1 UNC vs. 9 PROV
Time: 9:40 PM CT
Spread: UNC -11.5
Betting odds c/o 5dimes
The North Carolina Tar Heels were able to finally pull away from Florida Gulf Coast, a former fiend for bracketeers two seasons ago. It was not to be for FGCU this year, as the Tar Heels won 83-67 to move on to face No. 9 seeded Providence in Round of 32 action Saturday night. The Tar Heels are heavy 11.5 point favorites in the game with an over/under of 152.5.
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The Tar Heels led by just a point at the half against Florida Gulf Coast, but it got it going to avoid the dubious honor of being the first No. 1 seed ever to lose. Four of five Tar Heels starters scored in double figures led by Brice Johnson’s 18 points. Johnson set a Tar Heel record for blocks in a tournament game with eight swats. He was seemingly everywhere, displaying his length and athleticism to deter the Eagles from ever entering the paint.
Johnson is projected to be a high lottery pick in the 2016 NBA draft, and it is easy to see why the 6’9” senior is so coveted. He is basically a version of Josh Smith that actually plays intelligent basketball. Johnson uses his athleticism to get the good looks a player of his caliber should. He averaged 16.6 points, 10.5 rebounds, 1.5 assists and 2.6 blocks/steals per game this season.
And he did all of that in just 27 minutes a game.
Johnson also came up big in the ACC tournament final with 12 points, nine rebounds and five assists in 33 minutes, going an ultra-efficient 6 of 8 from the field. Even in the win over FGCU, he shot 7 of 11 from the field. He does not need constant touches to be effective and can wreak havoc on the offensive glass if teams go to aggressive double teams.
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North Carolina also gets big contributions from Joel Berry II, Justin Jackson and Marcus Paige. The trio all averaged 12 points a piece in the regular season, and Berry had a nice game against FGCU with 14 points and six rebounds while hitting 6 of 14 from the field (though he made just 1 of 7 from three-point range).
Berry averages 1.5 steals per game and he can shoot the ball reasonably well, given his 43.5 percent field goal shooting and 38 percent mark on 4.5 threes attempted per game. North Carolina averaged 82 points per game as a team this season while shooting a collective 47.7 percent from the field. The team’s 31.5 percent three-point shooting is troubling, but UNC should be able to close out games at the line where it shoots 73.8 percent as a team.
Providence won 70-69 over USC in its tourney opener. Rodney Bullock scored the go-ahead bucket with just 1.5 seconds to go. Bullock finished the game with 16 points and 10 rebounds while hitting 6 of 11 from the field and 2 of 4 from three-point range. Sophomore forward Ben Bentil led the way for the Friars with 19 points on just 7 of 21 from the field.
It was not a great performance, but he is no stranger to having them: Bentil shot 16 of 24 from the field en route to 38 points against Butler on Mar. 10, and UNC will be in a world of trouble if Bentil gets cooking. He has made a three in four of the past five games, and he had 12 in the three games against Butler, St. John’s and Creighton.