NCAAM Pick December 8, 2020 – North Carolina Tar Heels at Iowa Hawkeyes

I love me some small conference college basketball! Small conference college hoops is one of the few areas in sports betting where you can gain a legit advantage over the books and the public. With the lack of knowledge and data on some of these smaller schools and leagues, if you have a deep understanding of a particular team in a matchup, you can find some outrageously undervalued games. That was the case yesterday in the game between UMBC and George Washington.

The Retrievers had a down year last year, but a closer look shows me that the down year was all injury-related, and now that they have their horses back this year, they are again going to compete to make the NCAA tournament out of the American East Conference. UMBC opened as -3-point favorites, and the public jumped all over GW, moving the line four points, and making the Colonials the favorites by tip-off. It was an absurd line move that made zero sense, so I backed UMBC as home dogs and loved the play.

The public’s backing of GW made little sense yesterday, and after seeing the game play out, I just don’t understand what the public’s fascination with the Colonials in this matchup was all about. UMBC led from the opening tip, opening up a double-digit first-half lead, and coasted to the easy homecourt victory. I was getting a point, but I wasn’t close to needing to use it.

Fading the betting public is always my favorite play to make, as they just seem to always get it wrong. Nothing feels better than picking up a win on a bad line that was driven by the public’s collective ignorance. For today’s free daily betting pick, we will be back on the hunt for value as we head to Iowa City, where the Iowa Hawkeyes square off with the North Carolina Tar Heels in a blockbuster matchup between two ranked teams.

Today’s Game

  • North Carolina Tar Heels (3-1) at Iowa Hawkeyes (3-0)
  • Carver-Hawkeye Arena, Iowa City
  • 4:35 PM PST
  • TV: ESPN

The Iowa Hawkeyes have risen to number three in the nation in the latest AP Poll, and they will put their undefeated record on the line tonight against the North Carolina Tar Heels. The Hawkeyes have steamrolled the competition in their first three games of the year, with an average margin of victory of nearly 33-points a game. The Hawkeyes will face their biggest test of the season tonight in a talented Tar Heels team.

For North Carolina, the Tar Heels are ranked in the top-25 as well but are coming off of their first loss of the season to the Texas Longhorns. Prior to the loss to Texas, the Tar Heels had picked up quality victories over Stanford and UNLV. A win over Iowa tonight would likely propel the Heels into the top-10 of both major polls.


  • Iowa Hawkeyes (-3)
  • North Carolina Tar Heels (+3)
Money line:

  • Iowa Hawkeyes (-159)
  • North Carolina Tar Heels (+133)
Total Points:

  • Over 159 (-110)
  • Under 159 (-110)

North Carolina Tar Heels (3-1)

The ACC is as wide open as I can ever remember it. Teams like Duke, North Carolina, and Virginia all have early-season losses, and other teams that were expected to finish in the middle of the standings have played well, including Virginia Tech and Louisville. The Tar Heels are hoping to compete at the top of the standings in one of the nation’s best leagues after a down season last year where they really struggled.

North Carolina has an elite recruiting class, but it is senior forward Garrison Brooks that is leading the way for the Tar Heels right now. Brooks leads the team in scoring and rebounding and has been great on defense as well. Brooks is joined in the frontcourt by sophomore Armando Bacot, who is nearly averaging a double-double, with 11 points and 8 boards a game. The two big men make up one of the most talented frontcourts in the nation, and they will need big games out of both of them tonight if they want to upset the Hawkeyes on the road.

Iowa Hawkeyes (3-0)

Luke Garza is getting a lot of national attention right now, and he absolutely deserves it, as he is having one of the best starts for a center in recent memory. Garza is averaging an absolutely ridiculous 34 points, 10 rebounds, 4 blocks, and 1 steal a game this year.

The competition has been weak, but you can’t deny how talented this guy is. He is quite simply the best player in the country, and the Hawkeyes will ride him as far as he takes them. If he can keep up this level of production, that could end with a trip to the Final Four.

Garza gets the headlines, but this really has been a team effort this year for the Hawkeyes. Iowa has four players averaging double-digits scoring and three players that are averaging at least 4 assists a game, led by Connor McCaffrey at 5 dimes a contest. The Hawkeyes are threats to drop triple-digits on the scoreboard every time they take the court and are nearly impossible to stop on the offensive side of the floor.

Who Do I Like?

On paper, this is a massive matchup between two of the top-ranked teams in the country. But I am not so sure that these teams are actually on the same level right now. Don’t get me wrong, North Carolina has a nice roster, and they are much improved over last year’s disappointing team, but Iowa is just on a different level. You have to respect Roy Williams squad for going into one of the toughest places to play in all of college hoops, but something tells me that this game isn’t going to be all that competitive.

North Carolina has been strong on defense, holding Stanford to just 63-points, and Texas to only 69-points, but they haven’t seen anything like what this Hawkeyes team can do on offense. If you can find a way to slow down Garza, and really the only way to do that is to double team him, that leaves the Hawkeyes bevy of perimeter sharpshooters wide open to take wide-open looks from three.

The Hawkeyes pass the ball as well as any team in the country, and they are shooting the lights out from three, at nearly 40%. You either let Garza drop it in from the paint, or you let guys like Joe Wieskamp, CJ Fredrick, or Jordan Bohannon ruin your day with open looks from beyond the arc. There is no great way to slow this Iowa team down.

The Bet

There are only a handful of teams that are capable of slowing down this Iowa team on defense, North Carolina isn’t one of them. Maybe a Virginia or a Villanova could disrupt this well-oiled machine at Iowa, but North Carolina will give up more points tonight than they have all season long.

And on the flip side, there is even a smaller handful of teams that can score with Iowa, and again, North Carolina isn’t one of them. The Hawkeyes have a game coming against top-ranked Gonzaga later this month in a first team to 150-points wins matchup, but North Carolina just won’t be able to go bucket for bucket with Iowa tonight in this game. I think Iowa will be too much, and they will handle the Tar Heels a lot easier than most people think. I will lay some wood and back the Hawkeyes at home as they hand the Tar Heels their second consecutive loss.

The Bet: Iowa Hawkeyes -3

My Pick
Iowa Hawkeyes -3
Jason Gray / Author

Jason is a true Las Vegas insider as he has called the sports betting capital of the world his home for sixteen years. Jason started out his career in gaming by running the biggest poker tournaments in the world and managing some of the biggest sportsbooks on the strip. Jason has transitioned out of casino operations and has been covering sports betting for the sports geek for just over two years. His main focus is on baseball, college basketball, and the NFL