-0 in non-conference play, 10-1 after a SU win, 13-3-1 against teams with a winning record, 9-2 after a spread-cover and 6-2-1 as a ‘dog. The lone blemish for Louisville is an 0-8 ATS mark as a neutral-site underdog.

Both of these teams have been flat-out dominant statistically through the first three games of the Tournament. North Carolina is averaging 96.3 ppg and shooting a blistering 57.8 percent from the field while holding the opposition to 40.9 percent. Meanwhile, Louisville – which has scored 79, 78 and 79 points in its first three contests – is outshooting its opponents 55.8 percent to 40.1 percent, and allowing just 56.3 ppg.

For Carolina, which ranks second in the nation in scoring offense at 89.3 ppg, the over is on streaks of 7-3-1 overall, 5-2 in the Tournament, 7-3 in non-conference play, 7-2-1 with the Tar Heels favored and 11-4 following a win of more than 20 points. On the flip side, for Louisville, the under is on runs of is 4-1-1 overall (all at neutral sites), 5-1-1 outside the Big East, 15-5-1 following a SU win and 10-4 as an underdog.


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Re: East Regional Final Preview

Elite Eight analysis & pick: Louisville vs. UNC

Louisville vs. North Carolina

Odds: UNC -5 1/2, O/U 155

Even if you only started following college hoops when the NCAA Tournament began, you know by now that North Carolina can put the ball in the basket.

The Tar Heels are the No. 2 scoring offense in the nation. Tyler Hansbrough is relentless in the paint. Ty Lawson and Wayne Ellington can shoot the lights out from the perimeter. And the Heels scored more than 100 points in each of their first two games.

But what you might not know is that this team can play defense when it has to. The gritty, man-to-man, elbows-in-your-ribs-all-day kind of defense that kills an oppenent's will to win.   

“I’d rather win in the 80s, 90s and 100s,” UNC coach Roy Williams said after the game, “but sometimes you have to win in the 50s and 60s.”

And so they did.

UNC won 69-47 Thursday night against a Washington State team that would prefer to change the shot clock to 45 seconds. The Heels made Washington State fight for everything it got, which wasn’t a heck of a lot. The Cougars were held to 20 percent three-point shooting and 31 percent field goal shooting.

That said, the play for this game might be on the total. Louisville has a lot of talent, but I’m not sure the Cards have the scoring power to run with UNC all day.

What they do have is great defense. They love to pressure full-court all game and they can throw different looks at you to keep you guessing.

Going back to Big East play, they haven’t allowed more than 62 points in regulation time in their last six games. I think their best bet at toppling UNC is to stick to that tough defense and try to squeak by these dangerous Tar Heels.

A good place to start is to look at Friday's game. The Cards got a good lesson in how to guard Hansbrough down low from Wazzu.

Aaron Baynes did a great job of standing tall without fouling and forcing Hansbrough to make the shots. The UNC junior managed only two points in the first half before his teammates helped him break the game open and he picked up 16 more in the second half. 

But for 20 minutes, Hansbrough was frutstrated and missing everything. He even went 0-for-2 from the line late in the first half, which is something you rarely see from the guy who’s been to the stripe more times than any other player in UNC history.

Louisville big man and leading scorer David Padgett will likely be faced with the main task of stopping Hansbrough. That might leave him tired at the other end of the court where he tends to do some damage.

That means the Cards need scoring from other sources and fortunately, this bench goes deep. Eight players average at least six points per game and coach Rick Pitino works everyone into the game so much, it’s tough to keep track of who’s on the floor.

With a strong mix of forwards and guards, these squads match up very well against one another. I’d prefer to go with a play on the total because I think Louisville’s best shot at winning this one is to keep the score low.

But since we’re sticking to sides, it’s tough to go against the team on a 14-game winning streak.

Pick:  under 

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