The college basketball slate is jam-packed today as we have 150 games on the docket, and nearly the entire top-25 will be in action. The headliners are matchups between Louisville and Duke, Ohio State and Penn State, and Auburn and Florida. But we also have some fun underrated games like BYU at Gonzaga, Marquette at Georgetown, and Oregon at Washington. For our daily pick, we will head to the ACC, where the Pitt Panthers host the UNC Tar Heels.
- North Carolina Tar Heels (8-8) at Pitt Panthers (11-6)
- Peterson Center, Pittsburgh
- 9:00 AM PST
- TV: ESPN
The Pitt Panthers host the North Carolina Tar Heels tonight in an ACC conference game between two teams that have both struggled in league play. The Panthers are just 2-4 in ACC play, but they did pick up a couple of nice wins in the non-conference, most notably over Rutgers and Kansas State, so if they can find a way to get to .500 in the ACC, they would likely punch their ticket to the Big Dance.
Time for another round ??
— Pitt Basketball (@Pitt_MBB) January 17, 2020
For North Carolina, this season is quickly turning into a disaster after starting out the year ranked in the top ten. The Tar Heels struggled some with superstar freshman Cole Anthony playing, but since he has been missing from the team with injury, it has gotten ugly. North Carolina has lost seven out of their last nine games, with the two wins coming against Yale, and a UCLA team that is in rebuild mode and will likely finish in the basement of the Pac-12 this year.
North Carolina Tar Heels
When Cole Anthony was still on this team, I kept questioning why he was shooting the ball so much. I knew the kid was talented, but when I saw a freshman jacking up nearly seventeen shots a game for a top ten ranked team, I was shocked. But now that he is missing from the squad, I know why he was doing it, this team flat out can’t score the basketball.
It is easy to look at the recent results for this Tar Heels team and wonder how it could have possibly gone so bad, so quickly. Losses to Gonzaga, Ohio State, and Michigan were understandable. But losses to Wofford? Georgia Tech? Pittsburgh? All of those were hard to explain, and each of those losses came in Chapel Hill on their home floor. There was a time not long ago, that winning at North Carolina was reserved for the best of the best, but right now that just isn’t the case, as they have lost five out of their last six home games to some fairly weak competition.
The Panthers are the definition of a bubble team right now. They have nice wins over Rutgers, Northwestern, Kansas State, and North Carolina, and they picked up a huge win over Florida State on opening night. But bad losses to Nichols State and Wake Forrest are going to make it hard to hear their names called on Selection Sunday if they don’t find a way to rack up some more quality wins.
But luckily for Pittsburgh, they will have ample opportunities to pad their resume as the ACC is loaded as usual, and the Panthers have only one game left on their schedule that isn’t against a top-100 team. Being able to win at home in league play is going to be a major key to success for Pittsburgh.
They have winnable home games scheduled against the likes of Boston College, Miami, Georgia Tech, Clemson, and of course, this one today against North Carolina. If they can protect their home floor and pick up one or two road upsets, this team will be dancing in March.
Who Do I Like?
These teams matched up just ten days ago in Chapel Hill, and the Panthers did something they basically never do, and that is, they won in the Dean Dome. While this team certainly isn’t on the same level as we have come to expect from Roy Williams and North Carolina recently, I am sure that Pitt didn’t care and loved being able to pick up the rare win against a conference rival.
In that game, the Panthers trailed in the first half before using a big second half to pull away and secure the upset. Pitt held the Tar Heels to just 41% shooting from the field and 23% shooting from three. And that really wasn’t all that surprising as this Panthers team prides itself on defense. Even with North Carolina dominating the boards with a 42-27 advantage, North Carolina couldn’t find a way to win at home.
I talk a lot about home-court advantage in my daily betting picks. It makes a huge difference in the college game, particularly in league play. So, after seeing the Panthers win in Chapel Hill just a few days ago by eight points, and then to only see them as -3.5-point home favorites, seems quite odd to me.
Now, we can’t assume that things will work out exactly how they did in that one, but it appears I can get the better team, playing at home, at a very reasonable price in this one. That is value that I can’t pass up.
And when you look at how the Panthers have played at home, they have done all of their best work inside of the Peterson Center. They beat both Florida State and Rutgers at home, by far their two biggest wins of the year. And those wins are only going to look better as we get deeper into the season as both of those teams are playing at a very high-level right now.
When you look at this line, it stinks of public name recognition bias. In fact, this line opened up at Pitt -4.5, and the early morning betting public backed the Tar Heels and pushed it to where it now stands at -3.5. When you look at kenpom, they have the Panthers winning by five. So, I will once again look to fade the public and high five them for giving me a better number than I deserve. Give me the Pitt Panthers at home, laying -3.5 points against a dreadfully bad North Carolina Tar Heels team!