2011 NCAA Tournament Elite Eight – East Region
#2 North Carolina Tar Heels vs. #4 Kentucky Wildcats, Prudential Center, Newark, NJ
Sunday, March 27, 2011, 5:05 pm Eastern, TV: CBS
Opening Line: Kentucky -1
Current Line: Kentucky -1.5
Opening Total: 145.5
Current Total: 146
Money Line: Kentucky -120 / North Carolina +100
Two of the most successful college basketball programs in the country will take center stage on Sunday when the second-seeded North Carolina Tar Heels (29-7) meet the fourth-seeded Kentucky Wildcats (28-8) in the East Regional Final at the Prudential Center in Newark. Between them, the Wildcats (-1.5) and the Tar Heels have combined for 31 Final Four appearances and 12 national championships, with the winner facing Connecticut next Saturday in the national semifinals.
North Carolina won the last meeting with Kentucky 75-73 at home back on December 4 as a 1-point underdog and will try to do it again despite being the higher seed. Tyler Zeller was a load for the Wildcats inside in that game, totaling a game-high 27 points, 11 rebounds and five blocks. The 7-foot center has also enjoyed an outstanding NCAA tournament so far, averaging over 27 points and nearly nine rebounds in three games. He had not scored more than 14 in the previous five games before the Big Dance.
One key difference in that game for the Tar Heels was the starting point guard, as Larry Drew ran the offense and has since been replaced by freshman Kendall Marshall. Drew decided to leave school after losing his job to Marshall, who is averaging just more than 10 assists per game in the NCAA tournament.
Kentucky has also relied on freshmen to get the team to the Elite Eight, with Terrence Jones, Brandon Knight and Doron Lamb all making substantial contributions. However, two upperclassmen were the difference in a 62-60 upset of top seed Ohio State on Friday. Junior Josh Harrellson had a team-high 17 points and 10 rebounds while junior DeAndre Liggins added 15 and six. Knight hit the game-winning shot though for the second time in three games with 5.4 seconds remaining after beating Princeton 59-57 in the second round with his only basket.
That impressive victory as 5.5-point underdogs was enough to convince oddsmakers to make the Wildcats favorites. They won their ninth game in a row overall and beat the spread for the fourth time in five games. The UNDER is 3-0-1 in their last four games and 6-1-1 in their past eight.
North Carolina covered the spread for the first time in the Big Dance with an 81-63 rout of #11 Marquette on Friday. The Tar Heels were 0-4-1 against the spread in their previous five games, but they have enjoyed success against Kentucky recently with six wins in the last seven meetings. They have covered all of those games with the UNDER going 3-1-1 in the past five.
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