Submitted by Jim Hurley’s Network on Sunday, March 26, 2017 at 11:46 AM
WILL NORTH CAROLINA/KENTUCKY BE THE DREAM MATCHUP THAT KENTUCKY/UCLA WASN'T?!
It turned out that UCLA didn't have the horses to run with Kentucky for a full 40 minutes in the NCAA Tournament. The Bruins faded down the stretch Friday night in a double digit loss. North Carolina is better than UCLA (allegedly), which gives fans a shot for an Elite 8 thrill ride Sunday afternoon when the Tar Heels and Wildcats meet in Memphis.
You're going to watch. You want to know who's going to win and cover! Before getting to JIM HURLEY'S key indicator stats, let's run through Friday night's boxscores...
North Carolina 92, Butler 80
2-point Shooting: Butler 56%, N. Carolina 67%
Three Pointers: Butler 8/28, N. Carolina 9/24
Free Throws: Butler 18/21, N. Carolina 21/33
Rebounds: Butler 26, N. Carolina 38
Turnovers: Butler 9, N. Carolina 10
Phantom Score: Butler 64, N. Carolina 82
North Carolina was embarrassed about the Arkansas game, and came out to make a statement. They made such a statement that you probably turned over to South Carolina/Baylor midway through the first half! This one wasn't much of a ballgame because Butler has little chance to hang with a truly great team that's hitting on all cylinders. Carolina isn't always truly great...but they can reach that level every so often. You can see that NC made two-thirds of its shots inside the arc, while also adding nine made treys. That's what makes this team so dangerous in 2017. They've added long range shooting to what was already an aggressive arsenal. Big edge on the boards for the favorite too. If you're new to the site, "Phantom Score" is simply two-point scoring plus rebounds. The real score was higher than the "Phantom" score because of the inside sharp shooting of both teams.
Kentucky 86, UCLA 75
2-point Shooting: UCLA 63%, Kentucky 53%
Three Pointers: UCLA 9/23, Kentucky 10/23
Free Throws: UCLA 8/13, Kentucky 14/17
Rebounds: UCLA 28, Kentucky 29
Turnovers: UCLA 13, Kentucky 6
Phantom Score: UCLA 68, Kentucky 71
Here the Phantom Score was pretty close. Why the blowout? Check the turnover category. UCLA does a poor job of forcing turnovers, which is why their defense has been seen as so soft all season. Those extra seven possessions were the difference maker for Kentucky. Both teams shot well inside and outside. Rebounding was a wash. Kentucky played cleaner and was justly rewarded. Kentucky better remember that North Carolina is better at forcing turnovers than UCLA is!
North Carolina: #6 at Kenpom, #3 at Sagarin
Kentucky: #5 at Kenpom, #5 at Sagarin
Interesting that college basketball guru Ken Pomeroy sees Kentucky as the superior team. Jeff Sagarin of USA Today has it slightly the other way for the top seed. The margin for error is such that this is a virtual toss-up in the computers. The betting markets see Carolina as a bucket better. Who's right...oddsmakers or the computers?
Adjusted Offensive Efficiency
North Carolina: 121.7 per 100 possessions (#6 in the nation)
Kentucky: 119.5 per 100 possessions (#12 in the nation)
Two great offenses loaded with weaponry. You saw Friday that UCLA just couldn't chase down all the Kentucky threats. Both teams will be challenged all day to chase down each other's threats! When things are clicking, both teams play beautiful offensive basketball. It's a tribute to their coaches that they get such unselfish play from blue chippers. Sure, you may disagree with some of their in-game or off-the-court tactics. Calipari and Williams are Hall of Fame bound for a reason.
Adjusted Defensive Efficiency
North Carolina: 93.9 per 100 possessions (#19 in the nation)
Kentucky: 91.7 per 100 possessions (#7 in the nation)
We always rave about Kentucky's defense. That's been true for years in our March previews. It's always a point of emphasis for the program. Even their young one-and-doner's embrace the passion on that side of the floor. North Carolina has done a good job of that too in recent weeks. They've been climbing the ladder all through the season after posting less impressive numbers early. This is the category that pushed Carolina ahead of the pack into elite national status down the stretch. Once they started defending with authority, they started getting results consistent with a Big Dance favorite.
North Carolina: #45
Both teams are very fast. But, we saw Kentucky and UCLA slow down from the projected track meet because it just wasn't smart to carry exhausted legs into the final 10 minutes. It wouldn't be a shock for the same thing to happen here. The players will want to run and shoot (and fly defensively to block shots!). The coaches will try to reign them in to maintain some semblance of control.
Against the Spread
North Carolina: 19-15-2
As we've mentioned often, it's tough for the biggest TV superpowers to post great point spread records because they're always priced to play perfectly. Whoever gets the money Sunday will earn their twentieth cover of the long campaign. That's a lot of playing perfectly even if it can't happen every time out.
How is this most likely to play out? The computer stuff shows a virtual toss-up. And, that's not even accounting for the fact that the computers have largely overrated North Carolina's conference while underrating Kentucky's conference in the postseason. Maybe Kentucky is playing so well right now that they should be the slight favorite? Or, maybe Carolina is better positioned to play well SUNDAY because they coasted Friday before Kentucky had to play a much higher intensity game under the national spotlight.
JIM HURLEY is used to the national spotlight. He's been the biggest name in this industry for more than 25 years! He and his full team of experts are ready to help you find the right teams at the right price all through the complete college basketball postseason (and beyond!)
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