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North Carolina vs Virginia NCAA Hoops – Free Pick Jan 6

It was an interesting day in college hoops yesterday.  Yes, we still had another winning day (2-1 ATS), running our overall mark to 18-4 ATS in our last 22 picks – but I must admit I was very surprised by some of the games yesterday.

Conference play is a different animal.  Perhaps it is because good teams are finally forced to play true road games against teams that shouldn’t necessarily BEAT them, but have enough similar athletic talent and have enough familiarity with each other, that the home teams can do some real surprising damage.  Take for instance the win Rutgers notched over ranked Pitt.  That one surprised me.  Even more surprising was the absolute beatdown Illinois handed Ohio State yesterday in Champaign.  This was an Illinois team that had just lost three nights ago at Purdue! (Purdue, of course, went out and lost by a million to Michigan State at the Breslin Center).

It’s going to be an unbelievable ride through the loaded Big Ten this season, and I promise we’ll be back with tons of winning picks along the way.  But for tonight’s main pick, lets shift focus to a conference with a lot of wiggle room in the middle this season; the ACC.

North Carolina Tarheels at Virginia Cavaliers -2 (Total: 134)

North Carolina (along with Kentucky, UCLA, and maybe NC State) would have to be one of the frontrunners for “most disappointing team through two months.”  However, they have shown some signs of getting things together of late, with an impressive win over a loaded UNLV squad in their last outing Dec 29th.  They had a full week off before commencing conference play, and it will be interesting to see if any of the positive momentum carries over.

Despite the embarrassing loss to Indiana a month ago, it is really hard to find a “terrible” loss on their resume.  A loss to Butler and a loss to Texas, both away from home, are not humiliating (though Texas has also had their share of struggles).  No loss on Carolina’s resume even comes close to comparing to the dreadful 63-61 loss Virginia suffered at the hands of Old Dominion two weeks ago.  I know ODU doesn’t SOUND like a bad loss if you don’t follow small conference hoops closely, afterall they’ve been in the NCAA tourney the last two years and have represented themselves very well.  THIS year, the Monarchs are one of the worst team in Division I, opening the season 2-14!  They’ve lost to EVERYONE BUT Virginia… bad bad loss.

The Cavs do have a few decent wins on the resume; Tennessee, Wisconsin, North Texas, Fairfield, Wofford… ok, the last three might be reaching a bit.  Virginia has played some decent competition, but nothing on the athletic level they will be facing today when Roy and the Heels come calling.  I might be over-optimistic, but after watching UNC’s last outing, I still think they are WAY too talented to finish any worse than third in the ACC.  That means they win games like UVA, even on the road.

Give me the Heels in a nice statement game on the road – bucking yesterday’s trend of home dogs winning outright, and opening ACC play with a solid victory.

Free Pick:  North Carolina +2