The North Carolina Tar Heels and Louisville Cardinals tip off in ACC tournament quarter-final action on Thursday night. The ACC tournament might be the toughest in college basketball right now and this game is the highlight of an exciting quarter-final round.
The Tar Heels beat the Boston College Eagles comfortably in the previous round and are a dangerous team. They will take a lot of confidence from the play of Marcus Paige against Boston College. He scored 17 points adding nine assists and and six rebounds. For better or for worse, Paige is the player that makes North Carolina go. He had been enduring a difficult run late in the season, but the junior pulled out 23 points and five assists in an 84-77 loss against Duke to finish the season. There’s no doubt that North Carolina needs Paige and there are signs that he is back to full fitness and primed for postseason college basketball.
Tar Heels head coach Roy Williams is likely to be denied the services of Kennedy Meeks, who is the third leading scorer on the team averaging more than 12 points per game. Freshman Justin Jackson will be called upon to take on more responsibility in Meeks’ absence.
People sometimes talk about Louisville like they were a team that slumped through the end of the season. They actually beat the Virginia Cavaliers on the final day of the regular season and won four of their last five games. This might not be as deep and strong a group as the ones that won three straight conference tournaments, but Rick Pitino’s squad is still tough defensively and can still more than hang with the best teams in college basketball.
Louisville is led by two pillars. The in-form and competitive Montrezl Harrell averaging 15.8 points and 9.4 rebounds per game and sophomore guard Terry Rozier who is averaging 17.0 points and nearly three assists per game. They also defend the perimeter shot as well as any team in the ACC.
Betting Preview: North Carolina (-2.5) v Louisville
It can be dangerous to become fixated on the spread in basketball, but considering one of the previous meetings between these teams went to overtime and the other was decided by just one point, that margin isn’t so insignificant. Too much is going to be asked of Paige against Louisville’s defense and Harrell is starting to emerge as an inside offensive presence that can change the shape of a game. Louisville will be a serious threat to upset the Duke-Virginia-Notre Dame picture in the ACC tournament.
The Pick: Louisville (+2.5) (www.betonline.ag)
Writer’s Record Against The Spread: 32-25