Although there are only a trio of ranked teams on Monday’s college basketball schedule, an unranked matchup between North Carolina and Louisville provides plenty of intrigue. Let’s dig into my college basketball best bets for this contest.
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Louisville Cardinals at North Carolina Tar Heels
While the Tar Heels are fighting for their March Madness odds, the Cardinals will look to avenge their loss to Hubert Davis’ unit on Feb. 1, in which a questionable foul call cost Louisville late in overtime.
I’ve been hesitant to back Mike Pegues’ bunch when the spread has sat within a possession, considering it’s struggled with late-game execution and frankly a lack of effort during ACC play. Keep in mind, the Cardinals parted ways with ex-coach Chris Mack during the conference slate, as players had reportedly started to tune him out.
But Louisville shook off some of their hiccups amid its win over Clemson on Saturday, snapping a seven-game skid. Cardinals big man Malik Williams, who served a two-game suspension earlier in the month for those same concerns, posted 12 points and 5 rebounds in 29 minutes — back in the starting lineup for the first time since Jan. 29.
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Now that Williams’ intensity shouldn’t come into question, his length versus North Carolina’s frontcourt is a major plus. The 6-foot-11 center didn’t even play in the first matchup because of his aforementioned benching.
Williams, #5, grabs a rebound against Detroit Mercy on Nov. 20, 2021.
Despite the Tar Heels collecting the ACC’s second-highest offensive rebounding rate, Williams represents one of the premier defensive rebounders in all of Division I. His efficiency in that department, and Louisville’s success as a whole, should limit UNC’s second-chance opportunities. Look for the Cardinals to generate transition shots, especially around the perimeter, if they maintain their effort on the glass.
Moreover, Pegues uses the same pack-line principles that Mack ran during his time with the team. Even though that scheme is primarily designed to prohibit dribble penetration, Louisville doesn’t allow many quality off-the-dribble 3s (via ShotQuality).
The Tar Heels shot 12 of 26 from behind the arc in their first meeting, yet I’d expect some regression since they rely on those types of 3-point shots.
UNC may come away with an outright win, but there’s value in backing the Cardinals to hang within three possessions.
Eli’s College Basketball Best Bets: Louisville +10 (+100; placed on Sunday night)
Best Available Line: Louisville