South Regional Final Betting Picks: #1 North Carolina Tar Heels vs #2 Kentucky Wildcats

2017 NCAA Tournament
South Regional Final
#1 North Carolina Tar Heels vs #2 Kentucky Wildcats
Sunday, March 26, 2017, 5:05 pm Eastern, TV: CBS
FedEx Forum – Memphis, Tennessee
Opening Line: North Carolina -2 1/2
Current Line: North Carolina -2 1/2
Opening Total: 158 1/2
Current Total: 159 1/2
Opening Money Line: North Carolina -145 / Kentucky +125
Current Money Line: North Carolina -140 / Kentucky +120

Big South Tournament
Kentucky and North Carolina meet with a trip to the Final Four on the Line Sunday in Memphis.

The North Carolina Tar Heels and Kentucky Wildcats have combined for 36 trips to the Final Four and thirteen National championships. These two blue blood programs meet Sunday in Memphis in the South Regional Final with a trip to the Final Four in Glendale, Arizona on the line. North Carolina is 30-7 and the #1 seed in the region, while Kentucky is 32-5 and the #2 seed. The winner will face the Midwest Champion #3 seed Oregon Ducks in the Final Four.

North Carolina leads the series 23-15 against Kentucky, including 2-1 in NCAA Tournament games. This is the third time they have met in the Elite Eight round. Kentucky has won two straight games in the series including a 103-100 overtime thriller in Las Vegas earlier this season in December. Malik Monk had 47 points in that game for Kentucky.

Kentucky is coached by John Calipari. The Wildcats won the SEC regular season title with a 16-2 record. The Wildcats have won 14 straight games including winning the SEC championship game in Nashville against Arkansas 82-65. Kentucky beat #15 seed Northern Kentucky 79-70 in the first round of the NCAA Tournament and #10 Wichita State 65-62 in the second round, both in Indianapolis. The Wildcats beat #3 UCLA 86-75 in the semifinals Friday. Kentucky is making their 57th trip to the Tournament and 37th trip to the Elite Eight. They have made 17 trips to the Final Four.

Kentucky has home losses to UCLA and Kansas, plus road losses to Louisville, Tennessee and Florida. The Wildcats have neutral site wins over Michigan State in New York City, Arizona State in the Bahamas, Hofstra in Brooklyn, North Carolina in Las Vegas, plus Georgia, Alabama and Arkansas in Nashville. Kentucky has home wins over Stephen F. Austin, Duquesne, Cleveland State, Valparaiso, Texas A&M, Arkansas, Auburn, South Carolina, Georgia, LSU, Tennessee, Florida, and Vanderbilt. The Wildcats have road wins over Ole Miss, Vanderbilt, Mississippi State, Alabama, Georgia, Missouri, and Texas A&M. Kentucky is 19-17-1 ATS and the total is 17-20 this season. The Wildcats were 1.5 point favorites against UCLA and the total was 167.

North Carolina is coached by Roy Williams. The Tar Heels won the ACC regular season title with a 14-4 record. They beat Miami 78-53 in the ACC quarterfinals in Washington but were upset by Duke 93-83 in the semifinals. UNC crushed #16 seed Texas Southern 103-64 in the first round and #8 Arkansas 72-65 in the second round, both in Greenville, SC. North Carolina beat #4 seed Butler 92-80 in the Sweet 16 Friday. The Tar Heels are making their 53rd trip to the tournament and return to the Elite Eight for the 28th time. UNC has made 19 trips to the Final Four.

North Carolina has road losses to Indiana, Georgia Tech, Miami, Duke, and Virginia, plus a neutral site loss to Kentucky in Las Vegas. The Tar Heels home wins over Chattanooga, Long Beach State, Davidson, Tennessee, Northern Iowa, Monmouth, NC State, Florida State, Syracuse, Virginia Tech, Pittsburgh, Virginia, Louisville, and Duke. UNC has road wins at Tulane, Hawaii, Clemson, Wake Forest, Boston College, NC State, and Pittsburgh, plus neutral site wins over Oklahoma State and Wisconsin in the Maui Invitational, plus Notre Dame in Greensboro. The Tar Heels are 18-15-2 ATS and the total is 14-20-1 this season. North Carolina was an 7 point favorite against Butler and the total was 154.5.

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Kentucky is outscoring teams 85-71 this season. Kentucky is #9 in scoring nationally. The Wildcats are shooting 47.4% from the field and 35% from 3 point range. The Wildcats are #40 in field goal percentage. Kentucky makes 70.3% of their free throws. Opponents are shooting 42% from the field and 30.5% from three point range. The Wildcats are #11 in three point defense nationally. Kentucky averages 40.3 rebounds per game and opponents average 31.6. Kentucky is #13 in rebounding nationally. The Wildcats average 15.3 assists, 11.9 turnovers, 6 steals and 5.4 blocks per game. Opponents average 11.1 assists, 14.3 turnovers, 4.8 steals and 3.1 blocks per game.

Malik Monk averages 20 points, 2.5  rebounds, 2.4 assists and 1 steal per game. De’Aaron Fox  averages 16.1 points, 4 rebounds, 4.6 assists and 1.4 steals per game. Edrice Adebayo averages 13.3 points, 8.1 rebounds and 1.5 blocks per game. Isaiah Briscoe averages 12.5 points, 5.4 rebounds and 4.1 assists per game. Derek Willis averages 7 points and 5.3 rebounds per game. Sacha Killeya-Jones is out indefinitely with an illness.

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North Carolina is outscoring teams 85-70 this season. The Tar Heels are #9 nationally in scoring. North Carolina is shooting 47.2% from the field including 36.6% from 3 point range. UNC is #43 nationally in field goal percentage. The Tar Heels make 70.6% of their free throws. Opponents are shooting 41.5% from the field and 34% from 3 point range. UNC is in the top 35 nationally in both categories. The Tar Heels average 43.8 rebounds per game and allow 27.4. UNC is #1 nationally in rebounding and #9 in rebounds allowed. The Tar Heels average 18.2 assists, 11.9 turnovers, 6.9 steals and 3.3 blocks per game. Opponents average 11.5 assists, 13.6 turnovers, 6.3 steals and 4.5 blocks per game.

Justin Jackson averages 18.1 points, 4.6 rebounds, and  2.7 assists per game. Joel Barry II averages 14.5 points, 3.2 rebounds, 3.7 assists and 1.4 steals per game. He is questionable with an ankle injury. Kennedy Meeks averages 12.6 points, 9.6 rebounds, 1.1 assists and 1 block per game. Isaiah Hicks averages 12.5 points, 5.7 rebounds and 1.3 assists per game. Tony Bradley averages 7.5 points and 5.2 rebounds per game. Four other Tar Heels average at least 14 minutes per game. Kenny Williams is out for the season with a knee injury.

Kentucky is 4-0 ATS as an NCAA Tournament underdog, and 4-0 as an NCAA Tournament underdog of less than 6.5 points, 4-0-1 as a neutral site underdog, 20-8-1 in Sunday games, 10-4-1 in neutral site games, 5-2 against ACC teams, 3-7-2 in NCAA Tournament games, 1-3-1 in non-conference games, and 1-4 after a cover.

North Carolina is 4-1 ATS in non-conference games, 6-2 in NCAA Tournament games, 21-7-2 as a neutral site favorite, 6-2 as an NCAA Tournament favorite, 14-5-1 in neutral site games, 18-7-1 against SEC teams, 7-3-1 against teams with winning records, overall and as a favorite. The favorite is 4-1 ATS in this series recently. The Tar Heels are 9-3-1 ATS against the Wildcats recently.

While both teams average 85 points a game, I highly doubt they will combine for over 200 points like they did earlier in the season. Kentucky has won 14 straight games and probably should have been the #1 seed in this region. The main reason they weren’t was because the ACC was considered the stronger conference. Well, The SEC has three of the six teams remaining in the tournament and the ACC only has North Carolina. The Tar Heels are the more experienced team having lost in the National Championship game last year. Still, I like the young Wildcats to pull off the mild upset.

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